Prince has had a famously tumultuous relationship with the Internet, as full of wild ups and downs as any of his romantic entanglements or relationships with record labels. On one hand, he pioneered the concept of the online preorder with his 1998 collection Crystal Ball and in 2003 released one of the first albums by a major artist to be available exclusively as a download, not to mention the fact that with his history of cryptic lyrics aimed at former lovers he basically invented the subtweet. On the other hand there’s the veritable army of lawyers he keeps busy nuking any Prince material that even gets close to YouTube.
But Prince contains multitudes, so while it may be surprising that he’d embrace a Twitter meme that at one point incorporated a still from Purple Rain, it’s not entirely unexpected. The meme in question, #ThisCouldBeUsButYouPlayin, involved matching that hashtag with images of romantic pairings ranging from the sassily iconic (including Prince and Apollonia sharing a seat on his Purple Rain bike) to the surreal.
In a very Prince-like move, Saturday night he invited Jon Bream from the Minneapolis Star Tribune (who was at a Bruno Mars concert at the time) to come to his studio to listen to new material from an upcoming album. It doesn’t have a title or a release date yet, or at least not ones that Prince (who conducted the listening session via speakerphone) would cop to, but it does have a song called “This Could Be Us” that he explained was, indeed, inspired by the titular meme.
According to Bream, the track is “a joyful ballad with some ecstatic Prince vocalizing.” Whether anyone else ever gets a listen depends on the not-unlikely odds that Prince might just throw it back into his vault along with the rest of his hoard of unreleased music.