Dec 13
I’ve had many loves in my life. My first boy band: The Beatles. My first kpop bias: Park Kyung. My jpop boyfriend: Matsumoto Jun. All the actors and actresses who made me swoon with how cute they were in love, making me feel in love. And my muse, the cutest boy in the world, my kpop military husband: Yoo Kihyun.

But there will always be My One and Only,
My Forever Idol,

Like many of my music tastes, I inherited my love for Prince from someone else. My long distance boyfriend at the time introduced me to his music. perfect? Every time I listened to Prince’s romantic and angsty music, it was tied in with all those feelings of longing for a first love. A Million Days never hit anyone so hard!!

The rest of it came from family – thanks to my older sibling, I had a burned copy of Purple Rain. My aunt, also a darling Prince fan, gifted me 1999 for Christmas when she found out. My parents gifted me Musicology, his latest album at the time, for my birthday. And my dad, a dedicated member of thhe BMG mail-order CD catalog and never a man to miss a deal, would let the rest of the family pick CDs to order to fill out the “10 for $x” CD deals. That’s how I got The Hits 1 & 2. These were the Prince CDs I grew up with.

Looking back, in full view of my complicated relationship to gender and sexuality, I can see everything about what drew me into Prince. I’ve had two major Prince Eras of my life: my mid-teens and my mid-twenties. My mid-teens, I was discovering romance and love and sexuality for the first time. And then, in my mid-twenties, I was embodying my queerness for the first time, now that I finally knew I was queer. The fashion, the bravado, the lace and blazers, the showmanship...that was what he brought out in me in my mid-twenties. I would KILL at karaoke when I whipped out The Beautiful Ones, screaming into the mic on my knees by the end.

Those were the years right before he passed. I’m thankful for that. That I loved him, tried to embody him, sang his songs with everything I had at karaoke with my friends.

Loved him, as he deserved, in those final years.

First and foremost, we can’t discount the fact: Baby, He Wrote All The Hits. He is, was, will always be, hands down, a genius. The man was prolific, he was obsessed, he could play any instrument he wanted to. He recorded the entirety of When Doves Cry alone with that goddamn drum machine!!!!! He could play guitar solos in a way where, even if you weren’t a guitar person, you could hear it SING. Funk, soul, r&b, rock, pop...I mean, I know a lot of people look on his 90s hip hop & new jack swing era with disdain, but even that is the cream of the crop to me. He was a true musician, a true songwriter, a true genius all the way through.

He had charisma and charm. He was cute and sexy all at the same time. His cheekiness was foundational for me. A lot of what you hear about him – the mystery, the intensity, the integrity – makes him sound like he’d forever be serious. But he was as cheeky and cute on stage as he was proud and coy. Look at these smirks!!!! Look at that boyish toothy grin!!!

God. My favorite thing, always, is when he’d put out his hand, commanding the audience to sing. He knew what he’d written. He knew you knew the lyrics. And the smirk, the jut of his chin as he put his hand down. That’s the Prince I love.

I had the good fortune of watching his Superbowl performance, pictured above, when it was aired. I was still in my teens then. I was juggling my required reading for school and issues of comics at my dad's friend's place during their Superbowl Party, waiting for Prince to come on during the halftime show. I still get emotional watching this performance...Playing Purple Rain in the rain, on a stage in the shape of symbol, with his guitar the shape of his symbol. Playing, singing, like the absolute master he was.

As if he wasn’t already the full package, he was, and still is, my litmus test for rights as I work in the arts. I always thought the name change to the symbol was badass – that was my first Prince fanart, him locked in his symbol, writing “slave” across his face. But I’m here, now, in the arts signing bad contracts and bad deals. Back then, most people thought he was ridiculous. Now we're seeing Taylor Swift or Britney Spears all fighting for autonomy. We see every idol that’s worked under SM Entertainment struggle with punishing lengthy exploitative contracts, poor marketing, and absolute erasure you if you’re not perfect. This is what a capitalistic arts industry looks like.

“If you don’t own your masters, your master own you.” Prince always knew.

It always feels a little funny to me when people want to discount whatever kpop or jpop idols of their artistry in order to prop their favs up. I get it, we’re living in the hell of late capitalism, people love a seemingly authentic voice. They love to imagine theirs is the idol with the most talent. The Real Idol. So perhaps it’s a bit condescending of me, but whenever these little fanwars break out about who is better than who, about which style of music is True Artistry, about whose singer is The Best Singer, I’m smiling to myself.

