ART OFFICIAL AGE (2014)
Listen to ART OFFICIAL AGE for free here.
I pre ordered Art Official Age 2 weeks ago, and today is the day that it arrived on my Samsung Galaxy phone, with much excitement, I thought lets listen to the songs and do a review at the same time. With previous reviews I had listened to the albums for years and years, so this would be something different. The other “diversion” is that instead of going in a certain order (I started with For You and have worked backwards), I thought I would take a break from that and just review these albums now rather than wait until I got to the end which would be – who knows! forever maybe! Prince just had so many albums.
As his first album for 4 years, I was pretty excited to hear Art Official Age, some of the songs like Breakfast can wait, I have heard before and that doesn’t fill me with much confidence, to be honest I really dislike that song. But, Prince has the habit of surprising me from time to time, and I have bought every single record he has ever made, so I think it’s worth carrying the tradition here – even if this is just a digital download.
So lets go!
Art official cage
Apart from this being a strange name for a song, it’s an interesting start to Prince’s first “official” album for 4 years since Twenty10. It’s weird in a Princely kind of way. EyeNo from Lovesexy comes to mind, but slightly less interesting and a lot less exciting than that song. First thing you notice about this song, is the mind numbingly horrible, incredibly bad vocals that are treated or fast forwarded in so many ways. You are hoping (and maybe praying) that the rest of the album doesn’t have these horrible vocals sprinkled throughout. It would make ART OFFICIAL AGE (or is it artificial age – oh very clever there Prince!), unlistenable. How can I put it, the song itself aint bad, its very “disco” – this is the way I think I would describe it, but with a mystical feeling to it as well. It’s also quite catchy, there seems to be a short Tony M rap which is pretty random, and sounds like a bit of DubStep with a bit of comedy, and Lemon Crush type ending thrown in there for good measure. For those of you who don’t know who Tony M is (see my review of Diamonds and Pearls to get a flavour), he’s a proper 90’s bad rapper who slightly degraded and almost destroyed the albums where he was present, but now is a figure of fun for most Prince fans – me included. Luckily Tony M’s presence on this song is mercilessly short. Anyway, an interesting, if not unexpected start to the album, leading to the next song …
This is a proper song, in the UK we say that if we like a song, its real funky in all senses of the word. Strange lyrics and weird vocals, I think Prince is struggling vocally these days to be honest, maybe he’s trying to be too intricate? Anyway, the song is pretty excellent though, what stands it out is the funky beat and bass line and I must say that I’m enjoying this one right now (this is my first listen). Just to give you a picture, right now, I have my headphones on and as I’m typing I am nodding my head to this classic – as sure sign of success for a guy my age.
As before, the problem is the vocal work and lack of melody, or interesting chorus – this is my first listen and it may grow on me. But he likes to talk about being in “this age”, probably a religious reference of some type – or does he mean in this Art Official Age? Spooky…
A British singer is talking to him about “medication”, and supposing that he has been on “medication” for 45 years, kind of weird, I like her voice a lot though – I don’t know who she is but her voice is sexy and I could understand Prince wanting her on the record. The lyric “the kiss on the neck that she doesn’t expect” is sung several times, its sweet and qute, and overall a pretty powerful song. Enjoyable (thumbs up for this one I say).
Breakdown is the next song, a bit of a come down after “Clouds”, a very high falsetto and piano introduction, talking about having a house with the biggest house with the biggest pool (a statement on materiality?) and the pretty depressing chorus, keep “breaking me down down down” and then another verse about how his life “used to be”, and you see the message here… Anyway, for the most part a pretty dull song, sung by a grumpy old man, get over it please – your rich and famous! At 2.14 it’s mercilessly quite short, so we move on quickly…
The Gold Standard
Sounds a bit old school, a “Dirty Mind/Head” type of synth break sound in there and funky guitar strumming, all the ingredients for a Prince classic. Waiting for the catchy song to start… and I keep waiting, and waiting…
Its not a bad “background” music, but it’s an inoffensive, basic type of track, with an excellent title and pretty vanilla sound to it – basically going no where.
Some low pitched, OH YEAH, sex type vocals, but its so SAFE and not very DIRTY, indeed it’s very basic so much so that its kind of a meh moment… Could have been OK, but this is Prince playing it safe. The good thing about Prince releasing so much music in one day is that you can stop listening to a bad song and just move onto the next one quick.
So to summarise, so far I have heard one good song, 2 bad ones, and a weird one, so far I’m so pleased.
Even some of Prince classic albums have the odd bad song in them, Melody Cool, Arms of Orion, etc. so I will just move on.
