Review by: Tristan Peterson
Assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Songs About Fucking… wait
It’s awfully weird listening to a dead man’s sex tape. On top of that, it’s weirder that this dead guy doesn’t have just one sex tape. He has over 55. All of which are graphic in their own way. Whether that way is wonderful or not depends on just how saucy you might be feeling this particular evening. I recommend you feel at least a Ragu before continuing.
Now, I’m assuming that everyone knows just who and what Prince (or whatever you want to fucking call him at this point) is. But in case you don’t know who he is, this is the lowdown:
Prince, born (and presumably died) Prince Rogers Nelson, is effectively the epitome of sex and all sexual things. For all intents and purposes, sex did not exist until the face of this grey Earth was graced with his time here, and we reproduced as if we were some sort of amoebous mass of glop previously. Although his first album, For You, didn’t exactly lead to him exploding onto the scene-it was more a dribble-he was able to cream the r&b/funk/soul/whatever you want to call his music scene with his sophomore self-titled effort. At this point the tale becomes too nuanced for me to really care to tell you what happened, so I’ll skip to the record in question.
Okay, so the album here is N.E.W.S., which stands for North East West South, and, although this album’s cover features the planet Earth, there are no environmental undertones to be found. In fact, this album is entirely instrumental. Also, it is his lowest selling album ever (approximately 30,000 copies sold). Also, there’s the greatest invention in the entire existence of the human race making great features all throughout the album: low quality midi instruments. With all these factors, it just sounds like a total crapshoot, right?
Funnily enough, this album isn’t as much of a crapshoot as you might think. Given, it isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, but it certainly isn’t awful. A big part of the reason behind why this album didn’t sell particularly well is because it is an instrumental record, and who wants to buy a record by a sex god if he doesn’t even vocalize himself in the bed of the music? Certainly not most people. Who wants to bed down for an hour with someone who doesn’t even make a sound, even if they finish?
All joking aside, the real problem is the quality of the instrumentals. In fits and starts, there are quite excellent moments instrumentally. It’s an early 2000s record (specifically 2003), and surprisingly it has the sort of uncomfortable production style I find common with most artists from the era, as if they aren’t quite sure where to go and put it in (the production, that is). So seeing Prince hit this trapfall is not a very good sign for the record at all. The atmospherics on the songs are good, they have a weird iciness to them, which is especially prevalent on the first track, “North.” The instrumentals range from sex music to really interesting atonal jazz fusion breakdowns to really cool and funky jams to more sex music. Now, on those atonal fusion bits, they’re not technically “atonal,” but I don’t want to get into theory discussion very much.
Basically the largest problem with this album is that it’s instrumental. Now, when it gets really interesting and mixed up in those instrumentals, as with the groovefests and the atonal jazz breakdowns, it’s really engaging. But so much of it is just a shitty porn soundtrack, honestly I swear I’ve heard excerpts from these songs before. And no, you can’t ask where and why, I discussed that the last time I reviewed something and it did not exactly go over very well.
Honestly, the worst part of the album is the fact that at points, it is REALLY fucking good! It’s got absolutely stellar musicianship and really can groove as intensely as Prince is known to be able to. But the droll sections of the album (a majority) fall that much harder because of it. It’s more than a little irritating to have some cool groove to become overwashed with those early aughts synths and have it return to the shitty porn soundtrack it-for some reason-so badly wants to be. This weird drift from sublime to subpar leads the album to be more than just a bland disappointment and it becomes just plain bad.
So is it worth actually listening to? I mean, for completists, of course it is. And for those who are willing to give it a good honest chance because “maybe it’s not as bad as he says it is.” Or of course maybe you, the reader, have quite the affinity for porn soundtracks. Or maybe you are so tantalized by the concept of fusion jazz that you are willing to sit through ANYTHING to get another taste.
Otherwise, stay away.
Best track: I’m not listing out different timestamps for the goddamn songs.
Worst track: East