One of A Kind
Wildly ahead of its time – no pun intended – 1999 struck a chord with the 1980s’ growing obsession with the futuristic. The title song, in particular, spoke to the idea that the future was a happy place, a never-ending party like no other.
At the same time, a cursory glance at the lyrics shows a fair amount of cold war tension. Lines such as “Everybody’s got a bomb/ We could all die any day,” and “I don’t wanna die/I’d rather dance my life away” feel quite explicit in their concerns about the risk of nuclear war.
Combining this dream-like vision of the future with the dark and real tensions of his day, Prince’s upbeat party hit speaks, more than anything else, to a dissonant view of the future – both wonderful and terrible.
The year 1999 came and went, and despite many apocalyptic concerns – some more credible than others – the world did not end. Prince’s career continued to be successful, and although he is still best known for his ’80s material, he nonetheless produced music until his tragic death in 2016.
Looking back on a track like “1999”, it’s hard to appreciate just how revolutionary it was at the time. It was energetic, funky, and vibrant, all while blending a mixture of disco, soul, and R&B. In short, it was a dance track through and through, and while it might even seem a little tame by modern dance standards, it’ll still get a crowd dancing all these years later.
So this year, as we look towards 2023 and wonder what the next year could bring, let’s also look back to a song that continues to inspire musicians all these years later.