Prince Planet Earth (Sony)
"I love you, baby, but not like I love my guitar," Prince leers in "Guitar," between
blasts of heroically pointless Edge-style soloing. It's his most slamming summer
jam since "P Control" in the summer of '94, or "Alphabet St." in
the summer of '88, or maybe "Delirious" in the summer of '83.
What did people do for fun in the summer before Prince? Planet Earth is one of
those albums he makes when he's trying a little harder than usual, if not hard
enough to alienate his core audience, which loves him for indulging himself.
Planet Earth" and "Lion of Judah" continue the hard-rock groove,
while "Future Baby Mama" and "Somewhere Here on Earth" revisit
his smooth R&B side. As for "Guitar," he's decided to jack the
post-punk revival, so he swipes a guitar riff from U2 ("I Will Follow")
and a bass line from Duran Duran (the same song that provides his album title).
-- ROB SHEFFIELD
Prince's decision to package this disc inside copies of tabloid
newspaper the Mail infuriated British retailers. However, judging by the
tracks that "Planet Earth" contains, he won't encounter fans' ire.
While the album doesn't break new ground, there's plenty to like about its
mix of pumping rock and old-school soul. The tight 10-tracker opens and closes
with social commentaries (the title cut and "Resolution"). Both
showcase Prince's dexterity on the guitar as he effortlessly rolls with intriguing
tempo twists and turns. Marva King's delicious vocals set off the rollicking,
funky ode to model "Chelsea Rodgers." Then Prince shifts gears
to mellow on the smooth-flowing "Somewhere Here on Earth" and "Mr.
Goodnight." With such longtime colleagues as Sheila E., Maceo Parker
and Wendy & Lisa in tow, you can hear how much fun Prince is still having—and
why he shouldn't be counted out as he approaches the 30th anniversary of
his first chart hit.
NME.COM hears new Prince album
'Planet Earth' gets our initial verdict
Prince kicked up a storm of controversy when he decided
to release his 24th studio album 'Planet Earth' through a national Sunday
Unveiled as a covermount CD with the Mail On Sunday today (July 15),
the giveaway has led the UK arm of his record label, Sony BMG, to shelve
plans to release the LP.
NME.COM has heard the album which has caused a stir in the music industry
and here's our initial reaction:
Prince's answer to Live Earth, this eco-driven opening ballad sees
the Artist Formerly Known As contemplating the future of mankind over
gentle piano strings
before the track swerves into a fully fledged gospel song. Referencing
Barry Manilow's 'Could
It Be Magic', Prince eventually closes the track
bombastic guitar solo.
The album's first single sees Prince treading more familiar pop territory
on this bouncy distant cousin of 1986 classic 'Kiss'. Smattered with
a swaggering guitar riff which borrows heavily from U2's 'I Will Follow',
the catchy chorus
sees the singer confessing: "I love you babe/But not like I love
'Somewhere Here On Earth'
Driven by gentle piano strings and a seductive saxophone, Prince turns
on the charm for this late night jazz piece. Played over the sound
of crackling vinyl, the singer's high pitched vocals eventually break
into the booming
line: "Do you want to do this at yours or my place?".
'The One U Wanna C'
The album's catchiest number is also the first to feature former backing
singers Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman from Prince's former band The
Revolution. Led by a funky bassline, a hip swinging country belter
emerges on what is
likely to be a future single.
'Future Baby Mamma'
Back in ballad territory, Prince serves up an R&B slow jam which has
been doing the rounds on the net for the last three weeks. Relying on his
powers of persuasion once again, the singer whispers: "I'm going to
make you happy baby/Happier than ever/You know what? If you ever need a hand,
call me and I'll help because I got you/Wherever you want to go".
Keeping with the R&B theme, the pop star turns his hand to rap as he
reveals his new moniker 'Mr Goodnight'. Again the singer focuses on whisking
his lover away, only this time in the lavish surroundings of his "limousine" and "private
'All The Midnights In The World'
Jangly piano ballad which clocks in as the album's shortest track at
just two minutes and 21 seconds.
Backed by a brass section and funky bassline this 70s disco club banger
sees Prince's backing singer Shelby J taking up the lead vocals on
a tune about
a mysterious model.
'Lion Of Judah'
This melancholic power ballad finds Prince in vengeful mood as he grows
deeply suspicious of his lover's motives. Melvoin and Coleman team
up with the pop
star for a final outing as he spits the harsh lyrics: "Like the Lion
Of Judah I strike my enemies down," over shimmering guitar licks.
A jangly closer, sees Prince coming full circle on his world views,
this time ruing war and mankind's inability to rectify past mistakes. "Dropping
bombs on each other/In the act of saving face", he croons before he
asks: "Tell me now people how is that a resolution?".
THE TIMES UK
3 stars (out of 5)
His contemporaries from the Class of 1958 no longer lead the way. Michael
Jackson is now widely derided. Head girl Madonna becomes less interesting
with every public pronouncement.
