In the days following Prince’s death, a series of memes made the rounds comparing the songwriting and guest-appearance credits on the fallen icon’s albums to those of Beyonce’s recent release Lemonade. These charts reinforced the rockiest belief that artists who write their own songs and play all their instruments are true artists, where pop singers who collaborate with songwriters to achieve their vision are puppets in thrall to their record companies.
If Prince were alive to see these memes, he would probably respond with the same shady expression immortalized in so many reaction gifs. Though he wrote all his songs, played many of the instruments on his albums, and produced much of his recorded output, he had a strong interest in collaboration—particularly with accomplished female artists who had strong perspectives. Esperenza Spalding, Misty Copeland, Sheila E., and—yes—Beyonce worked side-by-side with Prince at different points in his career.