"Pop Life" was recorded before Prince's previous album, the soundtrack to his movie Purple Rain, was even completed. It was the first sign that Prince was getting tired of the celebrity game - the lyrics are about the trappings of being a celebrity in the music business, the drugs and pressure he was feeling. At the time, Prince was one of the biggest artists in the world.
Near the end, the song collapses on itself in a strange passage of bumps and crashes, underlain with boos and catcalls followed by cheers. The story is often told that this was taped during Prince's 1981 disastrous opening slot for the Rolling Stones. According to this legend, what you hear in the sample is the crowd booing him off the stage, then cheering as Prince leaves. However, Prince Vault claims the samples actually come from a sound library set by the company Sound Ideas.
In June 1985, around the time of the release of the album, Prince announced he would no longer do live performances, a promise he only kept throughout the end of that year. He was touring and playing live again, though sporadically, to promote the Parade album and the film Under the Cherry Moon in 1986.
Elvis Costello planned to do a cover version of this song with altered lyrics as part of his 1997 greatest hits package Extreme Honey. However, Prince refused him permission to do so and instead Elvis borrowed the chord sequence of this song for the one original track on the album, "The Bridge I Burned."
Chris from SomewhereI was thinking that the noises were from a boxing match, especially with the bell at the beginning...
Markantney from BiloxeMar 2015,
Breeze, you're correct but I have to believe it's because (even for Prince) the song was such a departure from his previous Songs/Albums/Hits? It's also not quite smooth enough to be jazzy, not enough Rhythm for "Da Club", and it's not even "Pop" enough for "Rock". I was teen when this was out and I remember all of us (in the Hood) thinking the song was OK but nothing you'd fly to the "RecahSto" (from Under the Cherry Moon) and buy but you wouldn't switch stations if it was on the radio either. And it was played on the R&B stations (I listened to) a lot back then.
I actually didn't really like the song until many years later, same for Raspberry Beret.
Sasah from Atlanta, GaMusic appeals to people on different levels. I understand the sadness in this song. I can parlay the message with things that I've encountered in my life. To some, Prince may no longer be a 'star' as someone mentioned above. Prince is an artist. He is a musical genius. He is an industry trailblazer that has accomplished things that many artists with similar tenure have not achieved and never will. He is a business man. As an artist, I'd rather be labeled as a legend, an icon, an innovator instead of a 'star.' Stars blaze brightly, they lose gas, fade out and die. Who would want to be a star when they can be an icon? For comparison, just look at the washed up careers of many 80's or even 90's artists who wish they could book a venue today, who wishes they could take a meeting with industry decision makers. Bite your tongue! Duct tape your fingers together!
Leo from Westminster 1, MdUnfortunately, for Prince-Pop Life is a song that I just can't get into. Besides, Prince is a whole lot more convincing on guitar than he is on piano so I'm kinda suprised that it charted into the Top 10 as highly as it did. As a Prince song, Pop Life is no masterpiece-in fact, its forgettable -way below for the Purple One's impossibly high standards. When he plays the piano, its as if he's having sex with it!-Prince is no Elton or Jerry Lee, that's for sure! Yeah, the subject matter is about the trappings of fame, but if you want to be eloquent or gracious about celebritry, I'd rather listen to that other one-namer Madonna crying with sadness a Drowned World/Substitute for Love. She did it the right and intelligent way with her superstar status enhanced and intact while Prince is someone who had stardom and threw it all away! For shame!
Erik from Minneapolis, MnReportedly, the line "what you puttin' in your nose?" is asking Morris Day about his addictions.Prince was/is very anti-drug.(even though I've talked to people who claim to have done drugs w/ him((revolution members)) )
Eugene from Minneapolis, MnBig Daddy Kane sampled this in "The Lover In You" back in 1991. But then he used another sample "Hangin On A String" by Loose Ends for his remix! I have always liked "Pop Life", it is IMO the best song on his "Around The World In One Day". This is also the only Prince album I have ever owned.
Neil from Toronto, OnThe original version of "Pac's Life" by 2pac was inspired by this song and uses a sample of this song.
Breeze from Riverside, CaA unique song that didn't quite catch the vibe of the African American ear, but delivers a good message about choices in one's life.