Prince famously announced a few years ago that the internet was dead. Now, there once was a time when the world sat up and listened to stuff Prince said, but on this particular matter, we all knew he was wrong. It was merely his reaction to something that, whilst trying to embrace, and becoming a pioneer as he did so (NPG Music Club), he could no longer completely control. And anyone who knows anything about Prince knows that he has to be in control. But the internet is beyond the control of an individual, or even a group of individuals. And so, with reckless abandon, he shunned it. In the meantime, he has focused on live concerts, something which he excels at and is absolutely in control of, and marketing his music via free giveaways in Sunday newspaper publications. Until now, it would seem…
Like the man I spoke about in my previous post, I am a huge Prince fan. He has been, and continues to be, a massive influence on my life. His vast canon has provided a musical backdrop to my life since the early 80s. His wild, innovative and inspired musical experimentation had rendered me speechless on more than one occasion. So often, I have found myself with a huge grin on my face, or the expression of “how the fuck did he just do that?”. His live shows are like no other. His musicianship is unsurpassed. His execution of his craft, unparalleled.
But… (you just knew there’d be a but in here somewhere, right?)
In recent years, Prince has become what I can only describe as diluted. Maybe it’s the atheist in me that lays the blame firmly and squarely at the door of his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness flavour of Christianity. But you can trace the beginnings of the watering down of Prince to the moment Larry Graham, one of the greatest bass players ever and former member of the New Power Generation, introduced him to the restorationist, blood transfusion-averse sect. Prince has always been a man of god. You only have to look through his entire body of work to find multiple references to his imaginary friend in the sky. But it didn’t impede on his work. He never played safe and he knew no boundaries. He cussed, he was explicit in his sexuality and he never, ever held back. But it wasn’t gratuitous. It was all justifiable and it was oh so good.
An in my very humble opinion, it was this side of Prince that made him stand out. The moment he started to censor himself, he lost his edge. He lost his creative raison d’etre. His work up until that point was still experimental. He used sound to express what words could not. The unspeakable. The crazy, fucked up shit that goes on in our minds. He gave it a sound. Without it, Prince now sounds much like all the other musical greats. He no longer stands out as an innovator. Envelopes are not being pushed anymore. We, as fans, have suffered a collection of albums that, if we are lucky, show rare glimpses of what we once knew. “20Ten“, “Planet Earth“, “Lotusflow3r/MPLSound“, “3121“… they’re all nice enough. But they are not “Sign O’ The Times” or “Lovesexy“, “Black Album” or “The Gold Experience“. I’ve seen him live on a number of occasions, both before and after this line in the creative sand that I have drawn, and he still kicks ass, but even the classics, which he sometimes beautifully reworks (like his awesome balladisation of “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”), have had the cussing removed and the overtly sexual innuendos subdued. My all time favourite Prince song, “Days of Wild” has been sanitised and has now lost it’s slightly sinister and overbearing darkness blunted. When he performed that song at the “Beautiful Experience” gigs at Paisley Park, it was a supreme combination of funk, feminism and aggressiveness that still makes my butt shake and face grin in equal measure. I saw him do it as a soundcheck at the Hammersmith Apollo on his “One Nite Alone…” tour, a fantastic experience offered to us fan club members, and whilst he and that incarnation of the NPG (Blackwell/Neto/Smith/Parker/Leeds/Dulfer/Boyer) nailed it, it was like comparing Muhammed Ali of 2012 to Muhammed Ali of 1966. The grace, the style and structure was still there, but the fire, the the very life and soul had been hidden away and, just like Ali, you mourned the loss of it, knowing that you’d never be likely to see it again.
And so, last night, very quietly and quite indirectly, Prince’s new website went live at http://20pr1nc3.com , Prince’s use of numerology evident on the use of the digits 2, 0, 1 and 3. Below the now infamous LoveSign symbol are three videos. One is a lyric video for a new song called “ScrewDriver”, another is a 57 second trailer for an NPG Films production of his 2009 Montreaux gig and the final video introduces us to new Prince protege, Cameroonian singer/songwriter Andy Allo. Six vacant slots below suggest further goodies will be coming soon. All of this was made known via the Twitter account of Donna Grantis, guitarist with the latest, all female incarnation of the NPG, aka 3rdeyegirl.
There is also now a second website, http://3rdeyegirl.com that is selling the Screwdriver single directly, as well as a remix, a new song called ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ which in my opinion is better than ‘Screwdriver’ and there is also a remix of ‘Rock & Roll Love Affair’. The main song is available, strangely, as .wav file, whilst the others are all MP3’s. All tracks are $0.88, payable via PayPal and instantly downloadable once payment has been completed.
So, has Prince finally been persuaded to embrace the internet once more? Is he doing so vicariously via his band members so as not to lose face? Whatever, it is good to see him back online but I am still not convinced that his new music approaches anywhere near his best, most innovative work. It’s safe, comfortable and nice but far from groundbreaking. It’s Prince, so the quality is without reproach, but if an unknown artist launched with this stuff, unless he had a massive marketing push behind him, it’d go nowhere, fast.
Rumour has it that he is gearing up for an extensive tour. To be fair, Prince is always on tour, always playing live somewhere. But to see him back in the UK, Europe and beyond would be good. Yes, I’d be in line for tickets, but I’d be hoping that he could prove me wrong, but resigning myself to the fact that he probably wouldn’t.
Judge for yourself. Here’s some of the new stuff gleaned from various locations on the net, including 3rdeyegirl’s own YouTube channel. Bookmark these places and let’s see what unfolds…
The video seems to remain a private Vimeo hosting, and the version that appeared on YouTube has, as with any unofficial Prince appearance on that service, been pulled due to a copyright claim by Controversy Music.