But, being such a legend creates a legacy that can be impossible to live up to. It’s the same problem facing bands like The Rolling Stones and U2. When you’ve already got multiple greatest hits albums worth of classics, what’s left to prove? Only a select few want to hear your new music, and each album has to live up to an impossible legacy. Even if this album was as good as his 80s stuff, it couldn’t match our memory of what that album was.
I’m relatively new to Prince, still getting caught up on his catalogue, so I don’t have that reverence for his past work. Listening from that perspective, this album consistently matches the mid tier of his 80s work. There are some clunkers, like “Somewhere Here on Earth,” but songs like “The One U Wanna C” and “Mr. Goodnight” are thoroughly enjoyable. He’s still got a wonderful, unique voice, and I love the stylistic variation he features throughout the album. I didn’t like the slowed down R&B stylings of “Somewhere,” but he picks up the tempo with the next track, going to a sunny rock song.
Part of what makes Prince so great is the plain ridiculousness of some of his stuff. “Future Baby Mama” is full of popping porn style synth flourishes, which keep the loverman style vocal from getting too stale. The lyrics aren’t exactly great, but when he sings the chorus with that backing harmony, it sells it. “Chelsea Rodgers” is one of the best tracks on the album, with history spanning lyrics and a really tight horn line.
Ultimately, this is a really strong album. It’s not going to live up to Prince’s best work, but virtually nothing is. I’d love to see another album on the level of Purple Rain, but this is a great collection of songs and I’ll be listening to it for a good long time.