Review Summary: Prince manages to rebound from the slump experienced in the earlier releases and creates an immensely memorable, exceptional album.
Prince did a great job of falling from mainstream star to underground self-indulgent has-been in the 1990s, especially after changing his name to a symbol in 1993 (the first sign something was amiss), fighting a very public war with Warner Bros, releasing multiple albums stuffed with either mediocre rehashes of past successes or stale, unimaginative new material and generally ending up in a rut creatively.
But somehow, amid this lost decade of music industry feuding, crappy triple-albums and general disinterest, there lies one last truly good album before the renaissance of Musicology
. Namely, The Gold Experience
The album overall
"The Gold Experience" has one severe problem even from the start, one generally encountered only in the hip-hop realm: it's stuffed full of redundant sketches and interludes which just push the track number to 19 but end up interrupting the flow of the music (for the record, there's 12 songs), and at no point
do they actually develop a coherent story or concept (beyond the amateurish virtual-reality/Internet-wannabe dialogue).
The other problem is that some of the keyboard sounds deployed here probably sounded very avantgarde back in 1995, but now come across as more dated than Moon Safari
(at least there that's intentional). These two main faults aside, the LP is an unfortunately overlooked minor achievement: Prince's last good album of the 90s.
begins with some strident synth blaring and a bewildering Spanish announcement that would instantly make any listener go "Huh? What the fu
ck? Not to worry though, the song evolves into one of the funkiest Prince jams ever made (especially if it's scaled up to his late output). The main melody is instantly memorable, the beats slam really hard
, the Purple One deploys his almighty Falsetto Power for the catchy chorus, and even contributes a passable rap on the verses. The only problem is that the incidental FX might have been an attempt at Pink Floyd
, but they sound horribly tacked-on and useless. Otherwise, it's an accomplished, no-sweat funk workout and a strong start to the album.
One brain-dead interlude later, Endorphinmachine
is a rock song heavy on the fuzz guitars. One thing I complain about is the main hook, which for the most part sounds like it lacks the jump-from-the-speakers-and-choke-the-listener energy the song demands - however the verse which relies on slashing power chordage somewhat makes up for this, and the wah-ed out solo also brings some sheer power. The other issue is that the drum work sounds very stiff and mechanic, again pulling the carpet on the song. Oh, and there's a silly coda with atmospheric keyboards and somebody babbling something in Spanish about how "Prince is dead". Oh well, long live Prince, I guess. If someone would remix the song and fix these faults, I would call it a highlight. As it stands now it's enjoyable but flawed.
- yes, 2 songs and Our Hero returns to his stock-in-trade sex songs. Admittedly the intro does generate a bit of excitement thanks to its nimble and considerably more alive drum fills interplaying with brass and organ, but the song promptly lets it all go to waste by turning into a midtempo "slow-jam" kind of song. I won't disparage its main arrangement, it's quite breezy and romantic... and that's what a slow-jam is supposed to be like, right? Prince bolsters the song with some also stock-in-trade impeccable vocal harmonies and near-ambient background synths. Sadly the main "shhh" motif takes away a bit of enjoyment for me, bringing memories of a bad childhood experience. Overall, it's a quite good yet bland song, bringing nothing innovative to the table, apart from perhaps its high-tech super-polished production. Its long, 7-minute running time guarantees listener boredom, something not even a reprise of its lively intro in the middle or an incadescent guitar solo and an ethereal outro can solve.
begins with an odd childlike bell melody which mutates into a bombastic intro complete with mass chants and loud guitar. The song itself boasts a very cool beat as its center, but the verses overall sound a hint too slapdash to work (what with all those quick samples thrown around). Prince here chooses to switch to "political" mode, protesting against bad housing qualities, or misogyny... or something. The song isn't very effective, sounding like senselessly overproduced R&B/New Jack Swing dragged down by hamfisted lyrics and heavy-handed, inane sound effects... oh, yeah, and it also lacks a strong central melody to hold attention.
Time hasn't been kind to The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
, fondly remembered as Prince's last hit in the USA (or in general). The good points: immediately catchy, compelling riffs; breezy arrangement; live drums; great vocals. The bad part: the song is exposed as being horribly, scarily cheesy
. Cheesy to the bone. 100% flashy, glitzy and sappy. A one-way trip to Sugarland courtesy of Prince. Maybe there are some people who can surrender to the sheer maudlin oestrogen-overdosed nature of this track, but not me. I used to like it, but now it's just an overblown, overproduced platitude-fest to me. I'm amazed no philharmonic orchestras or children's choirs were added. Listening to this has been scientifically proved to cause diabetes in weaker audiences. Avoid or savour as advised. If any unpleasant side-effects appear, consult Dr. Love.
tones down the saccharine excess of its predecessor, getting off to a good start with a simple tremolo guitar and vocal, only to erupt into what is seemingly a "power ballad". Over some generic riffing and lifeless drumming Prince mumbles some laughable nonsense about reincarnating as a dolphin. There is a shi
tload of pseudo-classical keyboard wankery and excessive instrumentation rearing their ugly heads as the song (mis)uses the "quiet verse + loud chorus" alt-rock formula for all it's work, marrying it to a perfunctory, clichéd "romantic" chord progression. Possibly the most sore spot on the whole album.
