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Prince - 3121

Prince, 3121

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT’S been quite some time since Prince delivered anything to rival the brilliance of early hits such as Purple Rain and 1999.

So much has changed since then, including his sense of identity, that it’s easy to guess why the artist formerly known as everything from Symbol to Slave has had trouble putting together a coherent piece of work.

His latest offering, 3121 marks his first since signing to Universal and is something approaching a return to form. It boasts several stand-out moments but is nowhere near the masterpiece that some were predicting.

When it’s good, the album shows that Prince has lost none of his ability to entertain or provoke. Hence, tracks like Lolita and Satisfied play heavily on the sex references, just like the promiscuous Prince of the Cream/Get Off era did.

While in moments such as Fury, there is the faintest suggestion that he is sampling some of his earlier work, most notably 1999.

But the album occasionally feels a little too content to churn out bog-standard R’n’B numbers that really don’t seem to stretch this once innovative artist, placing him in the same bland bracket more usually marked for the likes of Craig David.

Incense and Candles is one such alarming example, when Prince adopts a vocal style that is scarily reminiscent of Mr David and his smooth but empty style.

3121 certainly works best when keeping things uptempo, such as the ultra funky Get On The Boat which struts its stuff like some contemporary James Brown number complete with the ability to get those hips swinging and those sharp shoes shuffling.

But title track 3121 is indicative of the mixed up nature of the album, enticing you with some interesting beats and rhythms, but distorting the vocals to annoying effect and never really allowing things to get into their stride.

Far better is Lolita, a sexy, naughty dance-floor pleaser that boasts playful lyrics such as ‘Lolita, you’re sweeter, but I won’t mislead you’ and ‘u’re much 2 young to peep my stash, u’re trying to write cheques your body can’t cash’.

There’s a tempting, teasing Havana style rhythm surrounding Te Amo Corazon, during which Prince adopts a crooner style and largely succeeds in seducing the listener, while Black Sweat conjures up some smart beats and synth stabs, while containing a style that’s reminiscent of Kiss.

Strong, too, is Love, an effortless crowd-pleaser that’s brimming with nice production touches and smart, sexy beats, while The Word drops some nice horns, a good acoustic guitar riff and some of the best vocals on the album.

As previously stated, however, the slower numbers let it down, with the likes of Satisfied and Beautiful, Loved and Blessed sounding pretty generic in terms of contemporary R’n’B. There’s nothing really surprising about them and while slickly produced, they could have been delivered by just about anyone.

But in party form, Prince does deliver the goods and when he’s having fun, the listener does too. Fortunately, 3121 seems to know where its strengths lie. So while Prince may lack the cutting edge to really push the creative envelope like he once did, this latest offering proves that he can still entertain.

Track listing:

  1. 3121
  2. Lolita
  3. Te Amo Corazon
  4. Black Sweat
  5. Incense and Candles
  6. Love
  7. Satisfied
  8. Fury
  9. The Word
  10. Beautiful, Loved & Blessed
  11. The Dance
  12. Get On The Boat