Friday, July 9th 2010
To Prince, His Royal Badness, Purple Majesty, Purple Yoda,
Clearly the internet is not dead. I say this because last night your new album, 20Ten, arrived neatly zip-archived in my email inbox. Crazy how that works, huh? When you fail to announce a distributor for your new album here in the United States, you can be fans are going to find, uh, alternative ways to find your work.
After last year’s semi-decent LotusFlow3r project, (and website debacle) many fans had a bad taste in their mouth. You had promised that the companion disc, MPLSound would be a return to your 80s sound. What we got were a whole bunch of 3rd rate cuts that wouldn’t have even been 80s outtakes. Sure, there were a few good songs, but the vast material in the project, frankly, was not very good.
You announced 20Ten not too long ago. Since then you’ve gotten a lifetime achievement award from BET, started a tour in Europe in support of the disc, and declared that the internet is over. This weekend the album finally comes out (legitimately) overseas in many weekly/daily publications. Technically the disc is “free,” but is the material worth its asking price?
In short, yes. Some fans have declared it the next Sign ‘O The Times. “As good as [Prince's] all-time classics like Purple Rain and 1999,”, exclaimed Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. But keep in mind, the only professional reviews so far have come from places giving out your new disc for free Prince. So here’s a real review.
As good as Purple Rain or 1999? Did you tell them to write that Prince? The next Sign ‘O The Times? I mean, I’m a pretty hardcore Prince fan, but some of these other fans have officially fallen off the wagon.
Let’s be honest. 20Ten is no masterpiece. But that’s okay, because since about 2004 you have been releasing a good mixture of solid material (Musicology, 3121) mixed in with some not so great stuff (Purple & Gold, Hot Summer). This disc sits somewhere in the middle, with some tracks coming across as a true return to your self-described Minneapolis-sound.
There are a handful of great tracks on the disc. The first is Beginning Endlessly, featuring some of your best synth usage this side of 1984. The music hits hard and does a great job of grabbing one’s attention. The synth is joined by canned samples of the drum machine you made popular (Linn-drums, natch) and it works great on the track. Mix in a funk guitar breakdown and you have a track worthy of inclusion on your next greatest hits collection, P. The song sounds like it would open up a concert incredibly well, Prince, so please make a note of that.
Sticky Like Glue is the next good song, and sounds like it would have made an excellent b-side in the 80s. Perhaps that’s a problem Prince, if the best material you can pump out these days barely clears the b-side bar. Regardless, the song is delivered almost entirely in a lovely falsetto and is a quick 5 minute exercise in how to make great pop-funk music. There is a questionable quasi-rap in the middle of the track that could have been left out. Here’s how ridiculous you can get sometimes, Prince:
“Sticky sticky, 1, 2 / That was the coolest movie ever, the one we saw last night / The closer you got to me the less we saw, all right / The scene you remember the most is none of ‘em / And that ain’t a boast girl, I’m just in front of them others / I am a gracious host, everybody into me / Make a toast!”
Okay, so not only are you apparently a teenage boy getting to second base in a movie theater, but a narcissistic one at that. Maybe this one was an 80s outtake.
Lavaux completes the A-class material on 20Ten and does so in spectacular fashion. The synth recalls the Pointer Sisters’ Automatic (which is a great thing), and it’s the most solid three minutes of music on the LP. Lyrically it’s about wanting to get away from regular life. Simple enough, but it’s delivered over one of the best backing tracks you’ve created in the last ten years. Definitely helps to erase the pain that was Purple & Gold.
Not everything is great though. The ballads on the disc are not up to par, your royal badness. Future Love Song is the best slow jam on the disc but it’s not particularly great. It’s like being least moldy peach in a bag of three month old peaches. They are just too slow moving and uninspiring lyrically. Walk In Sand is only 3:30 long and I can barely make it through to the end. Next.
Oh, fuck. Pressing next only gets me into another baby-making groove. That’s just fucking fantastic Prince, thanks for that. Vocally you sound great, but the song is too fucking slow, Prince. “Will u wander the wilderness, searching for a king? Will u settle for a prince, and the sea of everything?” I get it. It’s because your name is Prince. Clever. Over it.
The other handful of tracks, Compassion, Act Of God and Everybody Loves Me are decent enough but won’t win over any new fans for Prince. Regardless, like I mentioned, they aren’t bad and do a decent job of rounding out your new disc, P.
Wait wait wait. What is this hidden track? Oh, it’s called Laydown. Wow this hits pretty hard. Sounds like you are about to lay down some sweet rhymes. “You need to lay it down / and let me show you how / we do this thing up in funky town / From the heart of Minnesota / here comes the purple Yoda…” Whatthefuckdidyoujustsay? Is this song for real? Well thank god that track only lasts for three minutes. Jesus. “Here comes the purple Yoda?” Really?
Okay. Disregarding the “hidden track” (I can do that can’t I?) you have a pretty nice little disc here Prince. Particularly since you are giving it out for free (at least in Europe). It’s not the best album you’ve ever released, and it’s certainly no Sign ‘O The Times, but there’s enough good material on here to warrant several playbacks from fans. It certainly ranks with the better material you’ve made over the last 15 years ago, that’s for sure.
Keep it up Prince. But please, please do not ever refer to yourself as the purple Yoda again. Jesus fucking Christ.