Monday, July 12, 2010
LIVING IN THE '80S
It sounds like a Prince album. And here's the thing about that. Back in the early '80s, Prince didn't sound like anybody else making music. His combination of screamin' guitar solos, ultra-high-pitched R&B loverman vocals, and stripped-down, keyboard-heavy arrangements was simultaneously stark and lush, and he wrote some great songs. Purple Rain is full of 'em. But despite occasional experiments like Around the World in a Day and Parade, it was pretty easy to recognize a Prince track when you heard one, so it became a matter of "is this a good Prince song, or a bad one?" And after Sign 'O' the Times, frankly, I haven't heard nearly as many good ones as bad ones.
The guy's rep as some kind of unique genius is undeserved. He's a talented multi-instrumentalist, but he's far from artistically untouchable. And most people outside the confines of the Prince cult ('cause he's got some diehard defenders in the music-crit community) know it. 20Ten, to me, just sounds like ten more Prince songs that could have been recorded anytime between 1983 and yesterday. There's a song on here called "Future Soul Song"—a ballad just like six dozen others from his back catalog—that might have deserved that title...25 years ago. Hell, he's still using that cheesy handclap drum machine sound! There's only one exception that I can hear. The final track, "Laydown," owes a lot to Southern hip-hop (but Southern hip-hop stole Prince's synth sound years ago; he's just stealing it back), and is better for it.
There are no potential hits on 20Ten, because despite its title, it's not about now. It's about whatever time/day/year it is in Princeworld. The sycophants and knee-jerk defenders are calling it excitingly retro, but the truth is, it's just another scraping from the vault.