Welcome 2 America



by ghostalgeist USER (40 Reviews)
August 30th, 2021 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You go to school, just to learn about what never existed.

Welcome 2 America should have been a really exciting record. This is the first* full-length album of completely new, unheard-of material from Prince's heralded Vault, a treasure trove of untapped music that fans have been dying to hear ever since The Artist's untimely passing five years ago. Piano and a Mic 1983 and Originals were very nice, very intimate, but they were full of songs we've either heard before or could easily find somewhere else. Not only was Welcome 2 America gonna be the first in a long, promising tour of never-before-heard curiosities, it couldn't have come at a better time. A topical, politically-charged album about corruption and Americana? The subject matter of Welcome 2 America feels even more vital and relevant to us in 2021 than it did in 2010 (the original intended release date of this album before it was shelved). The stage was set for Welcome 2 America to be a banger record, the perfect kickstarter to Prince's posthumous career.

Lofty expectations, to be sure, but even so, it's a shame that Welcome 2 America is pretty god damn bland. Stepping outside of Welcome 2 America's conceptual righteousness and into the practical matters at hand, the music is just... boring. The entire album sits at a mid-tempo pace and rarely breaks from this sluggish walk through the park, and the songwriting feels almost homogenous, rarely - if ever - breaking from the template of: steady, undemanding beat, stacked harmonies from Prince and his backup singers, and four-five minutes of RnB and soul that contains very little of the grit and color of Prince's distinctive, often-experimental style. In fact, Prince himself barely does anything at all on this record - I feel as though far more attention is given to the (very talented) girl-group backup singers than Prince himself, which further adds to the strange feeling that these songs just don't sound authentic even though they're clearly trying to be.

That's perhaps one of the most damning things about the songwriting - none of this sounds very "Prince"-like. "One Day We Will All B Free" borders on Sly and the Family Stone plagiarism, "Running Game (Son Of A Slave Master)" is an ill-advised, thin-sounding dip into the pool of hip-hop soul that artists like Mary J. Blige, TLC, and Lauryn Hill have lounged in much more naturally, his cover of Soul Asylum's "Stand Up And B Strong" is boilerplate gospel pop nonsense you'd hear on an RnB radio station early Sunday morning, and the cheerleader 80's rock n roll of "Yes" is corny as hell to the point of being eyeroll-inducing. The best songs on the record are the ones that sound the most authentically 'Prince'-like, but even these have their pratfalls. The bright-faced organ and beach-rock beat of "Hot Summer" is a nice, well-needed burst of energy, but the repetitive hook and its banal melody just straight-up suck. The dark, sluggish, bass-heavy beat of "Welcome 2 America" is a tasteful slab of sinister, minimalist jazz... at first, but then it goes on for two minutes much longer than it really needs to and overstays its welcome. "When She Comes" is the Expected Prince Ballad of the record, and it's got all of the traits and tropes that make it a Prince Ballad - tons of open space, plentiful dosages of falsetto, and sparse instrumentation. But it's all surface-level - it has the ingredients it needs, but it lacks the sultry spice and seasoning that made his greatest ballads like "Adore" and "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore" so great. There's just something strangely... artificial about the songwriting on Welcome 2 America.

The lyrical content of Welcome 2 America severely knocks it down a peg as well. This is a supposedly political album, after all, so we need to talk lyrics, and Prince's lyrical abilities were always pretty... hit-or-miss. Prince's poetry was at its best when he was horny or belting about love, reputation, or loneliness. Whenever he tried to send a "message" or get political, however, Prince usually missed the mark, and Welcome 2 America is no exception. There's nothing even slightly profound being said with corny-ass lines like "everybody and their mama got a sex tape", "when it comes to war, what are we fighting for", or the utterly Boomer one-liner: "Distracted by the features of the iPhone". There's a lot of rambling about the Bible and its teachings that come off more as preachy and tone-deaf than meaningful or insightful, and the third verse of "Running Game" is a random call to party and shake your ass, a baffling interruption that completely flies in the face of whatever message it was trying to posit in the first place. And the No Doubt-esque "Check the Record" has literally nothing to do with the album at all, it's a borderline-filler song about f*cking someone else's girl.

"Let's check the record, see what it says
Seem like your girlfriend was in my bed (in my bed)
She called me first, no rendezvous
This sounds like drama, now, watcha gon' do?"

There's a couple grace notes here and there - "1000 Light Years From Here" is pleasantly bouncy and dynamic, fluctuating between Prince's usual, rhythmic funk and a beat that calls to mind the refrain from "99 Red Balloons", and "Born 2 Die" lapses into a groovy, minor-key burst of electronic funk that calls to mind a sultrier version of Robyn's "Electric". But honestly, Welcome 2 America just straight-up doesn't slap. Nothing interesting is being said (sometimes the record gives up on trying to say anything at all), the awfully slow and cheap songwriting isn't guaranteed to hold your interest on its own merits, and not even Prince himself sounds all that engaged with the material at hand - he sounds disinterested with the very message he was trying to put forward. Couple that in with the fact that the album's just a little too long and that even the best songs here are merely 'decent', and Welcome 2 America just winds up being an unengaging, disappointing misfire that probably should have stayed on the shelf. Here's hoping the next dolphin dive into the Vault will yield some better fruit.

* There was Deliverance, that six-song EP back in 2017, but it was released under... shall we say, less-than-legal circumstances, and vanished almost instantly. So it's hard to qualify it as anything more than a bootleg.

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user ratings (17)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 30th 2021


Album Rating: 2.0

yea this is pretty fuckin meh

August 30th 2021


lets be real how often does a post-humous album not suck

August 30th 2021


how often do you suck

August 30th 2021


Album Rating: 2.0

how often do you album

August 30th 2021


depends on luck

August 31st 2021


Album Rating: 2.0

depends on truck

September 27th 2021


Album Rating: 3.0

Gonna give this a 3 for now. Genuinely enjoy a lot of the tracks but there are some serious duds.

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