Prince Planet Earth

Prince Planet Earth
When he’s not shilling for cell phones and perfumes, Prince is giving out three million copies of this new record to newspaper subscribers in the UK. But marketing schemes aside, he’s not a man made for these musical times. The guy’s talent is downright embarrassing in this age of lowered expectations, something he proves on the opening three tracks. He begins with a "save the planet,” "Beautiful Ones”-style scorcher where his guitar solo threatens to set the Earth ablaze. He follows it up with a ridiculous rocker of a pop song all about how "I love you baby, but not as much as my guitar!” Then comes the gentle, muted trumpet ballad where his elastic falsetto shames every single R&B singer of the last 20 years. Sadly, he also tries to outdo R. Kelly on cheese fests like "All the Midnights in the World” and the absolutely atrocious "Future Baby Mama.” He can certainly do it all, but why? Much like most other veteran performers on the other side of 50 — a milestone Prince will reach next year — much of Planet Earth sounds like a make-work project rather than a series of songs and performances that he actually believes in. The social conscience that surfaces doesn’t get much deeper than "The main problem with war is that nobody wins.” On the other hand, "The One U Wanna C,” "Chelsea Rodgers” and the aforementioned "Guitar” could each be the type of tossed-off pop brilliance he used to crank out every week back in the ’80s, and they deliver his most direct pop thrills since 2000’s Rave Un 2 the Joy Fantastic. For those three reasons alone, Planet Earth helps perpetuate Prince’s gradual comeback, but it’s still in another galaxy compared to his career bests. (Sony BMG)