Prince is often considered one of the most influential artists of the late 20th century and beyond, defying genre and crafting a larger-than-life persona in the process. Along with his notable impact on artists such as Lenny Kravitz and Janelle Monae, the ‘Purple Rain’ singer always kept an open mind when it came to his own musical evolution and had an acute eye for spotting potential in seemingly unconventional places. This was exhibited especially in his admiration for Scottish dream-pop band Cocteau Twins.
In an interview, Prince once stated, “What I like is stuff that I can’t do. That I would never do, like the Cocteau Twins, I would never do that.” This declaration proved to be deceiving, as the trio’s influence was showcased in his 2014 release ‘TICTACTOE,’ a song off of his thirty-sixth studio album Plectrumelectrum. But when digging deeper into Prince’s discography, the impact can be charted as far back as the 1990s.
In 1991, when working with singer-songwriter Martika on her album Martika’s Kitchen, Prince co-wrote and produced a song titled ‘Love…Thy Will Be Done,’ that, with its dreamy synth loop, was compared to Cocteau Twins’ ‘Fifty-Fifty Clown.’ Later, in a far less subtle move, Prince acted on his immense admiration and attempted to sign the Cocteau Twins to his record label, Paisley Park Records.
The Cocteau Twins’ bass guitarist and keyboard player Simon Raymonde recalled about the situation, “These days, your record label would likely have received notice from Warner or whoever and would have some deal done, but back then, sampling was quite new, and no one really knew what the legalities were around it all, and to be honest we were just massively flattered that someone we really liked was into our stuff, so we never thought to ask for money or royalties.
“Prince liked Cocteau Twins so much that he was keen for us to sign to Paisley Park Records, but I think 4AD had their own plans that didn’t really include him, which was probably a good thing as Paisley Park went bust in 1994.”
In the 2014 release ‘TICTACTOE,’ it’s evident even years later that Prince was still an avid admirer of the pop trio’s work. The group’s subconscious influence on him is shown in the song’s dreamy synth and harmonies, and it manages to be equally hazy in lyrics like, “Just like sweet November, here comes a pretender. Borderline half-cast tell me nothing else, and please don’t ask”.
In an interview, Prince revealed, regarding the song’s creation: “We recorded it in Bryan Ferry’s studio in London, after a night of partying for which the Cocteau Twins was the soundtrack,” he explained. “You can’t understand the words of Cocteau Twins songs, but their harmonies put you in a dreamlike state.”
Even for an artist referred to as ‘the high priest of pop,’ Prince always kept a sense of humility and continued to aid artists in their careers until his passing in 2016. By showing that often the influencer becomes the influenced, he always managed to stay fresh in the game, all with his signature flair, of course.
Listen to the Cocteau Twins-inspired ‘TICTACTOE’ below.