Prince's 10 Landmark Albums

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Dirty Mind (1980)

Prince Dirty Mind
Prince - Dirty Mind.

Prince had two albums and moderate chart success under his belt when he unleashed his first masterpiece Dirty Mind. He welded R&B, new wave, and pop together to deliver powerful music about sexual liberation. The album also introduced anti-war political themes that would remain present throughout his career. Most of the music was far too explicit to find a place on pop radio, but "Uptown" landed in the top 5 on both R&B and dance charts. 

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1999 (1982)

Prince 1999
Prince - 1999. Courtesy Warner Bros.

24-year-old Prince Rogers Nelson had the stunning audacity to create a sprawling double album inspired by the coming of a new millenium still more than 17 years away. It turned into his mainstream breakthrough spawning two top 10 pop hit singles and landing inside the top 10 on the album chart. "Little Red Corvette" in particular broke down boundaries for black artists on MTV and introduced Prince's sexually explicit stories to mainstream pop radio. 1999 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

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Purple Rain (1984)

Prince Purple Rain
Prince - Purple Rain. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Prince's sixth studio album Purple Rain, soundtrack for his boxoffice hit film, made him one of the biggest superstars on the planet. It is frequently listed as one of the best albums of all time. Purple Rain reached #1 on the album chart, spent 24 weeks there, and was certified platinum in the US 13 times over. It includes two #1 pop hit singles "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" as well as the top 10 smashes "Purple Rain" and "I Would Die 4 U." The album made the "Minneapolis Sound" a key part of mid-1980s pop and R&B. Purple Rain earned Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance By a Duo or Group and Best Original Score for Motion Picture or TV. Prince also took home a Grammy Award for Best Original Song Score.

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Around the World In a Day (1985)

Prince Around the World In a Day
Prince - Around the World In a Day. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Purple Rain was nearly an impossible act to follow, and Prince didn't try. He stuck with making an artistic statement and released Around the World In a Day with little fanfare and no accompanying single. When "Raspberry Beret," the first single, was finally released a month later, it became an instant Prince classic peaking at #2 on the pop singles chart. The album incorporates new psychedelic rock elements to the Prince sound, and it also included a second top 10 pop hit "Pop Life." Around the World In a Day topped the album chart and earned a double platinum sales certification.

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Parade (1986)

Prince Parade
Prince - Parade. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Parade was Prince's third and final album to feature his band the Revolution. It was his second double album and was introduced by the skeletal funk of "Kiss," a #1 smash and one of the biggest hit singles of his career. Parade served as the soundtrack album for the film Under the Cherry Moon. The album peaked at #3 on the chart, but it earned Prince some of the strongest critical reviews of his career. Jazz played a larger role in the music this time around. The second single "Mountains" was only a minor success peaking at #23. "Kiss" earned a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

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Sign O' the Times (1987)

Prince Sign O the Times
Prince - Sign O the Times. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Prince dug deep into his concerns about the state of world affairs, gender identity, and the music scene itself on this third double album. With the release of Sign O the Times, Prince had released seven discs of new music in the space of four years. Reportedly, the artist originally insisted on releasing a triple album but Warner Bros. forced him to trim it down. The commercial success of the album was muted only reaching #6 on the album chart, but it spawned three top 10 pop hit singles including "Sign O' the Times," "U Got the Look," and "I Could Never Take the Place Of Your Man." Many critics rank the album as the best of Prince's career.

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Love Symbol (1992)

Prince Symbol Album
Prince - Symbol Album. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Prince finished out the 1980s with a string of hit singles including the #1 smashes "Batdance" and "Cream," but his albums were uneven. For the album Diamonds and Pearls he put together a new band called New Power Generation, and the 1992 album now known as the Love Symbol Album, for its unpronounceable symbol on the cover, is their greatest triumph. Conceived as a sort of "space opera," the double album is over-indulgent at times but songs like the top 10 pop hit single "7" prove that Prince's instincts for forward looking music were fully intact.

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Emancipation (1996)

Prince Emancipation
Prince - Emancipation. Courtesy NPG

While Prince remained prolific in releasing new albums throughout the 1990s, three albums in 1996 alone, the quality was marred by his continual battles with his record label Warner Bros. The triple album Emancipation was released in November of that year in celebration of Prince's release from his contract after 18 years. It also references his marriage to Mayte Garcia earlier in the year. Among the standout tracks were "Slave," an explicit reference to the record label battles, and his cover of the Stylistics classic "Betcha By Golly Wow!" which became a top 40 pop hit.

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Musicology (2004)

Prince Musicology
Prince - Musicology. Courtesy Columbia

One of the most unexpected major pop comebacks of 2004 occurred with the release of Prince's 28th studio album Musicology. It was his first released by a major record label in five years. Accompanied by a well received concert tour, the album landed at #3 on the chart, Prince's highest charting release in 13 years. Critics were pleased by the work and it won Grammy Awards for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance as well as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Musicology also earned three more Grammy Award nominations including for Best R&B Album. 

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Art Official Age (2014)

Prince Art Official Age
Prince - Art Official Age. Courtesy Warner Bros.

After making peace with record label Warner Bros., Prince celebrated by releasing two albums simultaneously. One was Plectrumelectrum, a joint project with his touring group 3rdeyegirl, and Art Official Age, a solo album. Both collections debuted in the top 10 of the album chart. Critics hailed the new album as Prince's most consistently creative since the 1990s. 

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Your Citation
Lamb, Bill. "Prince's 10 Landmark Albums." ThoughtCo, Apr. 21, 2016, Lamb, Bill. (2016, April 21). Prince's 10 Landmark Albums. Retrieved from Lamb, Bill. "Prince's 10 Landmark Albums." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).