BY RYAN HARMON
“Art Official Age,” the new album from pop superstar Prince, is his first full-length studio effort since 2010’s “20TEN.”
In an unexpected move from one of the most reclusive artists in the music business, Prince released two full-length albums on the same day, “Art Official Age,” and the debut album from his collaboration with 3rdEyeGirl, “Plectrumelectrum.”
The album opens with “Art Official Cage,” a song that oddly embraces and criticizes the artificial elements of most modern music. Driven by synthesizers, the song makes for a strangely powerful opening track, even including a rap verse at the end.
Immediately, the album moves into a funky R&B mood, starting with “Clouds.”
A hint of Prince’s iconic 1984 album, “Purple Rain,” comes in with “Breakdown,” one of the few ballads on the album. The song is a fresh return to the writing style that created some of Prince’s most treasured songs.
“U Know,” one of the singles that was released quite awhile before the album, ranks high on the list of Prince’s more intimate songs.
“Breakfast Can Wait,” another intimate song, serves as an appropriate follow-up. The song was inspired partly by comedian Dave Chappelle’s infamous “Shirts vs. Blouses” skit, a parody of Prince.
“Affirmation I & II” leads into the remaining tracks of the album. This spoken intro, by Lianne La Havas, sets up the rest of the album, as something to be listened to “before you have any interaction with members of the opposite sex.”
“FUNKNROLL,” as the title suggests, is Prince’s combination of Rock and Funk. This song highlights Prince’s experimentation with various digital effects, such as pitch shifting and phasers, which are used in various songs throughout the album.
“Time” is one of two songs on the album featuring singer Andy Allo as Prince’s duet partner. Prince puts Allo in the spotlight, letting her handle most of the vocals in the seven-minute song.
The album closes with “Affirmation III,” a mostly spoken song that sounds like a therapy session between Havas’s “Affirmation I & II” character and a character simply called “Mr. Nelson.” To the average listener, this song could seem quite confusing, if listened to by itself out of the album’s context.
“Art Official Age” is a revolutionary album in Prince’s career, pushing the envelope perhaps more than previous albums. The man, once viewed as an influential crossover artist in Rock and Pop, has once again proven that his writing and arranging abilities defy genre. If you thought Prince’s revolution was in the 80s, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
“Art Official Age” is available in stores and online now. For more information, visit www.artofficialage.com.