We live in a hyperbolic world. Everything is the "BEST. EVER." or "literally the worst" or something we "can't even with." This is likely a result of the sheer volume of stimuli we're inundated with minute to minute in our super-connected world, one in which social media has us in a state of perpetual information overload where we're always trying to make our most powerful, authentic feelings stand out from the noise. We speak in absolutes because, well, how else to make ourselves clear? But it's in false absolutes that language loses its meaning and when something truly seismic happens we're left without the words to properly relay it. So maybe the only way to describe what happened today is to state it clearly and without descriptors. Prince is dead.
Prince was, it can be said without an ounce of that unnecessary hyperbole, a stone-cold musical genius, one of only a handful of truly visionary iconoclasts to grace pop music throughout its history. The man was an artist of almost unmatched caliber, someone who seemed to be able to do it all, an honest-to-God savant. He was a supremely gifted oddball who somehow managed to make that oddness the coolest damn thing on the planet. He was an innovator who changed the pop music landscape and who consistently not only brought us a kind of music we hadn't really heard before -- something inherently his -- but who also spearheaded an entire movement that was his personal creation. That's the kind of artistic authority he had. He was funk and soul and rock-and-roll and jazz and blues. He was all of that and so much more. He was singular -- and that's the kind of thing that's lacking in our culture, at the very least the kind of thing we can certainly use more of.
Granted, there will always be artists who stand out from the crowd, but it's hard to imagine, kind of like Bowie, that there will ever be another Prince. The man simply had too much talent. Like Bowie, it didn't seem like he was of this earth. And given the state of music in the year 2016, we should be clamoring for more of what he represented, not settling for less. The death of Prince at the unforgivable age of only 57 is devastating not only because of his tremendous output, his peerless gifts as an artist, and his mere presence as a musical true north in the world, but because the very super-connected, endlessly fragmented culture that's rendered hyperbole so common has also removed the society-spanning shadow of people like him. Put simply, it's almost impossible to be a mythical, world-shaking god in music anymore. But that fact merely suggests how important it is to have people like that walking among us: larger than life beings who operate on an entirely different plane of artistic brilliance.
Prince was that. He'll remain that. And we'll miss him because we so desperately needed him. Now more than ever.