Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Music

From Madonna to Keith Richards: The pop stars Prince hated

@SamWKemp

Prince was a notoriously prickly character and held nothing back in making his disdain for those who annoyed him abundantly clear. We all remember how he ejected Kim Kardashian from the stage during one of his concerts, swivelling elegantly as he pushed her back into the crowd with a ‘bye bye’ wave.

What that particular clip proves is that Prince had little time for the superficial side of the entertainment industry. He seems to have held originality, artistic integrity, and creative exploration in high regard, always choosing to push his own sound in a new direction and scorning those who failed to live up to his standards.

As you’ll see, most of the names on this list are from a particular – fairly recent – moment in the history of pop music. Is it that, as the years went by, Prince grew weary of the hordes of fame-hungry pop stars that came to dominate the charts? I wouldn’t be surprised – many of the pop stars he took issue with seemed less concerned with the quality of their music and more about raising their profile, something Prince believed should be achieved through artistic talent alone.

Whatever the reason, Prince never shied away from making his opinion on mainstream pop acts crystal clear. Below, you’ll find eight stars that Prince couldn’t stand.

The pop stars Prince hated:

Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran

Three years after his death, the Prince estate released his posthumous memoir The Beautiful Ones. As well as containing hand-written lyrics, cartoons, and unseen photos, the book also held nothing back in criticising the contemporary music industry. In one passage, Prince wrote: “We need to tell music execs that they keep ramming Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran down our throats and we don’t like it no matter how many times they play it.”

Prince’s words must have been especially hurtful for Katy Perry, who once explained that Prince and his film Purple Rain were a major influence on her as a young.pop star. When Prince died, she took to Twitter to offer her sympathies, writing: “And just like that…the world lost a lot of magic. Rest in peace Prince! Thanks for giving us so much.” I imagine Prince was turning in his grave.

Justin Timberlake

Prince was clearly one of the people who wasn’t fully convinced by Justin Timberlake’s assertion that he was “bringing sexy back.” During a performance at an Emmy Award after-party, Prince told the crowd: “whoever is claiming that they are bringing sexy back — sexy never left.” The crowd, of course, went wild.

Timberlake took issue with this, later mocking Prince for his height at the 2007 Golden Globe Awards. That same year, he called-out Prince during the verse on his Timberland song ‘Give It To Me.’ I imagine by that point, Prince had stopped caring.

Madonna

Another star who mocked Prince for his height in the heat of the moment was his former partner Madonna. Together, they were two of the most famous pop stars of the 1980s, forming a power couple for a time before parting ways.

The story goes that after the breakup, Madonna screamed: “How dare you dump me, don’t you know who I am?” while Prince wandered down the street. Madonna went on to mock everything from Prince’s stature to his eating habits, only burying the hatchet long enough to record ‘Love Song’, a duet with Prince, from her 1989 album Like A Virgin.

Pink

When Pink signed to her first major label, she was just 19. With all the buzz around her, she plucked up the courage to approach Prince at an awards show and asked him if would like to collaborate. Prince asked her if she owned the masters (the original copies and, by extension, the rights) to her songs. She said no, so Prince told her to come back when she did. Pink didn’t respond well to this and reportedly called Prince a “rude fuck” behind his back.

Years later, she realised that he was probably trying to help her out. Prince, after all, had spent years trying to get the rights to his own masters. The year he died, Pink said: “I loved him, I absolutely loved him. Prince is everybody’s genius.”

Adam Levine

Prince was famously opposed to other artists recording covers of his songs, favouring originality above imitation. In a 2013 interview, he called out Maroon 5 for their cover of his song ‘Kiss’, which appeared on the deluxe edition of their album Overexposed.

In that Billboard interview, he said: “Why do we need to hear another cover of a song someone else did? Art is about building a new foundation, not just laying something on top of what’s already there.”

The Flaming Lips

Like Pink, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne also felt the full impact of Prince’s rejection. His group encountered the pop icon at the 2006 BRIT Awards, where Prince was set to perform a four-song set with his former Revolution bandmates.

While hanging around backstage, The Flaming Lips decided to approach Prince’s bodyguard and gave him a stack of their CDs. As Coyne recalled: “We were so thrilled by the possibility of him hearing our music. But at the end of the night, the bodyguard came and found us and handed all the CDs back. He said: ‘Prince doesn’t want these.'”

Keith Richards

In 2016, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts told The Guardian the story of the time Prince opened for his band at the Los Angeles Coliseum. As Watts recalled: “Mick and I loved Prince’s 1980 album Dirty Mind – Keith hated it – and we got him on our show. Of course, Prince being Prince, he went out in his knickers and our audience booed him off, which didn’t deter me from liking him.”

Keith Richards however, only grew more hostile towards Prince. In 1988, for example, he told the LA Times: “I think he’s very clever at manipulating the music business and the entertainment business. I think he’s more into that than making music. I don’t see much substance in anything he does.”