The Beautiful Ones is for everyone ... It doesn't matter whether you're a Prince fanatic or if your interest is simply piqued by all things music or pop culture: The book is worth picking up ... not a read, but an experience, an immersion inside the mind of a musical genius. You are steeped in Prince's images, his words, his essence ... while it offers insight, the book may leave you feeling muddled – but that's not a negative. The way the book is structured simply makes one want to read it again, to leaf through the pages and be immersed in Prince's world ... The book can be a starting point for a Prince fascination, or a continuation of long-standing admiration. Either way, it will deepen the connection of any reader with the musical icon.
... unearthed pieces, including Prince’s handwritten song lyrics, photos captioned by the singer, personal mementos and an early treatment of the Purple Rain script, serve as the book’s heavy, heartbreaking center of gravity ... a curious, fantastically moving hybrid of scrapbook and fragmented memoir ... That it exists at all is remarkable. Prince’s carefully tended air of mystery had served as a force field, repelling any serious attempts at biography during his lifetime ... appealing and frank explorations of his childhood and high school romances and his parents’ troubled marriage and divorce ... Piepenbring finds Prince in the margins ... does not offer a clear-eyed view of who Prince really was — he would have hated that, but it illuminates more than it conceals.
... it's both a pleasure and a surprise to say that although The Beautiful Ones may not satisfy fans' wildest dreams, it delivers much, much more than we had any reason to expect ... Prince took the project very seriously, and it shows in the work he delivered. Although the actual autobiography segment of this book ends at the end of Prince's teens, it shines an intimate and revealing light on the least-known period of his life -- his childhood -- which is embellished with family photos, notes and other ephemera ... The book does not scrimp on detail ... While the photos, quotes and ephemera do a mostly satisfying job of concluding the book, the closing chapters are inevitably a bringdown after the revelations in the autobiographical section. But unless there are more pages lurking somewhere in Prince’s voluminous archives, this is all we’re going to get, and it’s a lot: The Beautiful Ones brings so much new information to light that it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed.
All we get here are hints. Then the notes [from Prince] are over. What follows are a couple hundred pages of previously unseen flotsam—photos, drafts of lyrics, notes on the Purple Rain screenplay, a storyboard for a video, etc.—salvaged posthumously from the somewhat disorganized archives at Prince’s Paisley Park compound, accompanied by some quotations from press interviews over the years. All of this material is charming, often hilarious (it includes Prince’s high school cartoons and his sarcastic captions to a photo album he made while recording his first album in 1977 and ’78), and occasionally fascinating ... As a whole, the supplementary material might be more satisfying if Piepenbring’s thoughtful explanations of each artifact’s origins (who’s in the photos, etc.) weren’t shoved into the back of book as endnotes and keyed to page numbers that don’t appear on the actual pages. But perhaps that’s a kind of strategy to preserve some mystique ... it’s impossible to leaf through what amounts mostly to a very fine scrapbook without feeling haunted by how far away it is from the format-busting reinvention of the memoir that the would-be co-authors fantasized about. And worse, without feeling disturbed by whether it represents, despite its best intentions, a collection of mostly white publishing people ending up in control of part of this black artist’s legacy ... Prince really isn’t the author of this book that bears his name. And I can’t help wondering if it would make him declare that there are thieves in the temple.
Everything Piepenbring shares about being a fan chosen to work with one of his idols resonates with me ... The whimsy and playfulness in the pages made me realize that Prince maybe wasn't a tortured artist in those early days, as I had imagined. It looked like he had a ball ... doesn't paint a perfect picture. It's not definitive. It can't be, it shouldn't be and, thankfully, it doesn't try to be. We'll never know what it might have been if Prince had lived. But it's a good start. Now, it's up to us to take what's there and make something out of it for ourselves, creating, just as Prince wanted. That's what I'm doing, anyway. It's time we all reach out for something new.
While the pages Prince originally wrote do have the makings of a memoir—complete with his trademark eye emojis, 2s, Us, and Rs—when paired with Piepenbring’s lengthy prologue, never-before-seen-photos, and an original 11-page treatment of the film Purple Rain, The Beautiful Ones is ultimately rendered more as a scrapbook than a searing personal tale. But then, it is one hell of a scrapbook ... [Prince's] recollections are tender and heartfelt but it’s frustrating when they finally stop short, knowing there are still so many Prince stories left untold. Not having more of his prose here lessens the book’s overall impact. Yet the back-half of The Beautiful Ones is still a rare treasure trove for Prince fanatics ... It all makes The Beautiful Ones a worthy document, even if it fails to live up to the emotional highs of its beginning. But then, what remains is more than enough.
