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From The Vaults, A Showstopper: Hear Prince Perform 'Nothing Compares 2 U'

It's already been a busy day for Prince news, as prosecutors announced that no criminal charges would be brought against Prince associates over the star's accidental death in 2016. In a bit of curious timing, Prince's estate has just released a long-lost 1984 studio recording of the singer performing his classic composition "Nothing Compares 2 U."

As a find, it's significant: Prince originally wrote the track for a band he'd assembled called the Family, but it didn't become a hit until 1990, when it became a sensation for Sinéad O'Connor. Prince would go on to perform his own take on the song in concert; a live version even appeared on his three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides collection 25 years ago. But the recording released today has never been heard until now.

It's remarkable how seamlessly this "Nothing Compares 2 U" fits alongside Prince's classic mid-'80s works. It's no bare-bones demo: Prince recorded it with engineer Susan Rogers, Eric Leeds on saxophone, and backing vocalists Susannah Melvoin and Paul "St. Paul" Peterson. Its video is a treat, too, as it pairs the song with a charming assortment of previously unseen Prince & The Revolution rehearsal footage.

The release of "Nothing Compares 2 U" arrives as debate continues over how to handle Prince's estate and unreleased material. The star left behind no will, and his presumed heirs are in dispute over the handling of his archives. Last year, a judge blocked the release of a Prince EP called Deliverance,which George Ian Boxill, a recording engineer who worked with Prince around 2006, had hoped to sell.

"Nothing Compares 2 U" is out now via Warner Music .

Updated 1:44 p.m., Apr. 18 with new information on criminal charges over Prince's death.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)