There was a moment last year when I knew things had changed. Prince, infamously narcissistic, was on the Arsenio Hall show, contemplative, talking about wanting to teach musicians, and joking with the audience. It was alternately a revelation and a reeling disappointment. Suddenly, after years of avoiding the press or giving non-interviews where reporters weren’t allowed to take notes or record him, he was talking, introspective, effusive even. The thrill was gone. I was actually getting to know the once mercurial, enigmatic Prince–as a person. I was, dare I say, bored.
I knew the history of his Grand Central days; his humble beginnings. His childhood in the black section of Minneapolis, going to strip clubs to watch his father and Andre Cymone‘s father practice. Had been to his live shows since I was a pre-teen with my parents and sister. But this. He was being revealing without provocation. Something must have happened.
Enter “Art Official Age,” released on Warner Bros, the label he’s been fighting for years, a record created with co-producer Joshua Welton. If Prince is nothing else, he’s always full of surprises. The album is light sometimes esoteric, but mostly down-to-earth collared green funky and refreshing in its extraordinary ordinariness. On the bass heavy “Clouds” he looks 45 years into the dystopic future of the digital age and the yearning for real time human interaction–“You can never underestimate the power of a kiss on the neck which she doesn’t expect.” The ballad “U Know” is modern in an Usher or D’Angelo style of undiluted black, growling sexual funk. He’s more playful, looser than he’s been in years. There’s EDM-disco grooves, club ass-shaking numbers, slow jam love-struck ballads, screaming electric guitar rock and hyperbolic funk.
For those that think his only connection to his salacious, eclectic, wildly creative days are his live shows, with “Art Official Age” he’s still got it. You won’t get the same risk-taking lyrics from pre-religion days. But he does what he feels like doing when he feels like doing it–as any artist should. He’s constantly competing against only himself. And that way he wins every time.
Best songs: “Clouds,” “U Know,” “Breakfast Can Wait,” “This Could Be Us,” “Way Back Home,” “Time,” “Affirmation III”
BUY PRINCE – ART OFFICIAL AGEBreakfast Can Wait