Amidst the ongoing battle with Kenny G over his most recent sound-byte gaffe — the assertion that the Internet is “completely over” — Prince released his latest record, 20Ten. Sadly, he did so exclusively in Europe, attaching it to various newspapers; leaving the rest of the world to only wonder how the latest record sounds. At least, that is how it would play out if the Internet was, in fact, dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and the record hit the ears of Prince fans the world over hours before the disc was available.
Predictably, the publications that 20Ten is being bundled with have hailed it “as good as [Prince’s] all-time classics like Purple Rain and 1999.” This is heady praise for a record that would then be nearly thirty years past its prime. Fans looking for the next “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Purple Rain” or “D.M.S.R.” will need to keep looking, because you won’t find any of that here.
That is not to say this is a bad record, actually, it is quite the contrary. “Compassion” picks up where last year’s MPLSound left off, driving like the little sister of “Delirious.” By the second verse of “Beginning Endlessly,” you can’t help but long for the days when His Royal Badness would “sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth,” instead of preaching some astral plane hooey. Along with “Act of God,” it’s a shame that grooves this funky, this bad-ass, are wasted on this nonsense.
“Future Soul Song” is a Quiet Storm jam of the magnitude of “When 2 R in Love,” and stands as one of the strongest tracks on the album, let alone in what seems like forever. That is until you get to “Lavaux” — which is a region in Switzerland, known for its terraced vineyards, and also one of the baddest New Wave tracks Prince has dropped in the last 15 years. “Walk in Sand” and “Sea of Everything” tread in the deep end of the slow-jam pool, the later falling short of the perfection of “Somewhere Here on Earth,” or “Call My Name.” The play on words, his lady “searching for a king” and “settling for a Prince,” seem less cheeky, more contrived than previous attempts at playing off his given name.
The record wraps with track “Laydown,” bringing back the “F.U.N.K.” before going home, Prince drops one of the heaviest beats he’s delivered since The Black Album. Hokey lyrics aside — yeah, he refers to himself as “the purple Yoda” — this is the glimmer of ghosts past that will keep this disc in rotation for the weeks and months to come. Does this make up for all of the half baked websites, lack of a U.S. tour in the last half a decade or, worse yet “Purple & Gold?” No, not really, but it’s a start.
(NPG Records 2010)