April 6, 2006

A Night With Prince

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As I took home my copy of Prince’s new album, 3121, I noticed that next to the enigmatic cover shot of the back of the man’s head was a shiny sticker. But this wasn’t just any sticker. This was a Golden Ticket, and it said that I had won. I had won a trip to Prince’s house, which presumably is at 3121 on some street somewhere. Not only that, Prince himself was waiting there to give me and six other lucky children a private concert! Tremendous things were in store!

Unfortunately, before I could get home and show Grandpa Joe, the small print deflated my spirits. The deceptive Golden Ticket did not actually guarantee that I had won-perhaps I should have noticed that every copy at the store had the same sticker. I was devastated to find upon tearing through the packaging that I was not a winner.

All that remained was the album-a paltry reward compared to the dream of being a guest at the Prince factory. However, His Royal Badness in all His wisdom had clearly realized the disappointment his fans would go through, and made up for it in his own way-this Whipple-Scrumptious album is itself a tour of the Prince residence. The liner notes show you how each room looks, with purple sugar walls that I’m certain are edible.

But the most vivid trip awaits you in the music. On the opening title track, Prince welcomes you in, but warns that just like in the other place with the Golden Tickets, “no one ever leaves.” Although at times he aims to seduce, his newfound sexual repression, perhaps borne of his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, gets the better of him-“you’ll never make a cheater out of me!” he cries on the throwback Lolita.

Indeed, his Majesty has been subject to harsh criticism for reverting here to his mid-eighties sound, epitomized on classics like 1999, Purple Rain, Dirty Mind, Parade, and his magnum opus, Sign O’ the Times.

What such critics overlook is that the music herein doesn’t sound all that old-fashioned-contemporary music is still catching up to the postmodern electro-pop Prince created single-handedly almost thirty years ago. Nothing on the radio today is as sexually, racially, or technologically uncompromising as Prince’s hits were in those days.

Our enigmatic tour guide was notorious back then for frequently comparing himself to Mozart. This flattered not the Purple One, but Wolfgang Amadeus. Maybe if W.A. could play every instrument in his orchestra, sing his ass off, and still dance like a Sexy M.F. at the same time, it would be a fair fight. And what 18th century composer ever had an unpronounceable phallic symbol for a name?

While this album is a delight for Prince’s (or O)+>’s) many followers, newcomers will most likely feel uneasy exploring his strange dwelling. If you don’t already have the masterpieces mentioned above, please enlighten yourself, and one day join us in worshipping side by side at his altar. Prince is not a woman, and he’s not a man. He is something that you’ll never understand.

Archived article by Shuja Haider