Album: Art Official Age
Details: 13 songs; 54 minutes
Who’s Choice: Gone Mild
On his new album, Art Official Age, Prince perfects the conceit (word chosen intentionally) that makes me get irritated with a lot of performance jazz. Prince gets a song going, and he gets me hooked. There is a funky beat that I like, and he combines it with lyrics that work so well. But then, he can’t let it come to a natural conclusion. He goes on way too long with what often sounds to me like self-indulgent hooey.
The long song is not a new thing for Prince. Looking back at his other albums in my library (and I have quite a few, because I do like Prince), the length of songs on his new album isn’t an anomaly. It is, however, easier to forgive a five minute plus Little Red Corvette, than it is a song where part of it is modified to make it sound like the Chipmunks are performing.
Even if I put aside the stuff that is vocally modified, there are those sections of this album where a woman is talking to a man who is waking up in a new world after a long period of unconsciousness. On other tracks, she guides him through new world affirmations. Why, Prince, why? Is anyone enjoying that?
The whole album isn’t like that. We have a song like Breakdown which is luxurious Prince falsetto backed by lovely orchestration. Throughout the album, there appear Princely female vocals that I love (he does have the best female backups!). There are the typical “hey baby” songs with the panting and oohing and ahhing, and lines like “you know you want me like a new pair of shoes.” That is Prince being Prince and there is always a place in my ear for some of that. For many of the other songs that I don’t like as much, if he just made a cut a minute or so earlier, I would be a happier listener on this one, and not giving over to eye-rolling.
I have tried not to talk to Dan too much about this, but without reading his review, I figured that he was going to come at this by favorably comparing what Prince is doing on this album with what Damien Jurado tried to do in his concept album. I liked that album for weaving a story line through the tracks; Dan hated it. As it turns out, Dan left Damien out of his review and just concentrated on his appreciation for what Prince is bringing on this album. I can totally appreciate that. Of course, Prince can do whatever he wants with his album. He is an artist. He has an idea here. I am not sure, though, if he is having fun with it or creating a performance piece. For me, he made me want to leave this one and return to 1999 or the Purple Rain soundtrack. There are sounds on Art Official that are the classic Prince sound, but going back to his old ones will give you the sound without the rest.
Next up: Hozier by Hozier