Weirdness has always been a part of pop music and in particular, a part of the pop personas behind the music: from David Bowie’s Martian Ziggy Stardust to Marc Bolan’s makeup and glitter, Lady Gaga’s meat dress to Miley Cyrus’s questionable dance moves.
What the younger generation seems to have forgotten is that as a musician, you must have the actual music to go along with the star-making persona—or else that persona is just an empty shell.
Prince—formally known as a random symbol—grew into his weirdness. It wasn’t until his 1982 classic 1999 that he showed up on stage in billowy pirate shirts, crushed velvet and boots with heels. But Prince never forgot that the music comes first, even before all the clothes.
This has never been more true than on HITnRUN phase one, his 32nd album and third in the past two years. On this album, he not only remembers that the music comes first, as it did in the past, but also has a keen eye (a third eye, as the cover shows) for the future. Like the two-headed god Janus, Prince sees all.
On the first half of the album, he shows a certain modernity, with the swagger, bravado, and maybe most importantly, beats inspired by today’s hip-hop scene.
The opening track “Million $ Show” offers fans a sense of nostalgia as Prince mirrors the opening of his 1984 classic, Purple Rain, with the lines, “Dearly beloved / We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” It also provides a good look into the sound of the album: He sticks to his mix of rock and funk, but with some slick updates. Former backup singer Judith Hill dominates the song—along with a slap base and great guitar work. The track is punctuated by xylophone percussion and Prince’s sense of humor. Through vocal effects, he speak to an excited, imaginary crowd (“No running / There are enough seats for everyone”). “Million $ Show” is an ode to how people feel about music and a declaration of how you should feel about his. It is brilliant.
“Ain’t About to Stop” is a grand display of Princian bravado. Over the robotic beat he declares, “I come from north mini / And I never run from any / And I ain’t about to start right / if your life is the b-side / my dream is the a.” You can never be him, so don’t try.
The second half of the album shows a softer side to the his purple majesty, if only a little.
On “This Could B Us,” he uses a heavy beat, delicate piano, and his stellar guitar to convince a lover to give him a chance.
“FALLINLOVE2NITE” is one the album’s genuine club jams with a 90s house beat, horns, and a heroine who almost “dances out her shoes,” because, you know, the moon and stuff. While it may not make much sense, the track has bounce.
“HARDROCKLOVER” is Prince’s ode to rock music. He compares it to a lover as his guitar wales. It’s worth a listen just for the guitar.
In truth, there are no mediocre songs on this record, just songs that are less great than the others and most of those happen in the second half.
On, “SHUT THIS DOWN,” he declares that he came to (you guessed it) shut this down. As the song describes, Prince shut down the club down, and he did it so hard it evidently has been closed for six months already. You’ve only heard about it through word of mouth, but word is it had some of the best drugs and DJs you’ve never heard of. This album is just another jewel in Prince’s crown that reads “legend.”
Featured Image by NPG Records