Prince’s “3121” Reviewed
As we reach the last third of the Prince story, the final decade, we get to a real goodie. 2006’s 3121 is Prince’s 32nd album by my reckoning (31st by his reckoning -I guess we disagree about a live set here or there) and it is a good album, very good, better than Musicology, not as good as The Chocolate Invasion. Having said that, it is quite possibly the most resolutely ordinary piece of work he ever did. Even very late career, his final album HITNRUN for instance, had more breathtaking moments than 3121 (at the very least there was “Baltimore”).
But it is a very good album, by any one else it would near great, there isn’t a song from the title track through the terrific falsetto ballad workout “Satisfied” and the even more ballad dreamy “Beautiful Loved And Blessed” (Prince always reminds me of the Stylistics when he is in full ballad mode -not as good, of course, but who is?) to the final funk workout “Get On The Boat”. between funkiness and heavy r&b ballads, he answers his own inquiry “What dya wanna do?” with a resounding “dance”.
3121 is as straight as prince would ever play it, distributed by Universal and actually available to the paying public through, you know, buying it, and a huge financial success. It entered the chart at number one. Plus, it stole an idea off “Willy Wonka” and gave away purple tickets to lucky recipients of his album so you could visit him at Paisley Park. The first single “Te Amo Corazon” was the weakest moment on the album, a lame Latin pop rip. Nothing else is lame here, You can go from the brilliantly named “Black Sweat” and keep on going for eight more to songs to the end, and listen to it all with pleasure.
The zip between “Incense And candles” and “Love,” “Love” and the albums best moment “Satisfied” are all funky but not deep funk) pleasures, there is no great meaning to the song, even though the title refers to his 31st album released on March 21st. It also refers to Psalm 31:21 “Blessed be Jehovah, for he has rendered wonderful loving-kindness to me in a city under stress.” Though neither references occur in the album, the album is the usual sex dance love sexy. No odes to Egyptian royalty, no jazz instrumentals, just straight up no chaser soulfulness. Much more than Musicology, 3121 is a lesson in how to write and perform soul music. It reminds you, yet again, how great the Purple one was.