Prince’s “ART OFFICIAL AGE” Reviewed
Album # 40 is part two with the disappointing album # 39, Plectrum Electrum, one half, and this sy-fy storyboard Art Official Age the other, marking the return of Prince to the Warner Brothers home of advance royalty pinching. It was 2014, Trump was still a finite reality store and Billboard were writing article about how to save an album on Spotify. Prince had taken a four year hiatus and was back with a double dose, neither of which could really compete with even Emancipation era Prince, but this one at least had a concept that didn’t interfere with the songs. The songs included a couple of good bangers, and some sweet sweet falsetto. And a depth that has grown over time.
Art Official Age is Prince goes EDM and when you’ve got that much art in your artificial it all comes down to house beats, which percolate through the songs, the story of Prince, waking 45 years into the future, only to discover that the personal is prohibited in a world of virtual surrender. Quite a funny conceit, not least because it is the one album where Prince goes all in on the 808s, proving that even a funky bottom can use yet another layer of sound… and another.
It works because both the ballads and the bangers are excellent, the second and third tracks, “Clouds” and “Breakdown,” are among his best ballads in years, tangled up sex jams both hard (“Clouds”) and soft (“Breakdown”). The latter has a devastating falsetto from Prince, sounding like Russell Thompkins, Jr., as he does at his best. “Clouds” worries out the encroaching tecno drama and finds a way out of it.
If those two are early highlights, there is a lot more to go round, a hard beat PFunkiness “FUNKNROLL” is a full on electronic smackdown, “The Gold Standard” is old school funk, and as the album progresses he rolls between the two. Though not his intention, with the aid of hindsight, the album is similar to Dennis Potter’s “Cold Lazarus” –a place where for better or worse, he lives on in the future, a human amusement ride you can take whenever you will, the albums are filled with depth he didn’t write into them, it’s like he throws himself into a future and comes back to life again with all his skills in place. The songs are a bright Black Star, instead of death filled with Purple rebirth into a world where love and sex still exists like a kiss on the neck.
This is the album to say goodbye to Prince with, the next two weren’t as good, and with its futuristic hopefulness and world according to one of the truly greatest musicians of the 20th Century, it is a setting where prince e manages to bring it all together in a future world of funk where he reigns supreme forever.