A lot of times, when it seems like celebrities die in bunches, it’s just a product of our need to search for pattern, our instant awareness of anything that happens anywhere, our public mourning, and the sheer number of famous people meeting the normal rate of human attrition. It’s a normal thing that is elevated into a big deal, and we all pretend there is something cruel and unusually hideous going on.
That’s the case this year, though. Bowie and Prince, man. It’s a legitimate artistic and human loss. Two of the (the two most?) idiosyncratic geniuses in 20th-century music, whose influence goes far beyond their songs. But even if you didn’t know that, and don’t think influence matters, there’s the music. Prince’s pulsing, experimental, sexual and raw and controlled and inventive and weird and amazing sound spanned decades, but never defined them, because he stood apart, on top. He contributed some influence to every musician, but could anyone touch him? There’s literally no one like him, and there never will be. There probably never could be, again. How can someone be like Prince when Prince already existed?