Like oh. Your idol is better?

For those uninitiated, Prince was 5’2”, which is to say, he was The Short King To End All Kings. I’m pretty sure he’s the origin for my eternal bias towards the shortest, cockiest member of any kpop group. He must’ve had specific stylists he worked with to perfectly capture his proportions best. The baroque, fantastical fashions of his Purple Rain into Parade era always accentuated his best features: his short torso, small waist, and broad shoulders.

My favorite looks of his always brought his shoulders OUT with those shoulder pads. Usually, a billowy blouse was cinched at his waist into the highest rise pants you’ve ever seen — up to his goddamn rib cage. Especially in the Purple Rain era, he had an ornate, fucking Versailles-ass upholstery-looking blazers. And his loose pants would often seamlessly become a high heel boot.

Like, not to be a predictable bitch, but the Purple Rain to Parade / Under the Cherry Moon era of Prince’s fashion will always be my favorite. The billowy elegance of those blouses, giving the absolute Lady Oscar kinda fantasy, imagining an 18th century European fashion world that upheld Prince as Their Prince. Every look in that time period makes me insane. The big round glasses, the high collars and huge cravats, the leather jacket with the scarf, the cropped vests and high-rise slacks...whatever is going on here with these itty bitty shorts and what looks like a little pony, as if he's a slutty twinky French noble.

But, truly, any Prince look is The Look. Loose mesh and sleeveless shirts with tight biker shorts. The return to 70s funk soul auntie in full flowing robes of his later years.

His fashion was always eccentric, and the way he carried himself, he could pull anything off. The confidence and pride, the cheekiness, the coy side glances and smirks. That’s what does it. Jesus, I’m swooning just thinking of this gesture and postures. And god, the gemini of it all. He would be out here on stage, fully humping the stage or rotating his hips to show you his ass, and then in interviews he was quiet, almost shy, cute and coy. Like what the fuck is that???? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT???? Prince was doing aegyo before the concept of idols doing aegyo existed!!!!!!!

You don’t know how good we had it and how rotten the culture was. Prince was out here in the mid-00s looking like a hot rich milf and he was on the website “men that look like old lesbians” as if that was a fucking drag. Pretty sure I looked at that website a little too long, trying to figure something out as my favorite pretty boys were aging in real time, staring at their pictures like a gender magic eye puzzle.

You need to know, you must know, I must tell you now, before I talk about his horniness, one of the most important lyrics he ever wrote. For any queer person adoring Prince, including icon Janelle Monae, this lyric stood out to all of us:

I’m not a woman
I’m not a man
I am something you will never understand

It’s the opening fucking line of this beautiful 80s pop ballad, 👁 Would Die 4 U. It’s got a religious tinge — he’s singing from the perspective of Jesus or God or something — and to me, raised in The Church, this is the only relevant, revenant part of Christianity left for me. This mingling...this confusion of gender, and sexuality, and love and romance, and artistry, and spirituality. That’s Prince.

I don’t know if I believe in God. But damn. I believe in Prince.

The other thing about Prince? He’s fucking hot. An absolute fucking freak. In the old sense of the word: Sex Freak 1. (positive, with admiration and envy) freak for sex

When I mean his music is horny, I don’t mean like Monsta X’s Love U or Rotate, both of which I love dearly. I don’t mean like Jungkook’s half-assed “fuckin you right.” Even Vixx’s Chained Up and Taemin's performances doesn’t come close enough, as absolutely hot as they are.

In his songs, it's as if Prince invites you to role play with him. Are you a runaway bride who left her husband at the altar so Prince could give you head? Did you tell a friend, who then told Prince, a little sex fantasy you had...something about a little box with a mirror and a tongue inside? Do you keep used condoms around for him to see when you pull your car over so you can fuck him, even though he's shy and uncertain? Is he begging you to let him be the only one you come for? Is he imagining what it's like to be your girlfriend, so he can dress you, wash your hair, and kiss you there...only the way a girlfriend can?

The intense panting in the tracks, the pantomime blow jobs and jacking off on stage with his guitar as his dick – shout out to the Darling Nikki performance in the movie Purple Rain, hottest thing I’ve ever seen in theaters while grieving. Every little detail of the scenarios being described in the songs, just dirty talk for the sake of it. Describing the butterflies-in-your-gut feeling of being turned on in When Doves Cry. Whatever the hell was happening in Illusion Coma Pimp and Circumstance.

