The Kid. The Purple One. Camille. Christopher. His Royal Badness. His Purple Majesty. The Love Symbol. The Artist Formerly Known as … . These names are synonymous with just one person. Over the course of the history of pop and rock music there have been many kings, but only one Prince.
Since 1978, Prince has released dozens of albums that were made available to the public through retail sales and several more that were available for download on his fan club Web site, Npgmusicclub.com. His latest release, 3121, was released on March 21, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the first of Prince’s albums to begin at No. 1 since Diamonds and Pearls in 1991. This may be due to the fact that he placed 14 purple tickets in select copies of the new album. Those who find the tickets will be able to attend a private concert at his house in Los Angeles.
Musically, Prince has always been able to keep up with the times and surpass the quality of the music of any given era. With Diamonds and Pearls, for instance, he infused his music with the sound of early ’90s rap, which was popular at the time. 3121 is no different. Songs such as “Black Sweat” have rap-influenced beats and rhythms but are distinctly Prince’s own. He creates greatness where others could only manage mediocrity.
One might also notice that most of his early raunchiness and explicitly sexual lyrics are gone and, after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, are replaced with a more subtle form of sensuality, which is evident in songs such as “Te Amo Corazon” and “Incense and Candles.” Unfortunately, the lyrics of these ballads are stale and trite. They don’t have the capability of making one ponder the meanings of love, sex, religion or life in general, as the lyrics of his earlier works did. In “Black Sweat” he refers to making a girl “scream like a white woman,” which initially is reminiscent of songs such as “Darling Nikki,” though much less overtly explicit. Despite that, the new ballads are great musical works and juxtapose well with the other, more upbeat tunes.
One positive highlight is the eighth track, “Fury.” It was performed Feb. 4 on Saturday Night Live, his first appearance in the 25 years of the show’s running. Showing off the diversity of his sound, he plays an upbeat tune with an ample amount of guitar leads and solos, a skill of Prince’s that many underestimate.
Prince’s 32nd effort, 3121, features the kind of eclectic sound fans have come to expect. The instrumentation, arrangements, production and the performances are meticulous in their conception and in their final product. The lyrics lack, but good lyrics don’t make the core of a good album. If you wish to have party music, set a certain mood or just listen to a masterwork, this is a good album to get. Though it is by far not Prince’s best, it is definitely worth buying.
Prince3121Virgin RecordsGrade: B