You wait four years for a Prince album, then two come along at once. The diminutive funkateer, considered by many to be the greatest musical genius of the pop era, is simultaneously releasing the 43rd and 44th longplayers of his career (depending on which ones you count), namely solo effort ‘The Art Official’, and ‘PlectrumElectrum’ with his (excellent) all-female rock band 3rdEyeGirl. If you’re wondering whether you ought to care anymore, we’re here to help.
If you think Prince hasn’t made a good record since the 80s, you haven’t been paying attention.
No-one can blame you if your faith wobbled at around the time that Prince’s own quality control did, circa the ‘Batman’ soundtrack (1989) and the ‘Graffiti Bridge’ movie (1990). But if you gave up on him completely, you’ve missed out on some fantastic moments.
Seek out the epic jealousy ballad ‘Eye Hate U’, particularly the Extended Version complete with courtroom drama (1994), or the gleeful electro-funk thwack of “Black Sweat” (2006), or the jubilantly self-confident “Laydown”, the hidden track on his album ‘20TEN’ (er, 2010). There’s almost certainly got to be something of similar quality on these two new albums.
But don’t make the mistake of going overboard. Tony Parsons – never knowingly out-berked – claimed that ‘20TEN’ was as good as ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘1999’, and his best since ‘Sign O’ The Times’. Even the most rabidly loyal Prince nutter struggled to stifle the titters.
He’s back with Warner Music. We didn’t see that coming…
Somewhat startlingly, Prince has rejoined Warner some 18 years after an acrimonious split which saw him change his name to an unpronounceable symbol, turn up to the 1995 Brit Awards with the word ‘SLAVE’ etched onto his cheek in eyeliner, and churn out five albums in two years to wriggle free from his contractual obligations. (Somehow, he’s renegotiated the rights to the masters of his 80s classics, allowing this burying of the hatchet.)
In the interim, Prince conducted a grand tour of all the major players (Arista, EMI, Columbia, Universal) as well putting out records via his own NPG label, and ignominiously giving them away free with the Mail On Sunday and the Mirror (hence that ridiculous Parsons piece), before coming home to the label that launched him as a teenage prodigy. And Warners should count themselves lucky to only have two albums to promote this time around. When he signed with EMI, they had to humour his wish to put out a TRIPLE album, the unwieldy ‘Emancipation’, with a weak Stylistics cover as its lead single. Yikes.
Don’t expect any X-rated material on these two albums.
The tension between Prince’s underlying religious leanings and his rampant libido was the fuel for many of Prince’s greatest works. But in recent years he’s lurched way over to one side, even knocking on doors for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Minneapolis suburbs (with Sly & The Family Stone bassist Larry Graham at his side).
So there probably won’t be a full-on filth-fest along the lines of ‘Get Off’ among the new material. After all, such saucy classics as ‘Head’ and ‘Erotic City’ have vanished from the menu in his live shows since 2007, he hasn’t played ‘Sexy MF’ since the 90s or ‘Jack U Off’ since the 80s, and even though he does occasionally slip a snatch of ‘Darling Nikki’ into his set, he always pulls out before the line about masturbating in a hotel lobby.
Prince is a control freak who hates the internet.
Well, kinda. You only need to watch film director Kevin Smith’s incredible talk about his experience of working at Paisley Park to know that the purple fella’s reputation for control-freakery is no fiction. And he’s mistrustful of the internet to the extent of suing his own fans for copyright infringement, and having any clips of his music, live performances or videos, taken down the moment they’re uploaded.
That said, Prince has released whole albums via his website, and he made his first tweet earlier this year, even using the medium to disseminate clues about his series of secret gigs in the UK. Maybe he’s loosening up in his old age.
He really is as good as everyone says he is.
Not only is Prince capable of writing songs as staggeringly sublime as ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Kiss’, ‘When You Were Mine’ and ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend”’. He can also play every instrument better than anyone in his band. And, as he can’t be in five places at once, that band is drilled like James Brown’s JBs to the power of the Red Army. When human cloning is perfected, all three members of 3rdEyeGirl will be joining the dole queue along with New Power Generation and the Revolution. And, as the uncannily unblemished icon shows no outward signs of ageing, you wouldn’t bet against him living that long.
What to say: “Two new Prince albums. Gotta be something good on there, surely?”
What not to say: “Oi shorty, Merry Christmas! Play ‘Darling Nikki’ so I can stick it on YouTube!”