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Laura Mvula's Five Essential Prince Songs

Laura Mvula (photo courtesy of Columbia Records, PR)

Laura Mvula (photo courtesy of Columbia Records, PR)

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Birmingham-born Laura Mvula released one of the finest debut albums of 2013, the euphoric Sing to the Moon. She also gathered an armful of British accolades for that impressive release, including two MOBO Awards, two Brit Award nominations (plus a prior Critics' Choice Award nod), and inclusion on the shortlists for the 2013 Mercury Prize and the BBC Sound of 2013.

Her soon-to-be-released second studio album, The Dreaming Room, again shows Mvula's depth and skill as a singer, songwriter, and vocal arranger with tracks like the empowering, Maya Angelou-inspired "Phenomenal Woman" and the touching "Show Me Love."

One of Mvula's kindest supporters, especially as she first navigated the whirlwind of early fame, was Prince. He befriended her after a disappointing Brit Awards loss and offered the young artist some wise and treasured advice. Mvula discusses that encounter and more in her thoughtful and lovely assessment of "Five Essential Prince Songs" for FUV Essentials.

Laura Mvula's "Five Essential Prince Songs:"

It's really hard to pick five tracks not just because Prince’s catalogue is so vast, but also because so much of what I love about him centers around the overall sound he created and the boundaries he broke.

"I Would Die 4 You," Purple Rain
This song encapsulates a lot of what Prince was about. He takes these heavy emotional lyrics and layers them on top of a dance beat and synths. The verses are these beautiful, romantic performances that transition seamlessly into the '80s funk-pop centric chorus. It’s special to me because it’s the only Prince song I’ve ever covered. I did it for an event a couple of years ago and trying to get inside the song was a great experience that reminded me of Prince’s genius.

"Purple Rain," Purple Rain
In 2014 Prince did a series of shows at Electric Ballroom in Camden, London. This relatively small room was packed full of Prince’s legendary purple army fans and he was playing these long back-to-back sets—2 or 3 hours at a time and two or three shows a night. Of course "Purple Rain" is a classic Prince track but the atmosphere in the room when that intro started was one of the most special musical moments I’ve ever experienced. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to know that he created that sound.

"PlectrumElectrum," PlectrumElectrum
I loved what Prince and 3rdEyeGirl did together. These three incredibly gifted, strong women—Hannah Welton, Donna Grantis and Ida Kristine Nelson playing with Prince: it would be a huge mistake to call them a backing band. "PlectrumElectrum" is a fully instrumental track of nearly five minutes which is rare to hear in "popular music" these days and can only be pulled off because of the sheer talent and boldness of this outfit. It sounds like what I imagine jam sessions at Prince’s Paisley Park studio were like. It’s raw and a true lesson in funk, rock, and soul. I always felt like Prince was schooling us and not just because he could but also because he wanted us to learn and grow.

"The Most Beautiful Girl In the World," The Gold Experience
It’s hard for me to fathom that this was Prince’s only UK number one, but it’s also comforting in a strange way. I was lucky enough to speak with Prince the night I lost out on a Brit award for Best British Female Solo Artist (the category that he was presenting with 3rdEyeGirl) and he reminded me that we’re just here to make the music. His lack of concern with accolades or chart positions is one of the things that continues to encourage me in an industry that can be difficult. I think this was also the first release under the Prince symbol—a clear indication of the importance he gave to being true to his art.

"Sometimes It Snows In April," Parade
With Prince it’s easy to focus on talking about how great a writer and multi-instrumentalist he was, but we must never forget the sound of his voice. "Sometimes It Snows In April" is the perfect track to hear how expertly Prince conveyed emotion in all of its dimensions with only his voice. It’s blissful. I’ve really struggled to understand the absence of his presence. I felt he would be here forever to cheer us on and remind us of what being a true musician means, but I’m forever grateful to him for the encouragement he gave me personally and for the freedom he gave to us all as musicians and music appreciators.

- Laura Mvula
June 2016

Read more of FUV's Five Essentials.

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