Review Summary: The artist formerly known as interesting
Prince, for whatever reason, decided to stop making good music recently. Perhaps he’s bored after thirty years in the industry or because becoming a Jehovah’s Witness has taken the life out of him. Whatever it may be, he seems content just cranking out songs year after year without much thought about quality. Although this masturbatory practice of “having fun” may be giving Prince satisfaction as an artist, he should consider the fans that purchase his albums and continue to support him after all these years. It’s clear on MPLSound that Prince didn’t take the fans into consideration.
The first sign that MPLSound is all about Prince occurs less than one minute into the album. Opening track (There’ll Never B) Another Like Me features a chorus of Prince bragging about (spoiler alert) how there’ll never be another musician like him. This abomination of a chorus is nearly overshadowed by the extremely self-indulgent verses about himself. The most mundane details of his day such as “slip in the bathroom/some olive oil in my hair/walk in my closet/try to find somethin to wear,” are immortalized in this six-minute long love fest. Lyrics have never been Prince’s strong suit but the lyrics of MPLSound stand out as some of the worst ever. This is best seen in “Valentina” with the beautiful rhyme of “Your Uncle Sammy used to hold her down every day/watch the booty guard scarecrow the buzzards away.”
Although lyrical content doesn’t necessarily make or break an album, bad lyrics certainly detract from the songs individually. As one listens to the album it becomes quite clear that Prince invested no time at all into writing the lyrics and it’s easy to see that some of the songs, especially Another Like Me, wouldn’t be bad if they had good lyrics. Most of the songs revolve around Prince bragging about himself in some way. Valentina is one of the few that isn’t exclusively bragging. However, it’s basically an open letter to Salma Hayek desperately screaming “Date Me!” Quite frankly, the ones about himself are better, which is really saying something about how poor these lyrics are.
This album is saved from being an abomination by the music. Prince plays all the instruments on MPLSound and brings his signature sound to each and every track. His guitar work is more subdued on MPLSound compared to the long, rambling solos featured on LotusFlower, the second part of the double album. This isn’t to say that the guitars aren’t there- they are- but in a much smaller quantity. This gives Prince more time to screw around on his other instruments. The bass in particular is featured very prominently and is played masterfully. Price also utilizes keyboards to great effect, in particular on No More Candy For You, which is buoyed by a bouncy piano line. The rhythm section really stands out on this album.
It really would have been nice to hear the guitar more in the album. It’s Prince’s signature instrument and his main draw. The musicianship is strong, but more guitar work would’ve been very pleasant to hear. Because there’s less guitar the long outros to the songs, up to three minutes long, are polluted with a solid beat and little variation. One would like to see more experimental elements from Prince on the album. Instead, he just sticks to the script, maintaining the same drum beat and generally going through the motions. Only once is one reminded of his glory days as one of the most exciting, interesting musicians alive, on “Box of Chocolates” which has a nice guest appearance from Q-Tip and a funky beat.
When listening to MPLSound it’s easy to tell that it could’ve been a good album. Unfortunately there is no cohesiveness within the album and a lot of the songs are simply too long. Dance 4 Me isn’t bad, but would be a more powerful, satisfying listen if it ended without the 90-second instrumental at the end. The same goes for many other songs on the album. Ultimately, the album sinks under its own weight. Minutes of brilliance are washed away in a wave of endless music and nonsensical words. Overall, a very dull album from a formerly bright star.