If PlectrumElectrum was Prince’s throw back to guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, Art Official Age must be his homage to soul luminaries like The Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye (plus Parliament). It’s a neo-soul record that blurs the line between classic and contemporary R&B. It’s the closest thing to Purple Rain he’s made in decades. Skewering some of todays biggest acts, he goes heavier on production cues and auto-tune, but the music is still steeped in that same raw sexual energy that made him famous so many years ago. I don’t think it’s quite as good as his other release of the day, but I certainly don’t have any problem with Art Official Age.
The song “Breakdown” could be one of the best songs of his career, or at least this later era. It plays like a sonic cousin of “The Beautiful Ones,” written by a more mature man who’s been to the puppet show and seen the strings. It’s also a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to some of the lesser r&b tracks since he came on the scene-the laser sounds are maybe my favorite part of any record so far this year.
I said it in my review of PlectrumElectrum, and I’ll say it again here: I honestly think Prince is getting better as he ages. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it’s happening. His ideas for how music can work were so far ahead of their time in the 80’s that they still feel innovative today, and his current work will probably still seem fresh in another 30 years. He’s working on a different level than everyone else.
If you’ve been to one of his after shows, you have a pretty good idea of the vibe he’s putting out on Art Official Age. The band he’s surrounded himself with is amazing, and he lets them shine every chance he gets.
Great record. Two great records. That is all. Go listen to them.