Prince died last week, and America overreacted. No, I’m not diminishing Prince’s talent. He was one of pop music’s most gifted songwriters and musicians. As millions shared his more memorable performances, I realized I’d forgotten what a great guitar player and showman he was. He could write hit songs like few others, and he shared his talent freely, “gifting” songs to other artists. In short, he was one of the few pop stars whose fame was fully justified.
But to spend time on the mainstream and left-wing Internet last week — or to listen to some of the web’s more popular podcasts — you would have thought America lost a national hero, and not merely an immensely gifted artist. Comedian Dave Chappelle called Prince’s death the “black 9/11,” and he didn’t seem to be joking. Think pieces proliferated to the point that Gawker poked gentle fun at the phenomenon with a “Prince Thinkpiece Generator” that allowed you to “give meaning to your feelings” with the touch of a button.
Yes, I know that I’m contributing to the madness, but here’s the blunt reality: In our post-virtue culture, we worship celebrity and talent not for its own sake but for ourselves. Their talent is all about us. Their fame is for our amusement. Pop music fills the hymnals in the temple of the self. We are the stars of our own biopic, and we just lost someone who wrote part of the score.