Prince’s New Release: You May Not Scream 3121 but You’ll Work Up a Black Sweat!

I recently had a conversation with a friend about Prince’s new album, 3121, and he told me that while he liked it, he was disappointed because the album sounded “repressed.” A statement which got me to thinking. Since his conversion and baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Prince’s music has calmed down considerably, and expectedly so, but many are quick to cite that as the main reason for his material of late being so “tame.”

But it seems that it has slipped from the memory of many that Prince was born in 1958. And though he sounds and looks nowhere near it, the man is almost 50 years old. A 50-year old man still singing about “sexy MFs” and mutual masturbation? Unsettling to say the least.

Recorded by Prince and a supporting cast of 13 over the course of 2005, 3121 ups the ante set by 2004’s Musicology and produces some (more) of the funkiest, most downright entertaining music Prince has given us in years.

While lead single, Te Amo CorazÃ?³n, might have indicated to some that Prince went and got all soft and adult-contemporary on us, it’s simply a testament to one of Prince’s many facets that he exercises throughout the album’s 53:42 runtime.

But before we can be swept up in its lush, jazzy arrangement, we have to get past the distorted, electro-thump of album opener and title track, which describes the acid-trip one experiences upon entering the realm of the Purple one (and if the album booklet cover wasn’t a dead giveaway, 3121 is Prince’s address). From taking our pick of Japanese robes and sandals while drinking champagne from glasses with chocolate handles, we slide right into the electro-funk thump of the gritty yet smooth Lolita.

Featuring an appropriately smug vocal from Prince, he proudly boasts to Lolita how her physical appearance and sexual prowess isn’t quite strong enough to overcome his fidelity. “Te Amo” interjects quite nicely so as to allow the listener to catch his/her breath before the album spikes their heartbeat and blood pressure once again on current single, Black Sweat.

Blending a symphony of synthesizers and drum machines into synchronicity without a bassline is sheer brilliance in itself but Prince’s pining falsetto and smart lyric only further the genius. Obviously a song about sex, it’s hard to call it “repressed” since the brilliance and entertainment resides in Prince’s implications vs. his outright declaration. He could be talking about resisting a certain someone’s sexual advances or he could be talking about the power and potency of his dick. Who knows? The fact he pulls off the mystery without breaking a sweat himself is a testament in itself that he still knows how to epitomize sexy.

Incense and Candles continues the sexual patois with Prince implying basically how good his sex is (“harder than hell to handle – one scent alone make it worth your while – the price of Prince’s candle”) over a smooth “jam that’s got a beat like its making love”. Satisfied sounds like a yearning, bluesy continuation of “On The Couch” from his last LP that sees Prince making sure his woman is as comfortable as possible before he “seeks (that) thing like a buried treasure – like Columbus sailing over the sea – (to a) land beyond expertise and chastity.” And it’s all spliced with the funky, hip-hop flavored Love in the middle; Prince breaking down the logic of love into simple yet clever terms.

Fury sounds like the roughed-up cousin of “Lolita”, with Prince’s bassline getting dirtier, drumline getting funkier and vocal getting more intense as he describes the truth of there being “no fury like a woman scorned.” There’s a nice, vanilla duet between Prince and his newest protÃ?©gÃ?©, Tamar, called Beautiful, Loved & Blessed if you’re interested and a theatrical performance of unrequited love turning painful and near-deadly entitled The Dance that truly must be heard to be experienced. Words do not do justice its brilliance.

And in reflection of his (not-so) newfound faith, Prince does some subtle yet funky proselytizing on The Word and Get On The Boat. The former boasts the album’s breeziest, most fluid arrangement with Prince exercising his acoustic guitar and trumpet skills while describing the appeal and profundity of his new exaltation and the latter sounds like a loose-limbed, jam session revival that serves as Prince’s call-to-action for all his listeners who want to avoid the impending tribulation. And though it’s unlikely he’ll convert many with his testimonials, Prince’s efforts still can’t be denied the respect they deserve.

Regardless of the subject matter, be it sex, love, or religion, 3121 manages to take the essence of classic Prince and trim it with just enough funk, class, and brilliance to make it another Platinum notch in Prince’s belt.

Long gone is the revolutionary Prince from the 80s and early 90s who pushed the boundaries of music well beyond the expected limits. Also gone is the experimental, statement-making, self-indulgent Prince who took his albums extremely left of center simply because he could. The Prince left in both their places is a smooth, multi-faceted one-man-band who effortlessly proves he’s still as funky and (almost as) creative as ever and that Musicology wasn’t a fluke.

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