My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: That actually made for a more sluggish read than I expected. That had nothing to do with Prince or his life – what little bits there were in this narrative, I really appreciated hearing. My problems were with the overarching presentation of this “biography”, which it really wasn’t a biography as much as it was a perspective piece and how certain parts/dimensions of Prince’s life had an impact on contemporary pop culture as well as the culture that grew up with his music. Which for me, that would’ve been fine given some of the interesting details and conversations that marked its jumping points. But the presentation here is really jagged and – dare I say – mediocre in some turns. I don’t know, I really expected more from it and at the same time, was rather put off by the transitions. I will say there were interesting tidbits here, just that the execution left much to be desired.
I’m actually quite familiar with Touré considering I’ve seen and heard his commentary on pop culture figures and media measures for quite some time. Yet when reading “I Would Die 4 U” – I don’t think some of the sharp, humored commentary that usually defines him came across. Particularly for a opinion piece that’s supposed to showcase why Prince is such a dominant figure, I found the narrative rather choppy, disorganized despite its respective sectioning, and difficult to really capture the essence of what Prince has meant not only in the music realm but in entertainment across multiple mediums (film, etc.)
I don’t necessarily want to take away from the author’s overall perspective point and intentions, particularly considering the aim of the narrative and its proposed thesis. It actually made some very interesting points about Generation X, Prince’s past and how certain events in his life came to shape him, among other factors. Yet, I knew by the presentation of the introduction and the narrative jumps that it takes from the get-go that this was going to be a rough read. It seems to talk about everything else in the spectrum of media other than Prince himself. You would think for a book about Prince that he would be the prime focal point with some added commentary shaping the argument and insights, but it’s more that I think the author chose to do the reverse and shape certain arguments and then bring in certain pieces of Prince’s past, present, and influence as the supporting arguments. It’s my belief that such was why this narrative wasn’t as intimate, connected, or structured as well as it could’ve been. I actually expected more to be offered than what it provided (though I appreciated some of the personal narratives offered by Prince himself, sourced from interviews.)
I’m going to make an amendment to one of my initial notes because for all intents and purposes, I don’t think this was as much a biography (though parts of it qualify) or showcase of Prince’s life as it was a commentary, which is what I think Touré was going for from the get-go. It makes suggestions into Prince’s respective character and shaping from people who knew/worked/interacted with him, based on his childhood and coming to terms in life as a boy into the man and icon he is today. There were many places I wanted to ask why it jumped from one time frame to the next. It wasn’t smooth in either the time dimension or topic dimension, though it made good points (though arguably in that this was a perspective piece, there were many drawn juxtapositions I didn’t agree with). I felt the references to Prince’s work didn’t touch with as much intimacy as it could’ve been, though there were points where the analysis of the themes and backdrop those films were released within were sound.
If thinking over the narrative as a whole, I would say that there are references to Prince’s talents here, but it is not comprehensive, nor does it really support its argument on how Prince is an icon, which is what the title of this purports. I think if you’re a die-hard Prince fan, you’ll be likely underwhelmed with this effort because it really doesn’t tell you all that much. However, I did take from this some interesting insights on Prince’s early years, some constructs on why his work “worked” to an extent in the time it was released, and I appreciated the read. I just wish it’d amounted to more than what it was.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria Books.