Mrs. Prince, Can Prince Come Out And Play?
Universal Music Group, not Prince, benefits most from his signing a one-album deal with them. It’s too bad they didn’t quite get what they paid for with a finished product like 3121. A stripped-down jam, first single “Black Sweat” is clearly one for the club. “Fury” hits a little harder and hearkens back to previous albums like The Gold Experience and Come. There’s sexy satisfaction in the seductive hooks and downtempo lounge groove of “Satisfied.”
Clocking in at 2:50 “Satisfied” is entirely too short, and its brevity is just the start of the problems with 3121. “The Dance” kicks off sounding like the score to a bad 8-bit video game. Almost entirely synth, the song only approaches something close to organic Prince when the piano kicks in, then it’s gone and gone for good.
Prince albums establish overall themes and the instruments and interludes embellish the tonal concepts presented. 3121 attempts and fails to convincingly portray its mythic “Musical Mansion” motif where each song represents a different room in the house.
“Get on the Boat,” with its punchy brass, thumb-slapping bass and even Sheila E. on percussion, is the type of funk Prince does best. It begs the question, why doesn’t the whole album sound like this?
Longtime lovers of Prince need more of what makes him great, not less. Despite flashes of what we’ve come to expect from The Artist, 3121 is ultimately a letdown. Overall, the record doesn’t come across as the cr’me-de-la-cr’me of several tracks conceived, written and recorded over a significant period of time. Rather, it reeks of hasty production and uninspired composition.