After 2004's "Musicology" and its massive tour gave Prince the shot in the arm he needed to reclaim his crown, there was much anticipation surrounding his next album. The result was "3121," and it removed any doubt about whether or not Prince the pop dynamo was back for good.
The record opens with its title track. A hot, thick groove? Distorted 'Camille' vocals? This is a heck of a way to start off the record, and boy it does it deliver. This song is hot from start to finish and hooks you in for the rest of the ride. I like how Prince's natural voice is juxtaposed with the 'Camille' voice, it gives it a sort of 'haunted house' vibe. Weird, great track.
"Lolita" is catchy as hell, with the old Prince charisma in full effect, and that keyboard riff will worm its way into your head for days. While there's no swearing or anything overly strident, this is definitely Prince reviving the ultra-confident, hypersexual paramour of "Dirty Mind" and "Do Me, Baby," albeit in a more subtle, mature manner. After the Jehovah's Witness pap on "The Rainbow Children," it's nice to see Prince found out that it was still okay to be a pop star. The 'How Bad is This Girl?' breakdown reminds me of The Time.
"Te Amo Corazon" is a candlelight dinner set to music, this is a sexy bossa nova ballad with beautiful instrumentation and a tender vocal from Prince. One of his most understated songs, but still very powerful and continues the killer streak the album's been on.
"Black Sweat" is my favorite track on the album. If "Lolita" hinted that the old Prince was still there, this one drove it home like a sledgehammer. This is the Prince who'll steal your girl and give her the best night of her life. It's a sexy, supremely memorable song that should've been as big as "Kiss" or "Cream."
"Incense And Candles" is a very modern sounding track, this would've been a big hit for a younger artist. Prince's rap passages are surprisingly well done, and the whole song is sexy as hell. Save this one for a special night.
"Love" is probably the best song on the album. The melody is infectious, the lyrics are solid, and the whole song is an inspired piece of melancholy funk. Again, this should've been a massive hit, as it's as good as anything Prince ever wrote.
"Satisfied" is a throwback slow jam in the vein of The Impressions and other old school R&B. Prince's falsetto makes it first significant appearance here and it's as potent as ever. This track may not be as forceful as the previous tracks, but it does its job well and
The heavy "Fury" is Prince in Hendrix mode. I remember seeing Prince do this on SNL and really being made aware of just how insanely deep his talents went, especially on the guitar. This track simply kicks ass, with Prince giving one of his angriest vocals backed by an equally fierce arrangement that commands your attention. I wish Prince did this one with 3rd Eye Girl, since it would've rocked with such a tight, guitar heavy unit, but we have of it is still great.
"The Word" isn't bad, and it has a nice hook, but overall it isn't as good as the previous tracks, and it's pretty repetitive. The guitar solo at the end is a nice touch, but this is probably the worst song on the album. It's far from awful, just not particularly memorable.
"Beautiful, Loved And Blessed" is the worst song on the album, mostly because Prince doesn't really do much on it, as it's a showcase for newfound protegee Tamar. The lyrics are awkward and there's no chemistry between Prince and Tamar, and on top of that it goes on for way too long.
"The Dance" is a surprisingly dark, classically tinged track. I really like this one, it's intoxicating and sexy, especially the piano work. Another great one to add to this record's overall killer line-up, and the trademark Prince howls come out towards the end.
Closing the album is "Get On The Boat," a great 'up with the people' Latin-style rave-up to close out the record. This song is a blast and has a great message. A fantastic way to end Prince's best album of the 2000s'.
"3121" isn't a grand, ambitious statement like "Purple Rain," "Sign O' The Times," or even the later "Art Official Cage." What it is a confident, extremely consistent pop album filled much of the same ingredients that made us fall in love with Prince in the first place, and that is just as good.