For The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich tours Paisley Park, the home and recording studio of the late Prince. What she learns is that no matter how close you may get in physical proximity, even in death Prince maintains a carefully curated distance between him, his fans, and the world.
Mostly, the tour made me feel lonesome. Absent its owner, Paisley Park is a husk. In 2004, when Prince briefly rented a mansion in Los Angeles from the basketball player Carlos Boozer, he redesigned the place, putting his logo on the front gate, painting pillars purple, installing all-black carpet, and adding a night club. (Boozer threatened to sue, but Prince restored the house before he moved out.) Yet Paisley Park feels anonymous. His studios are beautiful, but unremarkable. There are many photos of him, and his symbol is omnipresent, but I was hoping for evidence of his outsized quirks and affectations—clues to some bigger truth. I found little that seemed especially personal. Paisley Park presents Prince only as a visionary—not as a father, a husband, a friend, or a son.
Although Prince’s estate has disregarded some of his preferences—his discography is now available on Spotify, a platform he pulled his music from in 2015, in part because he believed that the company didn’t compensate artists properly—there’s something profound about how Paisley Park insists on maintaining Prince’s privacy. It does not need to modernize him (which feels unnecessary), or even to humanize him (which feels impossible). In 2016, the most common response to Prince’s death was disbelief. His self-presentation was so carefully controlled that he never once betrayed his own mortality. He’d done nothing to make us think he was like us. During parties, Prince sometimes stood in a dark corner of the balcony and watched other people dance. Visiting Paisley Park now evokes a similar sensation—of being near Prince, but never quite with him.