but, here I go.
@prince3EG is posting various reviews and comments about his new album on twitter. This is fine and good. I’ve watched a couple and needless to say I disagree with much of the content – then again Prince is hardly about to start posting negative reviews about his work now, is he? However, I do have a bit of a beef with one of the videos.
There is an online reviewer who styles himself the Nightchild and he has completed an extensive, track by track review of the album. I’ve listened/watched the first few and, as mentioned, found myself not agreeing with much he has to say. This video in particular really annoys me: Nightchild review Shut This Down.
In this video, Nightchild makes great play of the song’s lyrics – “It’s Prince being his funkiest…it’s boastful…it’s arrogance…it’s fantastic…it’s..um..brilliant. The lyrics, as I said, fantastic…”. Here are the lyrics, judge for yourself. Nightchild calls this a party song. He obviously has a frame of reference to work from. He compares the opening to Slave from Emancipation, he notes the similarities between the delivery of the lyrics to that of My Name Is Prince from the Symbol album, and he links the humour of the end of this song with that on Cloreen Baconskin from Crystal Ball. What he appears to miss, well at least to these ears, is the manner in which Prince has co-opted the persona of the rap merchants he bagged in Dead On It from The Black Album. This is shame, because I think this is quite pertinent when discussing much of Prince’s work of late.
Prince’s party songs used to be earnest and then laced with a beautiful self deprecating humour. He took us from Sexy Dancer to Party Up to, arguably, Sexuality to 1999 to Let’s Go Crazy to New Position to Housequake to, again arguably, Escape to Partyman. You probably know the lyrics to most of those…I won’t post links. I’m sure I’ve missed a few…odd how I can’t think of a party song from the Around The World In A Day era…hmmm…America? Surely not? Even Daddy Pop (just about), My Name Is Prince and Loose! came liberally coated in parody making them acceptable. And then something appears to have happened to Prince and his sense of self. The self-deprecation disappears and the “I’m the baddest muddyfunster in the house” appears. Ok, Prettyman is quite amusing – if looped to death…get a band!…- and Now teeters on the verge of being pompous but manages to pull its head in. But ever since I Rock, Therefore I Am Prince songs of this ilk have vanished up their own self.
Shut This Down is just another in a line of Life O The Party, Everybody Loves Me, (I Like) Funky Music style shouting match that Prince once would have derided and felt beneath him. It’s compounded by the fact it’s followed by another in this vein – Ain’t About 2 Stop. The vanity of the man – he even got Chuck D to tarnish his image by jumping on-board one of these horrible tunes back on Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic – is quite bemusing. There always used to be a knowing wink. Behind those thickset sun-glasses, it’s difficult to read the expression. It’s hard to tell if there is these days.
Some of this goes back to an element that has reappeared on a couple of Prince’s albums of late – equating the quality of this work with that of his older material. On this album, as with Musicology, snippets of classic Prince material is played to help launch the album. If you attend a Prince show now, you’re more likely to hear the medley of Take Me With U/Raspberry Beret than you are Play In The Sunshine, or 7 or The Most Beautiful Girl In The World or Anotherloverholenyohead – perhaps better comparisons. And yet, you will hear “so many hits…” or the equivalent. Prince doesn’t trust his new material live. Or seemingly so. Go back through the most recent tours and there is a solid scaffold of 80s standards augmented by one or two new songs and one or two obscurities/album tracks. Increasingly there is a reliance on cover material, something which drives me crazy…when you consider just how many hits Prince has recorded. And yet there is this in-your-face dictate that the songs your are about to hear are the aural equivalent of those I created back in the day.
I previously wrote that I was unlucky to have turned on to Prince in 1988, I’d missed the journey to Lovesexy. In actual fact, I got into Prince when he was at his zenith. I got into Prince when he started making questionable artistic decisions and began to challenge his audience and himself – in particular with his quest for some sort of religious identity, which is something I’ve personally found intriguing to follow. Ultimately, this may have led to some unsatisfactory music being released, but it has been a hell of a ride to have taken.
This is veering off course.
Prince insists on insisting he still has “it”. Go back and read all the press in the build up to any recent Prince album. The acolytes he sends out and the journalists he lets in spew the same message about this being the greatest release since…As a consumer of music, and in particular as a dedicated consumer of Prince’s music, he has come close with The Rainbow Children, LotusFlow3r and Art Official Age…and lots of Crystal Ball (obv because it’s mainly vault material…but even the newer stuff stands up) – bearing in mind I think Prince’s genuinely interesting and worthwhile releases occurred up to and including the name change shenanigans (purely because that was an authentically interesting time creatively for him too (Exodus is one of his genius releases)). His albums have largely become throwaway. In HitNRun’s case, this is fast-food music of the most greasy kind. Songs like Shut This Down give you indigestion.
Stop insisting you have it, just show us you do.
Nightchild et al are all welcome to laud this work. It is their opinion, just as this is mine. And, as someone once said, “words are like shoes: they’re something you stand on.” Inspired by the opening to HitNRun, playing as I type this is For You. This is a better album. The songs are better songs. The vibrancy and the energy is real. It is real music by a real musician.
This is, of course, just an opinion.