Prince’s fourth album, Controversy, anchored the trajectory of his entire career and significantly shaped his status as a music icon. During this era, Prince leveraged his prodigious capacity for placemaking and worldbuilding and sparked his journey as a moving image auteur and film director. During the Controversy tour, Prince began experimenting with the visual language of narrative cinema as a vehicle for his music. He would go on to predate Beyoncé’s concept of the visual album by decades. The ubiquity of smoke from fog machines, combined with backlighting, present on tour and in music videos and album art, would come to mythologize the image of Prince that pop culture, more often than not, depicts—mysterious, otherworldly, and bewitching.

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