Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Remember the article on Norah Jones' appeal that we discussed here a while back? The same author, Jody Rosen has a review of the new Prince CD, Musicology, in The Nation. I love Prince, even though he lost me a little over the last half a dozen years. Somehow this review manages to both hail the new recording as a masterpiece, and criticize it for not being worthy of him. But's an interesting take on this moment in a great musician's career, and on Prince's place in the shifting pop music climate.

I'm always a bit amused, and can identify somewhat, thinking of what the target audience is for an article like this one, bringing together as it does a praise of grinding funk with sentiments like: "Here is a great big snarl of artistic neurosis that Harold Bloom could appreciate." Is he trying to get the Harold Bloom fans to listen to Prince? Or the Prince fans to read Bloom? Or just speaking to those that already straddle that fence?

Anyway, if you are interested by Prince, Rosen's piece is a nice read. Here's a snippet:

Musicology's title track is a shamelessly note-perfect James Brown pastiche, an "old school joint/4 the true funk soldiers" that centers on a rhetorical question: "Don't u miss the feeling/Music gave ya/Back in the day?" With its horn stabs, cracking snare drum and percolating bass line straight out of "Sex Machine," "Musicology" is designed to stoke nostalgia for that allegedly better, nobler musical era, and to set up another question, Prince's big punchline, a dig at hip-hop, delivered with a gruff harrumph over a stop-time: "Take ur pick--turntable or a band?"

As a marketing ploy, Prince's newfound nostalgia makes some sense. For the past several years, r&b has been overrun by earnest young singers, wielding tattered copies of Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and Fender Rhodes electric pianos, who revive, with varying degrees of skill and slavishness, the sound of 1970s soul. After a decade in the commercial wilderness, Prince may have decided that neo-soul was good business. After all, he's capable of disappearing into the studio for an afternoon and churning out a period piece that young stars like D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and Alicia Keys would labor over for weeks.

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