Till, Rupert (2010) The Personality Cult of Prince: Purple Rain, Sex and the Sacred, and the Implicit Religion Surrounding a Popular Icon. Implicit Religion: Journal of the Centre for the Study of Implicit Religion and Contemporary Spirituality, 13 (2). pp. 151-160. ISSN 1463 9955

Prince is an artist who uses popular iconography to present himself as an icon of consumer culture, as a deified “rock god” worshipped by his fans, analogous to a preacher leading his audience like a congregation. His personality cult mixes spirituality and sexuality freely, and deals with issues of ecstasy and liberation, a transgressional approach that draws both controversy and public interest. This paper looks at the traditions that inform Prince’s work and at what it means to
call a pop star an icon within contemporary culture. It also investigates the roles of physicality and sexuality in this process and discusses to what extent popular musical culture has taken the place of religious practice within contemporary western culture. The paper investigates Prince’s semi-fictional character development, his manipulation of the star system, and how he uses popular iconography to blur the distinctions between spirituality and sexuality, the idealized performer and the real world, the sacred and the secular, 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. It suggests that personality cults such as that of Prince, are a form of implicit religion, that they are breaking down the traditional distinctions between the secular and the sacred, and are part of the impact of postmodernity on religion.

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