Elixer is the debut of Bria Valente, the latest in a long line of sultry soul protégées. Many of Prince's handpicked singers have been largely ignored even by his loyalists since about 1987, so Prince pushes Bria by bundling her record with his own LotusFlow3r and MPLSound, even going so far as to list Elixer first among the three on the back of the CD's slim cardboard sleeve. This attempt at old-fashioned star-making might have worked if Bria Valente had a smidgeon of star charisma but she's merely a pleasantly breathy crooner, slipping easily into Prince's shimmering quiet storm production.
Purveyor of a more intriguing brand of gimmick ever since changing his name to "Love Symbol #2" and writing "slave" on his face in 1993, Prince gave away 2004's Musicology to anyone who bought a concert ticket and 2007's Planet Earth to anyone who bought the Mail on Sunday. Those who bought passes to any of his 21 aftershows after 2007's 02 shows were similarly at his purple whim; some nights meant another two hours of electrifying Prince performance in an after-hours setting, others got underachieving funk singer Nikka Costa. Those who drew the run's shortest straw got a DJ so lacklustre that guests gave him a copy of Planet Earth to play instead.
Youth may be wasted on the young, but pop-music stardom — long the purview of the footloose and wrinkle-free — now seems poised to overlap with AARP eligibility. Madonna, she of the Timberlake duets and time- defying thighs, remains omnipresent at 50; Michael Jackson, who turns 51 in August, will perform a string of sold-out dates in London into 2010; and now Prince, also nearly 51, has just released a bundled three-disc set (available exclusively at Target stores) to surprisingly vital first-week sales of 168,000 copies. The man’s an icon, and nothing can take away the genius that is Purple Rain (1984) or Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987), to name only two of his best.
For several days, Lotusflow3r/MPLSound sat on my hard drive, daring me to click play. I finally acquiesced, knowing this review was due, and suddenly realized how much my relationship with Prince has changed over the past 20 years. His rise to success, beginning with 1979's Prince, pretty much mirrored my pre-adolescent development as a music fan. By 1987's Sign O' the Times, I was ripping the cellophane off the cassingles when barely out of the store, hoping to soak up a little of that Princely aura even if it would be hours before I'd be near my tape deck.