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A Brief History of Prince Ripoffs

Go to your trendiest of juke joints even today and only the most jaded of cool-kid scum would turn his or her nose at the spin of the man’s greatest hits disc.

Prince Rogers Nelson doesn’t look good on paper. He’s a lanky fifty-something Jehovah’s Witness with weird hair and a bad hip who complains a lot about the internet. And while it’s hard to fault anyone who doesn’t really get the whole internet thing, you have to give a guy a little credit for maintaining a run of cool for this long. Particularly after this was his second album cover…

So needless to say, the past few decades have been very kind to Prince. Go to your trendiest of juke joints even today and only the most jaded of cool-kid scum would turn his or her nose at the spin of the man’s greatest hits disc. And with plenty of young, wet behind the ears, upstarts eager to ride his coat tails and cash in on his sound, Prince has always been in the position of being envied. And since I rely heavily on YouTube clips to pad the length of my articles, and Prince’s presence from that particular entertainment venue has been more or less scrubbed clean, doing anything covering Prince had to be only tangentially related to him, almost by necessity.


Andre 3000: “She Lives In My Lap”

Aside from mentioning a pick from any of the variety of 80’s Prince ripoffs to start off with, this one’s the most obvious choice. While the album the track comes from enjoyed a shower of critical praises (even though it’s way too long, uneven, and overall a little boring) even those doing most of the fawning were willing to admit that Andre was essentially trying to channel Prince for the new millennium. And who needed any further proof than when OutKast netted itself an enormous swath of new soccer mom fans waxing nostalgic about their 80’s heyday. Aside from the two big singles, all of Andre’s digressions will make you yearn to listen to whatever he’s ripping off of at the time instead, and in this case, it’s definitely for your copy of Diamonds and Pearls.

Ready For The World: “Oh Shelia”

Okay here’s a nice 80’s era ripoff. If I had to guess, aside from being known for having the wettest jheri curl in the industry, Ready for the World are probably exclusively known for sounding like, and likely being confused for, Prince. At the very least, “Oh Shelia” is really catchy, and it even has the spoken intro, which was more or less Prince’s trademark at the time. On the plus, these guys could probably kick both Prince and The Time’s collective asses if it came down to a street fight. Growing up on the mean streets of Flint, Michigan, no soft Twin City boy would stand a chance.


Mariah Carey: “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On”

Before we begin, I would like to take a brief moment to remind you that the year is 2012 and we’re about to discuss the soundtrack to Mariah Carey’s Glitter. Let that sink in for just a moment. Okay, I’m cheating a bit here. After all, this is a cover song. Originally released by Cherrelle in 1984 “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” is the real first hand Prince ripoff. It was even written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (members of The Time itself no less) But while we could excuse Cherrelle being too close to Prince’s inner circle to know she was basically lifting the Minneapolis sound wholesale, Mariah Carey has no excuse for basically taking the song’s original track verbatim, and putting her over indulgent vocals all over it. This is such a blatant attempt at gaining cool through osmosis, I’m beginning to think that Glitter may not be as good of a movie as I think it is.

Beck: “Debra”

I’ve heard it once said that the entirety of Midnight Vultures (my personal favorite Beck album, since it’s nice and stupid)) is essentially a tribute to our short, purple clad friend. I don’t buy it. First it contains “Hollywood Freaks” (which may contain his most overtly Scientologist lyrics) which makes “Pussy Control” look like Master P. And then it has “Debra” which seemed to be a simple joke song Beck mostly hated when it became such a staple of his live show. I suppose it can be included on this list nonetheless since of all the things this song is paying tribute to, Prince isn’t specifically not one of them.

Prince: “Black Sweat”

Here’s where talking about Prince on the internet gets tricky friends. So you’re just going to have to use your imagination. I don’t recall where I saw the music video of this single released off of 3121 in 2006. (Hell, now that I think about it, it may have been BET) But I recall it being sparse, a touch more modern than whatever was on the album you could only buy at Target and Prince getting a “Lawd have mercy!” expression on his face as some young pretty thing started grinding on him throughout the chorus. Almost like this generation is too freaky even for him. I suppose that was his intended message, but it’s at this point when you think of the man as a fifty something religious nut who may be making the rounds going door to door in your neighborhood if you live in the Minneapolis area you might get a little weirded out. This situation isn’t even unique to Prince, it’s the same feeling you get if you see Madonna on stage and think of her as a 53 year old mother of four. The fact that this single even made an attempt at the younger demographic is I suppose what makes it a Prince ripoff. Speaking of which, the biggest Prince ripoff of them all is the fact that we’ve all been denied Prince soundtracks to the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Just recently we’ve lost out on the possibility of a “Batdance 2008” and a “Batdance 2012” and dear god why is someone not making this right now?