So the decision of Prince, still one of the planet’s biggest live draws,
to sacrifice his miraculously preserved credibility by giving away this new
album with a Sunday tabloid looks mystifying (in every other territory it
will be distributed conventionally).
Although The Artist Now Known As Prince Again has long used the internet
to distribute surplus material to loyal fanatics, this ten-track set, recorded
earlier this year, is not mere filler. Fondly remembered former collaborators
Wendy and Lisa even appear on the incongruous though wildly catchy funky-country
of The One U Wanna C and the melancholic Lion of Judah, despite its title
closer to Fleetwood Mac than anything spiritual.
Now clearly reconciled to a career in stadia, Prince smears bombastic lead
guitar over several tracks, notably the crass eco-ballad of the title track
(which unexpectedly resembles Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic at
one point). Single Guitar borrows from U2’s early fumblings, yet possesses
a bouncy charm while the short, sweet All the Midnights In The World is as
elegant as Stevie Wonder.
Less effective is the run of the mill R & B of the interminable Future
Baby Mama, surely testament that talking women of child-bearing age into
bed takes Prince much longer these days. The blatant funk of Chelsea Rodgers
certainly moves, though to nowhere in particular, while the supposedly seductive
Somewhere Here On Earth returns us to the era that produced the water bed.
This probably won’t persuade anyone to change their newspaper buying
habits permanently (only a new set from Sly Stone would ensure that). But
nonetheless Planet Earth is too good to be so lightly sold. And, ironically,
many copies of Planet Earth will end up right there - in landfill.
July 27, 2007
BYLINE: CHRIS WILLMAN
HIGHLIGHT: Prince delivers his best album in years...by partying like it's
Has Prince's genius ever been in fuller bloom? Ever since he came up with
that gambit to offer free CDs with concert tickets in 2004, he's been on
a roll. In 2007 alone, he's given us a Super Bowl triumph, highly publicized
residencies in intimate Las Vegas and L.A. venues, and the controversial
giveaway of his latest CD (2.9 million of them!) with a London weekly. Clearly
he's at the peak of his powers that is, as a wily survivor willing to try
any new model of getting music out. Oh, you thought we meant his songs? Yes,
there's...that. With recent albums like 3121 and Musicology sounding like
affably goofy outtakes collections, Prince's brilliance as a self-marketer
has grown in almost inverse proportion to his confoundingly shrinking ambitions
as an artist.
But there's a change in the winds with Planet Earth. It's evenly
split between melodic rock and classic soul, minus the daffy, George
that've lately stood in for actual songs. You say you want the Revolution?
Weh-ell, you know, he's finally doing what he can to recapture some of
that peak-era vibe. Ex-Revolutionaries Wendy & Lisa, long estranged
from the maestro, make cameos; real drums mostly replace canned ones;
and he unleashes
all the guitar eruptions he's been bottling up for years. Though we'll
never get another Purple Rain, it still feels right, in a lavender drought,
settle for something at least approaching another Parade (to name a late-'80s
work only now regarded as unapproachably awesome).
There's a sense of
patience rewarded, hearing the feathery tremolo guitars and female backing
coos in "The One U Wanna C" a slice of pure
pop cut from the same pie as "Raspberry Beret" or the return
of his Delfonics falsetto on "Somewhere Here on Earth" and "Future
Baby Mama." Of all his attempts at rapping, "Mr. Goodnight" is
the first that works, because it could pass for an early-'70s bedroom
recitative. And the one time he lays down serious funk on "Chelsea
by band member Shelby J it isn't 3121's formless party improv but a terrific,
full-on disco stomp.
Prince continues to get his lothario moves on, with
the notable exceptions of the album's bookending tunes, "Planet
Earth" and "Resolution," which
go for globally conscious, peacenik profundity. The title track combines
God and going green about as effectively as Evan Almighty. Still, when
he cements that number's anthemic aspirations with a "Purple"-colored
solo, it's thrilling to know one of pop's indisputable greats is really
trying again and might be taking the recording process as seriously as
disseminating his music. B+
Another not-bad CD - but this time it's free
Most remarkable feature of Prince's
latest album is the manner of its launch
Monday July 16, 2007
Contrary to popular opinion in the form of youngsters texting opinions
to yesterday's Radio 1 breakfast show, the new Prince album, Planet Earth,
not awful. It is not up to the standard of the albums produced during
his 1980s high-water period - Purple Rain, 1999 and Sign 'O' the Times
it is by no means terrible. Of course, to a 15-year-old who only knows
the 49-year-old as an eccentric peripheral figure, his priapic entreaties
songs such as Future Baby Mama and The One U Wanna C will automatically
trigger the "Ewww" mechanism. To anyone else bar obsessive
fans, Planet Earth will be greeted by shrugs.