rushes to fill the void left by the twin ballads and reassure us that Prince can still get his funk on. Which he does. To great results. The track is nothing more than a throwaway, loud, mindless hip-hop influenced funk jam, but it manages to wipe away the syrup overdose with is hard beats, massive football chanting (think Queen
meets "This Is England"-era The Clash
), Disney-on-crack horn section, simple underlying bass riff and Prince's technique of piling enough overdubs 'n things to keep interest. Save for a few awkward pauses and one of the lamest asshole brush-offs ("Or would you rather dine/alone/if you change your mind/you can reach me on your videophone") commited to a Prince album, he proves that he's improved his rapping abilities. As a dancefloor rallying cry, it's perfect - even better than "Gett Off" or "My Name Is Prince". A highlight.
is... well, I have no clue what it's supposed to be. The poorly placed FX certainly don't help matters. The song relies on a chopped guitar riff, massive electronic drums and an occasional synth. The aforementioned chopped guitar riff gets old way too fast, irreversibly handicapping the song and its minimalist production. Our Purple Benefactor unwisely elects to add a photo camera effect after every repeat of the chorus, "319", annoying the listener further. In essence, "319" is a Sign O' The Times
minimal funk creation with a glossy high-tech production. As a result it suffers from a "been there, done that" overall feeling, not helped one bit by its humourless, awkward subject matter and lyrics.
begins with an okay hip-hop drumloop and a funky bass riff. The song quickly proceeds to become another "uplifting"-style ballad, buoyed by nifty blues-rock axework from Prince. The synth strings sound a bit misplaced, but the song benefits from its stripped-down nature. There's even a hint of less-forced humour showing up in the lyrics and the occasional redneck accent. A pleasant listen at worst, a highlight at best.
Billy Jack Bitch
. Wait a sec, what about the anti-misogyny exhortations of "We March"? Well, well, aren't we a wee bit hypocritical. No matter. The song begins with a great hip-hop beat and morphs into yet another funk song... well, less song, more workout. Funny note: the main vocals in the verses seem to rip off the melody from that Santana
abomination, "Smooth". This one's a dud - lacking in a strong hook or even anything that hasn't been done better already by "Pussy Control" and "Now". OK, I'll admit the beat is hot, but that's basically it. Skip, or sample away.
I Hate You
is a tender, gentle ballad about... hating someone? What the fu
ck? The song might at first sound confusing or intriguing, but after the first impression wears off, we're left with another dud, and an even worse one than "Billy Jack Bitch". The introductory deafening fill uses massively reverbed drums that sound straight out of your average 80s power ballad. The song features some really cutesy bell synth melodies and another trite chord progression. It's less compelling than "Strange Relationship" because Prince never qualifies why exactly he hates the subject, instead lobbing inane metaphors ("I hate you/Like a day without sunshine") and confusing, contradictory statements. The 2-minute switch towards a section which plays like a courtroom scene with some S&M overtones was probably intended to be humorous, but I've heard it done way
better in "Fu
ck Da Police".
is a rousing album closer. Prince himself said somewhere that he attempted to create "Purple Rain v2.0", and I think he succeeded mightily, even if his modus operandi
here is merely "make everything bigger". This is evident from the splashy organ+synth introduction and the intial stripped-down verses. The main hook used might be a bit showy but it still strikes an emotional chord. The pre-chorus uses a simple New Age-y arpeggio, and we're quickly into the meat of the song - added acoustic guitars, one drum machine and a very basic bassline. Prince's lyrics are the only Achilles' heel here - they come off as preachy and clumsy. He gradually introduces more overdubs - vocal harmonies, strings and a distorted guitar. But somehow it doesn't sound at all overblown, even though it gets very
close occasionally. And he's taken a neat trick from Paul McCartney
too - at the four minute mark the song introduces an exuberant "naa-na-naa-na-naa-naa-naa-naa" chant, obviously yanked from "Hey Jude". Prince knows better than to just repeat it ad infinitum until it starts sounding vaguely cosmic - he introduces pauses every once in a while to remind us that "all that glitters ain't gold", and performs a scorching guitar solo at the end. And before you know it, the song fades out almost acappella. An excellent widescreen ending.
- Strong, immediate hooks
- Better drum machine programming
- Overall songwriting quality is a step up from "Come"
- pointless sketches
- "Billy Jack Bitch"
- "I Hate You"
- "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" may cause diabetes, depending on your tolerance to extreme cheese.
: Even if there are obvious problems in the material, Prince manages to rebound from the slump experienced in the earlier releases and creates an immensely memorable, exceptional album. Sadly, next year he released "Emancipation", his second worst album ever.
(Please stop me in case I try to review that one.)
: "Pussy Control", "Now", "Gold", "Shy", "Endorphinmachine" and a conditional tip-off for "TMBGITW".