Why the First Posthumous Prince Release ‘4ever’ Was Such a Letdown
Prince wasn't one for looking back. That explains why he had little to do with a trio of compilations issued between 1993 and 2006. Over that period of time, Prince changed labels, changed bands, even changed his name – then changed it back.
His untimely death in April 2016 provided an opportunity to tie some of these disparate strands together. Unfortunately, 4ever – released on Nov. 22, 2016 – too often traced the same familiar path. Its 40 songs focus solely on 14 studio albums released under the name Prince via Warner Bros. Worse than that, the set's reliance on shorter single edits meant even the best-known songs arrived in truncated form.
To be fair, 4ever was the first collection to feature Prince's chart-topping "Batdance" single, and it included the first official release of "Moonbeam Levels," a long-circulated bootleg recorded during the sessions for 1999. But more often than not, the first posthumous Prince release is defined by what it isn't.
The original Warner Bros. compilation, 1993's The Hits/The B-Sides, collected some songs that had become hard to find in the post-45 era. Ultimate Prince, released a full decade prior to 4ever, included a second disc of 12-inch dance remixes. Fans had every right to expect more from 4ever.
Listen to Prince Perform 'Moonbeam Levels'
Instead, the compilation worked in miniature. Single edits for "Little Red Corvette," "Alphabet St.," "Glam Slam" and "Take Me With U" had never appeared on compact disc before. The inclusion of the too-often-overlooked "Mountains" was a treat, and 4ever made room for "Paisley Park" and "Girls & Boys," a pair of songs that were released internationally but not in the U.S.
There were curious choices, too. The obscure U.S. b-side "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" was included, as was "Head," a non-single album cut from 1980's Dirty Mind. Yet "Erotic City," maybe Prince's best-known b-side, was not. Neither was "I Wish U Heaven," "Anotherloverholenyohead," "Partyman" or "America." None of those singles had yet appeared on a Prince compilation. The Hits/The B-Sides also featured "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?," a 1999-era b-side that Alicia Keys later made into a hit single.
Perhaps inevitably, 4ever failed to live up to the lofty sales figures of those earlier comps, stalling out at No. 33 on the Billboard charts. Ultimate Prince had gone to No. 6 in 2006, The Hits/The B-Sides reached No. 4 in 1993, and The Very Best of Prince, the first-single disc set, topped the charts in 2001. 4ever, a Top 5 R&B finisher, got to No. 21 in the U.K.