Better. Kind of in the “weird” category, like the first song “Cage”, but I must say, I’m hating the weird autotune vocals, however, if you forget the vocals, and just listen to the music, its pretty darn good, I like that girl that says “a-huh” in the background and I like the whole flow of this so I keep listening… Things improve when he starts with the falsetto, and it’s a kind of a “sex” song, but (in this case) for geriatrics. But like Clouds before it, sounding nice and funky, there is still is no discernible chorus – this is possibly on of those slow growers, I will need to listen to it a few more times. I must say, not every song needs a catchy chorus (The Ballad of Dorothy Parker is a classic with no real chorus), but the song has to be amazing – perhaps “U Know” will be one of those songs. Overall, this is the most “natural” and Princey of the songs, and probably the best song I’ve heard on the album so far… So not too bad, lets get to the next one..
Breakfast can wait
Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this song, I’ve heard the song and actually seen the video, neither of which I liked. The song is about as bad as “incense and candles” from Musicology, and if you read the review from that album, you will know how much I hate that song. Anyway, I don’t hate this song as much, but it’s just not very good, and is one of a very many bland type of songs that Prince is releasing these days. In fact I would say that this is about as bland as it gets for Prince full stop. It’s a proper surprise to see this make the light of day on an official Prince release. The Donald Duck falsetto is pretty embarrassing. A perfect supermarket muzak type of time filler. You know with that awesome afro on the cover and Lennon type glasses I had higher hopes. This is Bad (and not in the Michael Jackson sense).
This could be us
Another easy listening song, but a much higher quality than Breakfast before it. As far as ballads go, this is not too bad, but not being a fan of his ballads, I listen a bit more and hover my finger on the “next” button. I do get through to the end eventually and all I can say is that you need to be in the mood for sure. And it’s not bad to be honest, but not great either – very generic.
However, as this is just a first listen, I think this one could also grow on me – I keep thinking of “Walk in the sand” from twenty10, hated at first, now I love it – so it will be worth another few listens later.
What it feels like
Has prince Forgotten about chords on Art Official Age? This song is a pretty safe song with (probably) one chord repeated, a hypnotic drum machine, with him and another girl saying “this is what it feels like” many times. So we waited 4 years for a song that feels a bit like it was put together in 10 minutes? Maybe another grower, but not feeling it right now..
Affirmation I & II
A British woman talking about uploading “affirmations” into your temple, reminding me of the trash that The Rainbow Children talked about, but I do like the sexy British accent. Lucky it’s a short segue.
Way Back Home
A song with some potential, Prince’s “normal” non-falsetto, non-sped up voice. And yes I do like this song. It’s easy listening like the other songs, but this one sounds more interesting as the song sounds a bit less preachy (apart the lyric most people in this world were born dead, but I was born alive), lol I’m sure that means something to Prince. But I do like the way this song builds up, and it even has some “chords”, its still pretty downbeat and I feel like I am listening to an basically “easy listening” album (apart from the first weird disco song). I really do like this song though and will listen to it again soon J/
So what’s this? A LOUD song, for the first time in a while. Sounds like one of the bad songs from Diamonds and Pearls (like “Push”). The fast forward voice is back. This is Prince bringing his PARTY TO US. Probably would sound OK in a party, but not great over my headphones, and probably won’t get many listens from me this point forward. Weak songwriting is the only way to describe this poor time filler..
Wow, I mean wow. First proper soul and funk song on the Art Official Age. I really feel this song, the ingredients from the other songs are there (one chord only, basic drum machine beat, mid tempo, no catchy chorus), but this song is proper funk and soul. I think if I was high I would be floating along with this song, its about splashes and dreaming. It has a touch of “If I was your girlfriend”, particularly the slap bass funk. Unlike the other songs on the album, I get it. This is proper funk, I mean proper, and it shows us that Prince is still a funky man when he wants to be – why couldn’t you make more songs like this?? Put this on repeat. Quality stuff. Art Official Age really starting to lift off at this stage!
Unlike I and II, this is an actual song. The British woman, sounds like the operating system in “Her”, and she’s probably someone famous, but I love her voice. She and he are moving telepathically. I got to say, I really like this song. It’s a surprising song to listen to, it doesn’t sound like a Prince song but it feels like movie sound track – and maybe that’s why I like it. This aint no “lady cab driver”, but it really does showcase that Prince can be a powerful songwriter when he wants to be.
And there endeth the album, Starts off OK, lots of filler in the middle, and ends with me wanting more. I guess I don’t understand Prince sometimes, and Art Official Age is a perfect example of how one artist can make some of the best music ever and then some of the worst in one album. What is more disappointing, is that this is one of Prince’s longest breaks since his last official release, Twenty10, and you would have thought he would have had a higher selection of quality songs at his disposal to put on one album… If I was to be honest, I still prefer Twenty10 and LotusFlower (first disc) to this, but I gave those two albums many more listens. The good news is that while it feels a bit retro, it is not as bad as MPLS. I don’t know, is the verdict on this record – I think everyone can make up their own minds. A future review will probably come after I’ve listened to Art Official Age a few more times. Now onto my next purchase, PlectrumElectrum!
SCORE FOR ART OFFICIAL AGE: 5 out of 5 (The best Princr album of the last 10 years!)
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