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Oh, Hello

I’ve said before that De Angela Duff’s scholarly Prince events–aside from being a lot of fun in general–have been a spur to my creativity and motivation in times when one or both were in short supply. And, while I’ve always meant that, boy oh boy has it never been more obvious than it is today. My last post, from almost nine months ago, was me talking about my inactivity and looking forward to De Angela’s #TripleThreat40 symposium in March (spoiler alert, Past Zach: It was great). Now in this, my only finished creative product since then–not counting my Twitter X thread on “All the Critics Love U in New York” and the handful of Patreon-exclusive videos I deleted when I decided to bring the Patreon era of D / M / S / R to a close–I’ll pick up by… talking about my inactivity and looking forward to De Angela’s Diamonds and Pearls Super Deluxe Virtual Celebration in December!

First, about that inactivity. I’ll keep it brief, as I realize “writer explaining why he hasn’t been writing” is literally no one’s favorite literary genre. I cringed just now when I re-read that aforementioned #TripleThreat40 post: There I was, in the virgin bloom of 2023, talking about how busy I’d been in “the last few months”–a situation that has, if anything, only worsened over the ensuing seven! Again, I won’t belabor the point, but the combined forces of a demanding job, a kid transitioning to middle school, and the general ambience of life, have been a real drain on the creative spirit.

Then, there’s the other part: 2023 has been, to put it mildly, a rough year for the extremely online Prince fan. I’ll leave it to other, more invested parties to deliver the play-by-play, but suffice to say that since the July 2021 release of Welcome 2 America–and, to an even greater degree, since the following summer, when management of Prince’s estate officially transferred from Comerica Bank & Trust to a seemingly uneasy partnership between the artist’s surviving siblings, his one-time lawyer and Source magazine publisher L. Londell McMillan, and music rights management enterprise Primary Wave–the discourse in the fan community has been dominated by a constant cycle of rumors, disappointment, and frustration over the status of the next major posthumous release.

This vibe shift may not have been the reason for my creative doldrums, but it made my decision to withdraw a hell of a lot easier: I deactivated my Patreon, and have abandoned Twitter (or whatever that squirrelly little ketamine gobbler is calling it these days), probably forever (I did, however, just dip my toe into Instagram–do with that news what you will). My dominant emotion through all this has been a sense of relief. I didn’t get into this absurd project out of a passion for analyzing the business spats of a bunch of octogenarians from Minnesota and their handlers, so it’s freeing to not feel the need to give even the most cursory lip service to the fandom’s controversy of the month; to just shut the fuck up and enjoy my life the best I can. I highly recommend it to everyone!

This is why I’m excited for the Diamonds and Pearls Super Deluxe Virtual Celebration (or #DPSDVC, as I will one day remember to abbreviate it without the aid of De Angela’s promo kit email). For the first time since, well, #TripleThreat40, I feel like I finally have the opportunity to come together with my people and talk about, you know, music: Not merch, or the bitrate of the MP3s they gave out at Celebration 2023, or why they should have released Parade Super Deluxe first, or whatever else I imagine they’re still talking about over on that other site but I will, blessedly, never have to know for sure. My panel–which I’ll have the privilege of sharing with Monique Couvson, Kamilah Cummings, Scott Woods, and moderator C. Liegh McInnis–is billed as “The Writers,” which (at least for me) feels like the perfect lens through which to explore this new, expanded configuration of Diamonds and Pearls, and the ways it’s shaping the narrative of Prince’s life and work. I’m still nowhere near finished exploring the set, but I can already say with confidence that there’s a lot to talk about. I hope to see you there!

#DPSDVC will take place virtually over two days: December 9-10, 2023. Unlike some of the other events I’ve been a part of, it is not an academic symposium, but something more in “the tradition of Harlem Renaissance salons, where gifted & creative poets, writers, artists, musicians, activists & scholars came together 2 have conversations & debates in a supportive & welcoming space.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I could use right about now! You can register for free using the link below:

#DPSDVC Diamonds and Pearls Super Deluxe Virtual Celebration Registration

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Wellness Check and #1999THREAD / #TripleThreat40 Hype

Hi, all: as those of you who have been watching my Patreon videos already know, the last few months have been an absolute nightmare at my day job, which, to put it mildly, has not been conducive to my creativity. I’m not gonna lie: I haven’t been this close to packing it in and retiring from amateur Prince scholarship since the Great “Cloreen Bacon Skin” drought of 2020. But I’m still here, and have some stuff to share with you all this month, even if the blog is likely to stay on pause until April.

First, I’m proud to be a part of the latest installment of the excellent #PrinceTwitterThread series curated by DJ UMB and Edgar Kruize, celebrating the 40th-and-change anniversary of 1999. Edgar kicked it off yesterday with a characteristically mind-blowing thread on the album’s cover art, which I promise will make you feel like you’ve never properly looked at the record before. I’ll be popping in next Friday, March 17, for a thread on “All the Critics Love U in New York” (I guess “D.M.S.R.” felt too on the nose). I’ll be posting my thread on here as always, but I highly encourage you to tune in to the series every day; a preview of coming attractions (including friends of the blog Jason Breininger and Tonya Pendleton!) is below.

Speaking of exciting fan projects, I have to give a belated shout-out to another friend, De Angela Duff, who since the beginning of 2023 has been co-hosting a weekly livestream with Michael Dean titled “What Did Prince Do This Week?” The series is a book club-style “slow read” of Duane Tudahl’s book on the Purple Rain studio sessions, and like everything De Angela does in the Prince world, it’s a wonderful source of both knowledge and community (even if, like me, you end up catching the replay instead of experiencing it live… I’ll make it one of these weeks!). You can catch up on the series to date, and tune in for future streams every Saturday at noon Eastern, on De Angela’s YouTube channel.

