The inconification of Prince starts right here. While “1999” didn’t become a hit single until it was re-released in the wake of the success of “Little Red Corvette” it kicked off the album with an explosion of nuclear paranoia.
In 1982, 1999 was as far away in the future as 2016 was from 1999. So writing a song about partying on the edge of the presumed millennial apocalypse somehow felt both futuristic and fun. And “Tonight, we’re gonna party like it’s 1999” instantly became part the lexicon.
So when the actual 1999 rolled along, the fact that the Y2K bug presumably could have sparked a millennial apocalypse just made Prince into a prophet on top of everything else!
By that time, of course, “1999’s” chorus had become part of our cultural shared experience, the subject of countless references, jokes & parodies:
Cuz they say two thousand zero zero party over,
Oops out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999
And by spreading the lead vocals among members of The Revolution, Prince not only upped the ante by having the upcoming apocalypse claim more victims than just him, he was also telling us that he had a band! Even if they didn’t actually play on the song.
Of course, the “party” ethos would run through the rest of his career: many of the stories that people are telling about Prince in the wake of his death revolve around house parties, after parties, pajama parties, basically any time he could get a group of people together and just play music for them.
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