Prince took another step towards his comeback last year with the release of 3121. Although he'd stayed out of the spotlight for a period of time, musically he never really left. He still continued to churn out album after album throughout the 90s until 2000, obligating his contract with Warner Records, the label he had an on-going feud with. However, the albums were never heavily promoted. Many believed that Prince was stretching himself thin attempting to finally cut ties with Warner.
3121 sees Prince signed to Universal Records. Released in 2006, there was much hype about the album. Many believed Prince would return to the sound that made him a star. To me, Prince is a musician that is able to continually evolve, while still managing to keep his own unique sound. Listening to the album I can see similarities but I also see Prince experimenting heavily with new sounds while remaining true to himself.
“Lolita” certainly has aspects of his Purple Rain era with the heavy usage of synthesizers and that same old rock-funk that we associate with Prince, mixed with modern technology. Prince’s distorted vocals on the psychedelic track "3121", remind me of his alter-ego Camille, who was appeared prominently on "U Got The Look".
Even “Fury” has shades of old Prince, reminding us that while Prince is well known for his vocal capabilities, he can also hold his own with an electric guitar. A highly energetic track, it is reminiscent of the guitar-playing style of Hendrix. The album also sees Prince experimenting with pitch-correlation effects, Latin-inspired tempos and beats, and a touch of Jazz. So, while he does keep in touch with his old-school style, Prince continuously looks for new ways to experiment and entertain.
It’s no surprise the album’s main themes are sex and religion. They’ve been constant themes for Prince throughout his thirty-year career. He's been successful with them and he knows it. He is up to his same tricks with “Black Sweat” delivering the first line, “I don’t want to take my clothes off/but I do” and “Lolita” in which he proclaims, “Lolita, you’re sweeter/but you’ll never make a cheater outta me”
The tracks are in your face, sex-fuelled, and simply two of the best on 3121, not just for their well-delivered lines but for their rock-funk sound. While “Black Sweat” and “Lolita” are the strongest on the album, “Te Amo Corazon” is the weakest. A Latin-tinged ballad, it is more of a filler, sandwiched between the two latter tracks. Prince has never really been great with ballads, and this one is no different. In fact, the song is just plain dull.
“The Word” has religion written all over it. While it mentions repeatedly about “getting saved”, there's nothing new and inspiring about it. In honesty it’s more likely to put you to sleep rather than inspire you.
Despite some of the weaker tracks, there is a true feel of Prince strutting and pouting, as he delivers his lines. It is pure sex delivered through honeyed lines in the form of “Incense And Candles”, “Black Sweat” and “Satisfied.”
In essence, it is Prince well… being Prince and that’s when he is at his best. I’m the first to admit I would prefer to listen to Purple Rain, or even Diamonds And Purples, but this album is more than a decent attempt by the Purpled One.
Tracks not to miss: “Beautiful, Loved And Blessed”, “Black Sweat”, “3121”, “The Fury” and “Lolita”.
I give it 3/5