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Sign O' the Times: Prince Embraces Twitter

The suddenly digital-friendly Purple One tweets about pepper and promises his "1st selfie," which links to a dim photo that appears to be of smoke.

Prince Performance - P 2013
Getty Images

He would tweet 4 U. Darling, if you want him 2.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Prince has suddenly taken to social media with a vengeance. But his participating in Twitter at all has come as a shock, given his Luddite ways when it comes to the web.

After all, this is the guy who made headlines in 2010 for declaring: “The Internet’s completely over” and “The Internet’s like MTV. At one time, MTV was hip, and suddenly it became outdated...All these computers and digital gadgets are no good."

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But surprisingly, the elusive star appeared on Twitter on Tuesday, making his entrance with the following words of wisdom: “PRINCE’S 1ST TWEET… TESTING 1, 2…” He saved the real bon mot for the follow-up, which read: “PRINCE’s 2ND TWEET.”

The messages have appeared under @3rdeyegirl, named for the all-female band that has been accompanying him on his acclaimed tour this year. The account had already racked up about 180 tweets in recent months before Prince ever deigned to take the controls himself, mostly for the purpose of linking to brief, teasing performance clips (or positive reviews like THR.com’s own take on his Anaheim shows in May). But the idea that His Purple Majesty might have picked up one of those infernal gadgets himself to do the Twitter equivalent of a sound check sent shock waves through his fandom.

By his third tweet -- which was easy to keep track of because he prefaced it as “PRINCE’S 3RD TWEET” -- he was getting a big more revealing. “DID EYE ADD 2 MUCH PEPPER?” he asked, clearly rhetorically, since the accompanying photo showed a minimalist salad that appeared to have suffered a seasoning explosion.

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He has a way to go to catch up with Kanye West’s high-end consumerist blog, but it’s a start.

And he may be a fast learner, too, because he’s already figured out how to delete tweets, something that has confounded some more experienced users. He (or someone connected to the account) posted a link to a performance video of his current tour version of "Let’s Go Crazy," which is reworked in a slower, bluesier style. But the tweet is gone, and the YouTube link now brings up a sad “This video is private” message.

Diehard fans seem well aware that anything Prince deigns to allow to go on the Internet may have the shelf life of “Mission: Impossible” instructions. Early Wednesday morning, the account posted a link to a minute-and-a-half sample of a new studio track called “Groovy Potential,” which at press time was the only 3rdEyeGirl video still up on YouTube.

Some of the reactions noted the “This offer is good for a limited time only” nature of Prince’s web offerings. “Pretty, pretty tune, soft and smooth,” wrote one user. “Will it stay, though? I can’t retweet it if it ends up like my ‘Breakfast can wait’ RT.”

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In the long run we’ll probably know as little about Prince’s inner thoughts as ever, even if he does continue dipping his toe into the medium of oversharing. A tweet promising his “1st selfie” links to a dim photo that appears to be of smoke.

But he’s offered just enough of himself so far to set our imaginations afire. After that salad photo, who will ever again listen to the Prince catalog without thinking of the secret subtext in songs that might have been titled “Pepper Rain”… “Soft and Peppery”… “Little Red Pepper”… “Diamonds and Pepper”… “Let’s Pretend We’re Seasoned”… and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your McCormick.” (Of course, the true meaning of “Le Grind” now goes without saying.)

Another question is whether the real Prince can outdo a much-beloved parody account, @PrinceTweets2U, which has nearly 80,000 followers. “hi 2 me,” the fake Prince tweeted to the real one Wednesday. Some other sample tweets from the cryptic royal pretender: “what are emojis i don't trust them”… “i feel particularly astrological 2nite”… “hi what is netflix”…  “who put my songs on you tube take them down i am mad”… “thank u 4 all the birthday wishes 2day sheila e got a me a gift certificate 2 bed bath and beyond”… “i did not do a song on the new daft punk album because i am scared of robots”… “some1 tried 2 tell me what vine was but i asked them 2 stop”… “oh no i am out of pomegranate juice.”

Yet, against all odds, the real Prince is gracing us with his virtual presence, and posting songs that may even be up for more than 10 minutes. If hell can freeze over this much, what equally unlikely developments could be next? A reunion with Wendy & Lisa and the Revolution? Whoa -- let’s not go crazy.

Twitter: @chriswillman