Till, Rupert (2010) Pop stars and idolatry: an investigation of the worship of popular music icons, and the music and cult of Prince. Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studies in Religion and Education, 31 (1). pp. 69-80. ISSN 1361-7672

Prince is an artist who integrates elements from the sacred into his work. He uses popular iconography to present himself as an icon of consumer culture, as a deified ‘rock god’ worshipped by his fans, and as a preacher leading his audience like a congregation. His personality cult mixes spirituality and sexuality, and deals with issues of ecstasy and liberation, a transgressional approach that draws both controversy and public interest. This paper investigates Prince’s work and the role of the pop star as an icon within contemporary culture, an icon that contains a physicality and sexuality not present in contemporary western religious traditions. It discusses to what extent popular musical culture operates as a form of religious practice within contemporary western culture, and the implications that this has. The paper investigates the construction of Prince’s public character, his manipulation of the star system, and how he uses popular iconography to blur the distinctions between spirituality and sexuality, the idealised performer and the real world, the sacred and the profane, and the human and the divine. It explores how he possesses and is possessed by the audience, who enter into the hollow vessel he offers up to his fans.

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