Wednesday, January 19

Prince: Welcome 2 America Review – The Best Album Of Its Last Two Decades | The prince

SIX years before his death, Prince’s career was in a peculiar position. He had restored his unblemished reputation as a live performer, reinforced by his halftime appearance at the 2007 Super Bowl and his extraordinary 21-night encounter at London’s O2 Arena the same year. But his recording career stubbornly refused to follow suit. He was in better shape than he had been a decade earlier, when Prince seemed content to release endless collections of jazz-funk instrumental jams to an audience that had been reduced to die-hard fans, but his highly acclaimed albums Musicology and 3121 never did. they had done everything. regained the glory of its imperial phase.

The Welcome 2 America artwork.
The Welcome 2 America artwork. Photograph: Mike Ruiz / Mike Ruiz / The Prince Estate

It seemed caught in a cycle of disappointing releases (Planet Earth, Lotusflow3r, MPLSound) distributed through newspapers and deals with large retailers. Things bottomed out with 2010’s 20TEN, which didn’t even justify a US release, and in the UK it delivered free with the Daily Mirror. To be fair, it received rave reviews, proclaiming it “his best album in 23 years” and “as good as anything anyone has ever done.” Unfortunately, this review was done by Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. It was really depressing to see the once undisputed, question-free genius produced by ’80s pop getting his best response from someone who had been paid to be nice to him.

Under the circumstances, he could be forgiven for being disappointed that Prince’s latest posthumous release is not one of his legendary unknown albums, nor Camille from 1986, nor the original, house-influenced version of Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, not the 1998 meeting with Revolution, Roadhouse Garden, but a 2010 collection that Prince did not consider worthy of publishing.

Lack of interest is likely to turn to bewilderment once you play it. From its opening track, stark, slow-motion funk in which Prince casts a weary eye on the state of the nation, Sign o ‘the Times’s younger spiritual cousin gradually reveals himself to be of a quality entirely unlike any other. thing that he. worth releasing at the time: a collection of largely brilliant and socially conscious songs. It is often inspired by the soul of the early 70s, especially in the golden age of Curtis Mayfield: the shadow of the gentle genius looms particularly over Born 2 Die, both in its sound: a dead timbre for the tender funk of Right on for the Darkness or Little Child Runnin ‘Wild – and his empathetic lyrical portrayal of a doomed character.

The lyrical tone of the album is unprecedented in Prince’s contemporary work: 2009’s Lotusflow3r contained Dreamer and Colonized Mind, the former a hard funk-rock track about racism, the latter nothing special beyond the fact that its lyrics foreshadowed the rise of alternative music. right. But here it’s done more carefully and it’s more effective because it’s set up with better music. Running Game (Son of a Slave Master) offers a better explanation of Prince’s objection to the relationship between black artists and a predominantly white music industry than simply writing SLAVE on his cheek; 1000 Light Years from Here establishes his fantasy of an underwater utopia illuminated in enraptured pop-soul adorned with strings; Yes’s brilliant glam-soul hybrid matches the song’s revolutionary zeal; the closer, One Day We Will All B Free is just fantastic.

Prince: Welcome 2 America – video

Is not perfect. Staccato 1010 (Rin Tin Tin) is interesting, but mild, while a piano version of Soul Asylum’s Stand Up and B Strong pales in comparison to When She Comes’ most poignant ballad – it seems to have earned a spot on the chart. of songs less for quality than as a demonstration of Prince’s ability to absorb any music, even post-grunge rock past its expiration date. But it’s still the best album Prince made in the last two decades of his life. Or rather, until now: perhaps there is other music of this level, from this era, lurking in the vault.

Which begs the question: WTF? Why did you leave this in the can? Maybe it was just Prince being Prince – you don’t have to delve too deeply into his history to find examples of behavior that seem completely inexplicable by normal standards. Perhaps, behind all the brag about sticking to the music industry, he knew that giving away your albums to the tabloids or spanking them at Target was somehow devaluing their content and was withholding the really good stuff.

In the long run, it makes a strange sense that it appears in 2021. On the one hand, its content is undated: it seems intensified by a more tumultuous time than the one in which it was recorded. And Prince’s stock as a recording artist was low in 2010. Welcome 2 America might have changed that, but it might just as well have been overlooked by an audience weary and wary of being told that he was back at his best. Prince’s posthumous cult warrants more attention, more focused, than he would have received 11 years ago – attention he fully deserves.

This week Alexis heard

Peggy Gou with OHHYUK – Nabi
Korean voice, music a magnificent homage to the early 90s with a distinctive Saint Etienne touch of the Foxbase Alpha era.

Prince’s Welcome 2 America premieres July 30

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