By Kasey Anderson
Hes baaaaaaack. Well, sort of.
To call Prince’s new album, 3121 – and its predecessor, 2004’s Musicology – an “artistic resurgence” is something of a misnomer. The fact is, whether Prince was dabbling in jazz-infused instrumental jams or rattling off Jehovah’s Witness rhetoric, he was doing so with a good deal of artistry, skill and style. It just wasn’t especially appealing to an audience that had come to expect the sordid, sultry imagery of “Cream” or the torrid funk of “Housequake.” His last two efforts haven’t marked a return to form for Prince, so much as they have marked his return to the most engaging of his many forms.
If Musicology was a blistering reminder of Prince’s overwhelming musical prowess, then 3121 is his return to eclectic, vibrant funk, as evidenced by the infectious, pulsating single, “Black Sweat.” More suggestive than explicit, the track is as strong a single as Prince has released since “Cream,” and possibly stronger. No longer reliant on graphic sexual imagery, Prince’s bravado (“I don’t want to hurt your pride / but I got to / you better take your woman and hide”) is perhaps even more convincing.
While the rest of the album may not share the subtly filthy sentiments of its first single, it does contain some of Prince’s most consistently impressive work since The Love Symbol. The ascending chorus of “Love,” the synth-and-guitar attack of “Fury” and the loose, party vibe of the album’s title track offer proof that now, perhaps more than ever, Prince is comfortable vacillating between styles while maintaining a cohesive artistic vision.
There are misfires (“Beautiful, Loved and Blessed” wastes a gorgeous R&B melody on a contrived and clichéd lyrical premise, “The Word” topples under the weight of Prince’s devout spirituality), but, by and large, 3121 serves as the second consecutive reminder that Prince never left us; we just stopped listening. We’re all ears again now, your Purple Majesty. – (7.5/10)