Prince albums don't generate
much discussion now, and even less airplay. The only reason Radio 1 had
got in there was that Minneapolis's most prolific
pop star had released the CD - his 46th album, counting hits and live
collections - via the unique route of distributing it free through a
Mail on Sunday. Had it not been for the hype, Planet Earth would have
slipped out almost unnoticed, as many of his recent albums have done.
is not that Prince no longer has anything to say. If anything, his mind
seems to be swirling with thoughts, which come as fast as he can
them into lyrics. Trouble is, his primary streams of inspiration -
sex and religion/morality
- just aren't producing the magnificent madness they once did. Nowhere
on Planet Earth is there a "WHAT did he say?" moment along
the lines of When Doves Cry's "Animals strike curious poses, they
feel the heat, the heat between me and you". Instead, there's
quite a bit of "I
know what you want - what every good woman wants!" which is complemented
by equally pedestrian funk twiddles and curlicues.
It's easy listening
- you might even call it easy-listening - but it's not what Prince
was invented for. Nor does he push the right buttons
on the title
track. Given that he named the album Planet Earth, we can take it as
a clue to his current state of mind, which seems to be: worried enough
environment to make the song the opening track (and that is worried
- the sleeve photo, too, captures him brooding over a boiling blue-white
But the song's slow soulish meander and the question it poses - "What
will be left in 50 years?" - is not a patch on Marvin Gaye's far
more elegant, eloquent Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), released in 1971.
album gets closest to the pizzazz of old on Chelsea Rodgers, a female-characterisation
song which, like 1984's Darling Nikki, paints
a picture in sweatily effective
terms: "She's too original from her head down to her feet, still
got a butt like a leather seat." Hip-twitching as it is, it's
filler. If Prince had written Chelsea Rodgers in 1984, he probably
it too slight to appear on that year's Purple Rain album.
are pretty moot, however. While Prince will never entirely be written
off - his gigs are still considered the gold standard of
- his 46th album will mostly be remembered for the hype surrounding
the means of release.
Prince, Planet Earth: * * * 1/2
Retro new wave & R&B
by Steve Jones
Leave it to Prince to go against the grain. While most artists
and labels are going to great lengths to keep music from leaking before
released, Prince gives away 3 million copies of this album in the U.K.
through a newspaper promotion.
If that didn’t get things buzzing,
then the music should, as the guitar-wielding enigma unleashes a torrent
of riotous anthems and funked-up jams. On the title
track, he taps into his vintage ’80s sound while delivering a very
now environmental message. Elsewhere, the grooves don’t stop, whether
being slyly seductive or downright randy.
It may not be 1999 anymore, but
Prince still knows how to party as if it were.
Could it be the shape of things to come? Or could it simply be a one-off act
of mischief perpetrated by an artist with a long-running list of grievances
against those who market his wares? Either way, Prince’s decision to
give away his new album for free in the UK has sent a few more shudders down
the spine of an ailing record industry still struggling to come to terms with
the download revolution. There’s just one small catch: you had to buy
the July 15 edition of The Mail On Sunday. Failing that, it’s also being
handed out, as part of the ticket price, to those attending his upcoming, marathon
stint at London’s newly opened O2 Arena.
With the newspaper reportedly paying £250,000 for the privilege, that
represents a tidy bit of business for somebody whose career had been dribbling
away since the early-‘90s, hitting rock bottom with 2001’s The
Rainbow Children, his jazz-influenced Jehovah’s Witness concept album.
In 2004, however, the unthinkable happened: he bounced back and began to sound
more like the old Prince again.
While Musicology couldn’t hope to match the audacious, pervy, all-singing,
all-dancing, miniature sex god and musical polymath of his more youthful purple
period, it was a decent enough facsimile, one which he reprised for last year’s
3121. Unsurprisingly, Planet Earth is more of the same, both echoing his own
past and occasionally chiming with the more modish likes of OutKast, Kanye
West and Gnarls Barkley, names that he influenced in the first place.
Try as others might, though, nobody else has ever really got close to replicating
what Prince does himself. And across Planet Earth’s brisk and varied
10 tracks, he is once again doing it pretty well, from cocky rock strut (Guitar)
to Chic-style, pumped-up funk (Chelsea Rodgers) and knicker-loosening R&B
beats (Future Baby Mama).
Elsewhere, there’s another playful exercise
in seduction on the lightly rapping Mr. Goodnight, The One U Wanna C is the
of pop stomps, while
Somewhere Here On Earth shows off his still sugar-sweet falsetto in a swooning,
cocktail-jazz setting. Even the misfiring title track possesses a lighters-aloft
sway and blustering guitar finale to fit the stadiums he is once again filling.
At the very least, it’s good to have him back freshly energised and making
music again for the many rather than just the few. As for Planet Earth’s
wider implications on the record business, the next few months should be interesting.
Download: Guitar / Somewhere Here On Earth / Chelsea Rodgers
As playful and adventurous as Prince in his heyday, a thoroughly modern patchwork
of pop, soul, hip hop and more that practically defined the new iTunes era.