Last but not least, I have one more bit of self-promotion to leave you with: I’ll be presenting at De Angela’s #TripleThreat40 symposium at the end of this month as part of the Vanity 6 panel with Robin Shumays, Aisha K. Staggers, Elliott H. Powell, and moderator Miss TLC. My presentation will be kind of a sequel to the one I did at 2021’s #1plus1plus1is3 symposium, looking at the Vanity 6 album through the aesthetic lens of pornography and in the historical context of the academic and political “porn wars” of the 1980s. All I can say at this point is that it will be my most ambitious psuedo-academic project yet–whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we’ll have to wait until March 31 to see! Even if I don’t stick the landing, I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of you in person–some for the first time, some for the first time in years–in Brooklyn that weekend. You can reserve a free spot at the symposium here.

Okay, unfortunately, it’s time for me to go back to the work that actually pays my bills. If any billionaire readers out there want to subsidize my Prince scholarship for a modest annual salary, my inbox is open; in the meantime, be good to yourselves!

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Controversy, 1981 Podcast

Podcast: 41 Years of Controversy – A Conversation with Harold Pride and De Angela Duff

Here we are again, my first podcast in more than a year, and I couldn’t have asked for better guests than Harold Pride and De Angela Duff to discuss Prince’s fourth and quite possibly most underrated album, 1981’s Controversy. If you’ve been listening to these deep-dive album retrospectives, Harold needs no introduction; and, since the Prince scholarly community is a pretty small one, De Angela may not need one either. Suffice to say that she’s the biggest advocate of Controversy I know, and she makes a convincing case that it’s not only a great album in its own right, but also the linchpin of Prince’s entire career.

One quick note: you will likely notice that there was a significant drop in audio quality this episode; this was due to a perfect storm of technical issues that, unfortunately, left the low-quality Skype call recording as the only usable audio source from our conversation. I think you’ll get used to it, but I will assure you anyway that I’m taking steps to make sure we sound better next time. And yes, speaking of “next time,” I do have plans for more episodes in the coming months–probably not in October, but maybe one more before the end of the year, and then more to come in early 2023. If you want to hear the episodes as soon as they drop, remember to subscribe on your podcast service of choice using the links above!

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Controversy, 1981 Podcast

Coming Soon: 41 Years of Controversy

Last October, I had every intention to mark the 40th anniversary of Controversy with another installment of our in-depth album retrospective podcast series, but life (i.e., my increasingly-predictable end-of-year burnout) intervened. Now, having finally gotten my shit together, I’m putting the finishing touches on the episode, and it will be dropping next Friday (tomorrow for patrons)! I’m joined as always by Harold Pride and, for the first time, by longtime friend of the show De Angela Duff, who was actually the one to get my butt in gear because she’s just that passionate about the album! Very excited for you to hear it and (knock on wood) to be back with more in less than a year.

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#SexyMF30 Presentation and Panel

Hey, everyone! I’m still toiling away at my next post on the Time’s “Ice Cream Castles”; it’s almost ready, just needs some finishing touches. Meanwhile, a little bird told me that my presentation from last month’s #SexyMF30 virtual symposium is now up on YouTube, so I thought I’d share that just to make sure you all know I’m not dead. As always, I had a blast at the symposium; shoutout to my co-panelists, Steven G. Fullwood, Robert Loss, and Edgar Kruize, as well as moderator Monroe France, all of whose work pushed me to continue raising the bar in my annual cosplay as a pop culture scholar. You can see all of us in action in the panel discussion below:

As usual, I’d also like to share a few of my favorite presentations from throughout the symposium. It should be noted that this is by no means an exhaustive list; each and every presentation I was able to see was well worth my time, and I recommend every reader peruse De Angela Duff’s YouTube channel and see what catches your eye. Just take the recommendations below as a few good places to start.

First up, Casci Ritchie’s presentation on the “My Name is Prince” chain hat, per usual, hit it out of the park. She and I really must get together and record a podcast one of these days (hint, hint):

Also on the fashion tip (and someone with whom I already have recorded a podcast!) was Karen Turman, who did a fabulous presentation on the aesthetics of the “Sexy MF” song and music video. Of particular note for me: she cited Rena Clamen’s fantastic article on Prince and consent, which to my knowledge was only ever published in the now-out-of-print magazine my sister and I released back in 2018. If you’re interested, I posted a Twitter thread about this blast from the past and how much it meant to me.

Much of my favorite material around the “Love Symbol Album” is the extramusical material (hence my own presentation’s focus on transmedia storytelling), so I’d be remiss not to mention the 3 Chains o’ Gold movie roundtable featuring Kamilah Cummings, Rhonda Nicole, Tonya Pendleton, Casey Rain, and one of my faves, Melay Araya, moderated by Eloy Lasanta:

Last but not least, I have to shout out my fellow #PrinceTwitterThread alum Robin Shumays for her presentation on “Love Symbol” and Orientalism–probably the single paper I learned the most from:

All in all, it was another great weekend, and just what the doctor ordered during a time when it can be difficult to stay motivated due to [gestures at the entire world]. Thanks as always to De Angela for putting together such an incredible event and an even better community. Count me in for the Triple Threat symposium later this year–and every other one, for that matter!