Release Date: Mar 29, 2009
Record label: NPG
On MPLSound, Prince takes his retro mission seriously enough to offer up a few songs nervy enough to be singles, even if the synthesized thrill of this handful of tunes is undercut by a bunch of slow-burning ballads that do their best to rival "The Arms of Orion." It's best to focus on such tight, funky electro grooves as "(There'll Never B) Another Like Me" and "Ol' Skool Company," two songs that spotlight Prince's impish humor, a quality that's largely absent on the rest of the triple-disc set (it's not entirely a coincidence that these are the only cuts that address the modern digital world, either). But as good as these two cuts are, they're not as imaginative or as vigorous as the best of 3121 or Musicology. .
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.