I’ve recently listened to some of the extended tracks released since his passing and blushed at the intensity of his moaning into the mic. He’s giving you the full fantasy. And one of my all-time favorites, the live performance of Gett Off at the 1991 VMAs, where he rotates his hips in that beautiful little yellow lace number to show off his entire cute ass to the audience while saying “Lemme show you baby, I’m a talented boy.”

No one else, man.

I’ve been mulling over freak shit lately. Like what was the origin for me? Where did it come from? Was there even an origin, or do I just come by it honestly? I read some beautiful writing recently by an Austrian erotic artist from the late 1800s named Franz von Bayros in a piece called “Concerning My Morals.” He boiled it down rather perfectly for me:

One does not become "perverse," one is born thus, and "to pervert someone" is only words. [...] Always, when I spoke to a young lady of experience in my studio, I tried in a thousand roundabout ways to learn whether she might have been "perverted" by another man or through abnormal reading, by viewing pictures, or else through some outside influence, and I was obliged to conclude that it was an inborn inclination. Even if the one or the other admitted that she saw "it" or heard "it" spoken about, she always added that she had thought about "it" since her childhood and her curiosity was equal to the mystery that was made of "it."

In other words...there is no origin. You’re just a pervert or you aren’t. Maybe you aren’t a pervert yet because you’re denying yourself that.

That’s where I was as a teenager.

As an adult, looking back, I can see where my curiosity piqued — horny harem manga I got when I was a little too young (thank you, my parents, for not paying attention), watching my sister watch Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Prince’s music.

But being queer and horny and steeped in the South, in Christian shame, how could I be honest with myself about any of this? I was terrified of sex. I was terrified of my sexuality. I was terrified of being Gendered against my will.

For me, along with I don’t know how many other people, Prince was freedom from all that. Or maybe, instead, he was an Explanation. An Encapsulation. A Perfect Thesis. Can’t you see what I mean? The confusion of gender, and sexuality, and love and romance, and artistry, and spirituality. He made it make sense deep, deep in your Soul.

With no shame attached.

I was at work when I found out Prince passed away. I was so shaken, I had to step away from my desk. My partner texted me. My friends from all over sent me condolences. People at work came over to check on me. Even the ex who first showed me his music, from all those years ago, messaged me, and we mourned his passing together.

After that week, everyone else seemed to forget, but I couldn’t even grapple with my feelings at the time. I kept trying to draw him in tribute, to post on social media, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t capture him. I couldn’t capture how beautiful and hot and sexy he was – my style was too simplistic and cute. I kept giving up in frustration, and I grieved silently for months, listening to Way Back Home on repeat. My partner, ever loving, started listening to all his music when it was released onto streaming by the Prince Estate. That was all I had.

The years passed, and I moved on, too. Then, I went to LA, and there I met up with a friend who had just seen her favorite idol, Jonghyun, twice in concert earlier that year at SHINee World V in 2017. We got korean BBQ together in a balmy LA winter in early December and I saw her lit up with passion, recalling how she’d screamed “FUCK IT UP JONGHYUN!!!” as Jjong sang a sick high note. Listening to her, I realized: I Have To Be Best Friends With This Person.

If you’re reading, you know what happened. And the grief I saw in her...In many ways, I wanted to know what she loved so much about kpop, about SHINee, about Jonghyun, that made her grieve him. He was special, too. I understood it. Not many people were there for me as I grieved for Prince months after his death. Maybe I could be there for her, learn what she loved, and love it along with her.

I’m always thankful for her friendship. I finally got to tell her about this earlier this year, properly, in person. I always credit her as the friend who got me into kpop – starting me down a journey of learning to love more fully again. I've talked about it here in this blog a few times. What kpop lit aflame in me again, what it brought back to my old loves that I'd set down in shame or uncertainty. In fully indulging these loves, I found myself furiously drawing them, drawing with a dedication and passion and effort to improve. So I could capture how I saw Park Kyung. How I saw Matsujun. How I saw Kihyun – every line of his beautiful face. His pursed lips. His eyes, nose, ears. His perfectly layered bowl cut and arrogantly arched brow. I didn't know how to draw like that. And then, suddenly, I did.

I think, maybe, after this long roundabout journey...I could finally honor Prince, just the way I saw him.