With such a strong legacy in music history already, it would be easy for the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince to rest up and let his back catalogue do the talking for him. His name has literally and figuratively been a symbol for years, and ‘Purple Rain’ will likely outlive all of us. However, Not only has he not slowed down, but this year released two albums simultaneously. Art Official Age is officially solo work, and PlectrumElectrum is recorded with his touring band. This review, however, is less ambitious and only covers the first.
From the very opening of the album, ‘Art Official Cage’, the stage is set. This record is simultaneously disco and modern dance, and entirely Prince. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as producer Chris James has worked with Deadmau5 and a slew of other dance acts. It’s set up very appropriately by the pun in its title actually. It’s filled to the brim with camp and cheese that has faded to the background in recent years.
The album does feel a little overambitious, however. Its great vocal sections, piano and guitar riffs and drum machines are offset by Arabian-style string sections, raps and voice modulation which the album could have done without. It is on the tracks where these superfluous features are absent that the artistry of Prince really shines through. Funk-inspired guitars, falsetto, and harmonies are rife, and most of the time they come together beautifully. Even the laser-gun sound effects in ‘Breakdown’ are not enough to compromise its structure, and the sort-of-raps in ‘The Gold Standard’ do little to take away from its funk-revival flavour.
It’s been 4 years since Prince’s last solo album, and this record does much to make up for the wait. It’s undeniably his. Although for someone as huge as he a new album will always be compared to his classic work, this is well worth a listen, and a few more after that.