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


#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!


#1plus1plus1is3: Controversy Presentation and Panel

Late last month, De Angela Duff uploaded the presentation I delivered at her #1plus1plus1is3 virtual symposium back in March. I had the privilege of sharing the Controversy panel with Christopher A. Daniel, Steven G Fullwood, Edgar Kruize, and moderator C. Liegh McInnis. My paper, “I Wish We All Were Nude: Allen Beaulieu’s Infamous ‘Shower Poster’ as Aesthetic Linchpin and Artifact,” was definitely the silliest of the four, so my thanks once again to De Angela for her indulgence.

One quick correction, which came up in the chat at the symposium: While Allen Beaulieu was involved in the Controversy poster shoot, the actual image that made it onto the poster was taken by none other than Lisa Coleman! So, Lisa, if you ever want to come on my podcast and spend an entire hour talking about nothing but this photo, consider this your open invitation.

If you can’t get enough of me and my pandemic hair, below is the Q&A I did with Christopher, Steven, Edgar, and C. Liegh:

Finally, I’d like to share a few of my favorite presentations from the symposium. It isn’t an exhaustive list–my real recommendation is that you watch every video on De Angela’s channel!–but if you’re looking for a good place to start, you can’t go wrong with these.

Erica Thompson on the influence of Christian values (and Prince’s dad) on The Rainbow Children:

Robert Loss on work and racial capitalism in The Rainbow Children (and also the infamous “Avalanche”):

KaNisa Williams’ audiovisually stimulating exegesis of The Rainbow Children/One Nite Alone era:

My favorite “discovery” of the symposium, Melay Araya, on the Diamonds and Pearls videos’ place in Prince’s canon as a filmmaker:

Kamilah Cummings on Diamonds and Pearls and the “myth of colorblindness” in Prince’s work:

Harold Pride on “Gett Off” as Prince’s “quintessential maxi single”:

And, last but not least, the aforementioned C. Liegh McInnis on the lyrics of Diamonds and Pearls, which had us reconsidering, of all things, the poetic merits of “Jughead”:

In short, the symposium was an absolute joy, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I’m already counting the days until next year’s “Triple Threat” symposium on 1999, What Time is It?, and Vanity 6!

(Edit: I posted too soon and didn’t include this great recap video De Angela posted on Monday! It captures so much of the fun we all had that weekend. See you again at #TripleThreat40!)


Podcast: Something Wrong with the Machinery – Carmen Hoover on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

We’re nearing the end of our miniseries on the University of Salford’s interdisciplinary Prince conference, but there are still a few treats in store–starting with today’s conversation with Carmen Hoover. Carmen is a current professor at Olympic College in Washington, and a former First Avenue employee who watched Prince conquer the world from Minneapolis in the early 1980s. We talked about the conference, the time she saw Prince at a gas station, and most importantly, her paper on the evolution of a particular moment (you know the one) between Prince and Wendy in Purple Rain. If your interests are anywhere near as prurient as mine, it’s a can’t-miss.


Podcast: Everybody Shut Up, Listen to the Band – Felicia Holman and Harold Pride on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

Settle in, folks, because today we’ve got not one, but two presenters from this spring’s Prince conference at the University of Salford: interdisciplinary artist/activist Felicia Holman and independent scholar/activist Harold Pride. Both were part of the organic community of Black artists and academics who came together in Manchester and, each in their own way, helped to reclaim Prince’s legacy as a specifically African American artist. The three of us talk about that, as well as their specific papers–Harold’s on the underrated, short-lived “Band with No Name” from 198788; Felicia’s on Prince’s autodidacticism and its connection to traditions of Black self-determination–and, as usual, a lot of other things along the way. It’s a great conversation that could have easily been twice as long; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I still have a handful of these interviews lined up, and will be posting them at least through Labor Day. Appearances to the contrary, I’m also still writing: I’ll be back to the ol’ grind next week. See you then!