Everyone wants to be Prince. But some are better at it than others—even Prince isn’t that great at being Prince anymore.
Maya Rudolph is the latest to try stepping into those formidable platforms. This week, the former Saturday Night Live cast member brings her gender-flipped homage, Princess, to the Wonder Ballroom. She and cohort Gretchen Lieberum are new at this, so we asked Julian Stefoni—who's been leading Portland's long-running Prince tribute act Erotic City for 20 years—for a few pointers on embodying His Royal Purpleness.
1. Doesn't matter if it's the Dirty Mind-era's briefs-and-trenchcoat combo, the regal look of Purple Rain or "the ass-out 'Gett Off' outfit" from the 1991 MTV Music Video Awards, the clothes (or lack thereof) make the Prince. "No matter what era you take on, dress the part, fully to the max," Stefoni says. "No exceptions."
2. Saying "sing the songs right" seems obvious, but realize it ain't all squeals and androgynous moans. "Prince has an exceptional vocal range," Stefoni says, from the silky falsetto of "Kiss" to the deeper come-ons of "Little Red Corvette." You'll get bonus points for nailing his computer-altered "Camille" voice, too.
3. When people pay to see a pretender to the purple throne, they want the total package—"the manners and smirks and sexiness," as Stefoni puts it. "Learn his dance moves, or moves that come close to what he does in that particular song," he says. Just be careful not to pull something while attempting the splits in 4-inch heels.
4. If you're not willing to dry-hump the stage, the microphone and any other inanimate object in the vicinity, then you should be willing to go the distance in other areas. "If you're going to sing 'Darling Nikki,' then become her onstage," Stefoni says. "Give the crowd a visual of what that song is about—not just the tease but the raw sexiness." He suggests utilizing stage props, which, in the case of "Darling Nikki," means a magazine and several unspecified "devices."
5. Aloofness is key to the real Prince's persona, but when you're faking the funk, you can't afford to be detached. "Be engaging to the crowd," Stefoni says. "Make them feel part of the show. Make them feel like dancing and singing with you." And remember: There's not a crowd out there that won't react to a pair of assless chaps.
SEE IT: Erotic City plays Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water Ave., on Sunday, April 24. 9 pm. Free. 21+.