*Prince’s 1994 track “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is one of his more significant single releases for a number of reasons. It was his first number one hit in the UK, which happened on this day 26 years ago.
It’s also a track that’s no longer available. Anywhere. If you own Prince’s 1994 EP “The Beautiful Experience,” 1995 album “The Gold Experience,” or you purchased the single or 12″, consider yourself lucky. You can’t find the track on any reissues of those albums, any retrospective collection or current streaming service due to another distinction of the song – it’s the subject of a 21-year-long plagiarism lawsuit that Prince ultimately lost.
Here’s the story behind Prince’s hit ballad, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”
“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” made its global debut at the Miss USA pageant on Feb. 11, 1994, on CBS. The moment was promoted in the above ad that ran in news and trade magazines. It showed Prince sitting in a chair with a hat pulled down over his face. Watch the song’s world debut below.
Miss USA 1994 – The Most Beautiful Girl in the World at the 4 min, 36 sec mark.
The song, inspired by his soon-to-be fiancé, Mayte Garcia, was first released as a one-off single on February 24, 1994. Three months later, it became the lead single of his EP “The Beautiful Experience,” a collection of remixes released on May 17, 1994 under his new name – which was not a name, but his trademark “love symbol.” The Artist Formerly Known as Prince (or “The Artist” or “TAFKAP”), as people started calling him at the time, was upset with his Warner Bros contract and famously wrote “slave” on his face, referring to his perceived relationship with the label.
Below, a YouTuber named “Prince’s Friend” breaks down Prince’s gripe with his record breaking 1992 Warner Bros. contract.
Prince 1992 Contract with Warner Bros Explained
Prince released “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” on his own NPG Records and German indie company Edel Music after first getting consent from Warner Bros. It was independently distributed by west coast-based Bellmark Records (formed by Al Bell of Stax Records fame).
Back in December 1993, TAFKAP had ads placed in US, British, Dutch and Spanish publications reading: “Eligible bachelor seeks the most beautiful girl in the world to spend the holidays with” and directed all submissions to Paisley Park Studios. Over 50,000 girls reportedly responded with photos and videos sent in. Seven finalists were chosen to appear in the video for “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and 30 semi-finalists were featured on the sleeve of the record.
The video was supposed to be shot in Los Angeles City Hall on January 23, but then this happened…
The 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake took place on Jan. 17, 1994 and left the Los Angeles area in shambles, so the video ended up being shot in Minneapolis on Jan. 23, and premiered the following Valentine’s Day.
Antoine Fuqua and TAFKAP co-directed the video, and famous educator Marva Collins, Nona Gaye and actress Vanessa Marcil made a cameo appearances. Watch below.
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World – The Beautiful Experience version
“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was Prince’s 37th single and TAFKAP’s third. On April 16, 1994, two months after its release, the song reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. It remains his only chart topper in that country. The same year, he performed the song live at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo. Watch below.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The Word – World Music Awards, Monte Carlo, 1994
The song was a bona fide hit, having also reached No. 1 Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland in addition to the U.K. It peaked at No. 3 here in the U.S., and went gold with 700,000 copies sold. It would be his last top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 during his lifetime.
The following year, Prince put a different version of the song on his full length studio album, “The Gold Experience,” released on Sept. 2, 1995. The drums and bridge pack more of a punch in this mix, and there are slight instrumental changes, added falsetto runs, sound effects and instrumental breaks. Listen below.
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World – The Gold Experience version
The year 1995 also marked the beginning of the end for the song, when Italian songwriters Bruno Bergonzi and Michele Vicino sued Prince alleging the song plagiarized their 1983 dance track “Takin’ Me to Paradise.” The session vocalist was Raynard. J, the pseudonym of Jay Rolandi. Listen below.
Raynard J. – Takin’ Me To Paradise (1983)
Italy’s notoriously slow court system involves rulings have three rounds of verdicts and cases often drag on for more than 20 years. The first ruling in Prince’s plagiarism case, made by the Rome court in 2003, went against Bergonzi and Vicino, but they won on appeal in 2007. The third and final sentence was handed down by the “court of cassation” in May 2015, one year before Prince’s death.
Billboard reported that under the 2015 ruling, Prince is barred from distributing “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” in Italy. The ruling must be published, at Prince’s expense, in two Italian national dailies and two specialist music magazines. Also, the song’s publishers, Warner Chappell Italy, must deliver the verdict to Prince’s doorstep. Apparently there were various attempts to deliver the verdict to Paisley Park, but they “couldn’t find anyone home.”
Prince died on April 21, 2016. His estate is now left to deal with the weird demands of this verdict. According to Billboard, the Italian collecting society SIAE now recognizes Bergonzi and Vicino as the authors of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and Bergonzi says that “we have begun to receive some royalty payments.”
Mayte Garcia, who eventually married Prince in 1996, recorded her own version a year earlier called “The Most Beautiful Boy in the World.” The song appears on her Prince-produced 1995 album “Child of the Sun.” released in Europe on his NPG Records. Mayte’s version has the same instrumental backing track with extra reverb, and her vocals, with a few slight ad-lib changes. Listen below:
Although Prince notoriously kept his music from being used in commercials and films, the legal history behind “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” adds another dimension to filmmaker Kevin Smith’s attempt to use the song in his 2001 film “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”