Planet Earth
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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). Wily bastard



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.

—Gail Mitchell


NME.COM hears new Prince album
'Planet Earth' gets our initial verdict
15.Jul.07 2:14pm

Prince kicked up a storm of controversy when he decided to release his 24th studio album 'Planet Earth' through a national Sunday newspaper.

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 its 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:

'Planet Earth'
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 with a 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 my guitar."

'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".

'Mr Goodnight'
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 jet".

'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.

'Chelsea Rodgers'
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?".


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
Purple Heart

HIGHLIGHT: Prince delivers his best album in partying like it's 1980-something again.

Planet Earth

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 Clinton-type jams 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, to 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 Rodgers," sung 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 he takes 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

Caroline Sullivan
Monday July 16, 2007
The Guardian

Contrary to popular opinion in the form of youngsters texting opinions to yesterday's Radio 1 breakfast show, the new Prince album, Planet Earth, is 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 - but 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 on 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 newspaper, the 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.

It 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 shape 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 about the environment to make the song the opening track (and that is worried - the sleeve photo, too, captures him brooding over a boiling blue-white globe). 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.

The 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 would have judged it too slight to appear on that year's Purple Rain album.

These points are pretty moot, however. While Prince will never entirely be written off - his gigs are still considered the gold standard of live performance - 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 it’s 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 he’s being slyly seductive or downright randy.

It may not be 1999 anymore, but Prince still knows how to party as if it were.


Planet Earth
[3 stars]

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 jolliest
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. PETER KANE

Download: Guitar / Somewhere Here On Earth / Chelsea Rodgers

Further Listening

Gnarls Barkley
St Elsewhere
(Warners, 2006)

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.