Prince Challenges the Value of ‘$': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
For a guy who spent many decades both earning and spending one heck of a lot of money, Prince sure liked to insist that it didn't mean a lot. "What difference does it make who's got the most bank?" he asks on 2009's "$," "It's just ink and chlorophyll."
The upbeat, horn-charged track from Lotusflow3r was far from the first time Prince directly addressed our monetary system. Parade's "Love or $" and "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" from 1991's Diamonds and Pearls both beat it by a couple of decades, and there are reportedly unreleased tracks such as "Money Don't Grow On Trees" and "Money" somewhere in his vaults - hopefully not rotting.
But with its warm, retro-minded production, chunky guitar and an extremely loose and flashy vocal performance, "$" just might be the catchiest song he penned on the subject. Sadly, while it was rumored to be in line for a single release at one point, it ended up getting a bit lost among the 30 other tracks released together as part of the Lotusflow3r / MPLSound / Exlier triple-album package.
Which is a shame, because in addition to musical excellence, "$" offers some sharp and witty commentary on celebrity culture, advertising and commercialism: "Where you go everybody wanna know / So they can put it in a magazine / Next to the ad for the latest fad in black hair care - Vaseline / With this car, these rims, this grill, you'll be the illest on the scene / Whatever whatever all you need is your music, and you'll be a party machine."
While it can be hard for anybody living paycheck to paycheck to trust a man who employed not only a personal chef and his very own tailor, but also a "foo foo master" to re-decorate hotel rooms for him when he says money isn't the key to happiness, Prince seems sincere when he asks, "How many times you look for happy / And you never see the rich folks there?"
Throughout his career, Prince regularly placed a higher value on pursuing his creative vision than on maximizing profits. Along with the ownership of his master tapes, that was the crux of his battle with Warner Bros. - they wanted him to slow down the rate at which he released new music, in order to maximize sales of each single and album.
This clearly wasn't in line with Prince's goals. "I was never rich, so I have very little regard for money now," he explained to Rolling Stone in 1985. "I only respect it inasmuch as it can feed somebody. I give a lot of things away, a lot of presents and money. Money is best spent on someone who needs it."
While Prince kept many of his charitable actions private during his lifetime, upon his death numerous stories of his generosity came to light, including his support of programs to bring computer technology to inner city children, and green living to economically challenged areas. As his friend Van Jones revealed in Vox, "There are people who have solar panels on their houses right now in Oakland, California, [and] they don't know Prince paid for them."