It is more an exercise in childhood nostalgia than an exploration of a brilliant career ... If the reader can get past Prince’s barely legible handwritten entries, the intro is the closest you get to any type of recent activity by 'The Artist,' as he was sometimes known. Prince loosely touches on his career from the late ’70s until 1986, but the intro goes up until his death in 2016. That’s the most frustrating aspect of The Beautiful Ones from a reader’s standpoint. It doesn’t make sense that the 44-page intro chronicles his career until his death, but Prince’s own recounting of his life goes only until 1986. This decision turns what was supposed to be a long awaited autobiography into a not very informative one at 288 pages. Still, the book isn’t a complete waste. It gives readers insight into Prince’s tempestuous relationship with his father, his conflict with religion, growing up biracial and how he developed as an artist during his early days in Minneapolis ... The Beautiful Ones serves its purpose as a celebration of a unique talent, but falls short in advancing our understanding of the magnitude of Prince Rogers Nelson’s life and career overall.
With a mere 40 printed pages featuring Prince’s prose, it would be a stretch to call The Beautiful Ones a memoir ... has a scrapbook quality, offering a hodgepodge of photos and ephemera, including those 28 pages from Prince along with lyric sheets and a flier for his father’s band, the Prince Rogers Trio. But it’s not a coffee-table book either ... Leave it to Prince to give us something impossible to pigeonhole. At least, he provides a few peeks behind the veil, especially when it comes to his early family life and philosophy about life and music.
... an affirmation of Prince’s Blackness and humanity. It also provides deeper insight into his relationship with his parents ... an inspiration. It successfully captures what made me cry, looking back at Prince playing in his scarf on that wet Super Bowl stage ... Prince writes about his childhood with clarity and poetic flair, effortlessly combining humorous anecdotes with deep self-reflection and musical analysis ... There are some missed opportunities in the book: Piepenbring could have included whatever he and Prince discussed about spirituality, a major aspect of the artist’s life and music, and he could have encouraged Prince to elaborate further on the impact of his father’s strong religious beliefs...But so much was out of Piepenbring’s hands ... a guide, albeit a brief one. It shows that Prince is one of us — he just worked to manifest dreams that took him from the North Side of Minneapolis to the Super Bowl. It encourages us to tap into our power to design the lives we envision for ourselves and set a precedent for future generations to do the same.
... reminds readers how skilled, funky, and glamorous the artist was ... There is royal weirdness here ... A work at turns affecting and raw, given that Piepenbring was not allowed to take notes or record conversations, this is, ultimately, an altar candle lit in the wake of an icon’s passing.
The few chapters that Prince did put down, presented here in their original handwritten form and also set in type (to double the page count), make up the first of the book’s four parts. In his trademark style, a quickly exhausting precursor to textspeak, Prince covers his fun mother and disapproving father, his childhood bouts of epilepsy, musical and sexual discoveries during puberty, reflections on life in Minneapolis . . . and that’s it. And we’re still a long way from anything that can reasonably be called a narrative ... Does this count as a memoir, which The Beautiful Ones is implied, if never named, as being? No, it doesn’t. It is more the publishing equivalent of those expensive box sets that record labels pump out after a beloved artist’s death, knowing there will always be a market for unheard recordings and unseen photographs if bound together in a suitably lavish fashion. There are some nice finds here...but the lack of newly written material leaves this intended revelation of Prince’s world view frustratingly incomplete ... The most revealing, certainly the best-written, section in the book is Piepenbring’s introduction ... [a] handsomely presented, visually sumptuous, ultimately unsatisfying scrapbook of Prince’s life. Prince’s silent-movie-star aura remains intact, even after death.
... a tantalizing half-finished self-portrait in both words and images ... this visually stunning labor of love reveals the shy, vulnerable man behind the glitz and controversy without ever 'punctur[ing] the veil of mystery around him' ... A poignantly intimate, revelatory read for Prince fans and music lovers.