The only cover that earned Prince’s approval


By the end of the 20th Century, Prince was among the few artists that predicted the rise of the internet. The issue, however, was that Prince felt the rise of the online world was inherently a bad thing and that the digital age was an evil entity that meant awful things for copyright. 

Prince was never one to shy away from sharing his opinion on the matter, either. In fact, he went on record numerous times to express his concern, calling the internet akin to The Matrix: “The battlefield’s in the mind. And the prize is the soul. So just be careful. Be very careful,” he said in 1999 at the Yahoo Online Music Awards.

When the world shifted over to digital outlets, music followed, and suddenly it wasn’t all just about selling physical CDs and vinyl records anymore – enter iTunes and global streams. This wasn’t something Prince was a particular fan of, and it meant that the number of cover tracks increased due to the popularity of other platforms like YouTube and the rise of user-generated content. 

“There’s no other art form where you can do that,” Prince said. “You can’t go and do your own version of Harry Potter. Do you want to hear somebody else sing ‘Kiss’?”.

Prince also told Billboard in 2011 that covering songs “means that your version doesn’t exist anymore”, explaining that people often think he’s covering Sinéad O’Connor or Shaka Khan when, in fact, he wrote the material.

This still didn’t stop artists from covering his songs, though, with the likes of Nina Simone, Alicia Keys, and The Bangles among the many who delivered talented reimaginings of Prince songs – and Prince didn’t care for any, that is, until one band came along. 

In 2003, it was thought that when Foo Fighters reached out to ask Prince if they could cover his hit ‘Darling Nikki’, he declined. Prince later clarified that rumour, however, expressing his fondness of their cover, stating that “that band embodied the song in the way it was meant to be played,” before adding: “They are so good they could do a whole album of my rock songs”.

Prince returned the favour in 2007 during his Super Bowl halftime show, where he performed the band’s hit ‘Best Of You’, but Foo Fighters didn’t share the same immediate appreciation that Prince had. In fact, at first, they thought Prince only did it to mock them but also admitted that he performed the song better than they did.

After the Super Bowl performance, Prince then received a music-licensing request from Foo Fighters, asking him to let them play ‘Darling Nikki’ at MTV’s VMAs. Prince approved the request the night before the show and praised the band’s talent afterwards – reportedly pointing out Dave Grohl’s way of “keeping the integrity of the song”.

A year after the event, the two met at a show and complimented each other for their work in the music industry. “The entire band was excellent,” Prince said. “You know how much I admire excellence. They were raw and edgy in their playing. I bet they rehearse a lot. You don’t sound like that unless you’ve rehearsed till the dirt falls off and the shine comes through.”

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