Prince Musicology

Aside from music industry feuds, filial tragedy and a Christian rebirth, Prince’s main creative barrier has been in his genius — or rather, his obsession with it. With Musicology, he’s still enough of a control freak to write/produce every song and play almost all of the instruments, but he’s also opened himself up to the influence of other artists, including those influenced by him. There’s a little bit of Teddy Riley on "Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance” and a lot of James Brown on the title track, while the 6/8 swing on "On the Couch” may as well be a photocopy of D’Angelo’s "Untitled.” There’s nothing new about the way Prince taps these and other signature sounds, but he does prove that he can funk them up better than today’s top producers. It’s because he’s a musician and not a DJ, even when he’s programming beats. The arrangements are always upsetting the mix and taking contemporary R&B further with all kinds of guitar fireworks. The only element that’s missing from Musicology is the "controversy.” There’s nothing here to echo the sexual/racial ambiguities of the ’80s purple revolution. Instead, the colour of this new Prince is black. Lyrically, the vibe spans from house-party rockers to sentimental blues to a Marvin Gaye-wise social commentary on the post-9/11 state of the world. None of this is dangerous enough to get him either played or banned from radio, but it’s definitely the comeback we’ve all been waiting for. (Columbia)