Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Ending the discovery on HitNRun EP was such a bummer. Latter-day Prince seems incredibly overwrought compared to his 80s and 90s output (and even his vaulted albums). So far, we've had three posthumous Prince albums (not including rereleases), Piano And A Microphone, which was a live album, Originals, which is a collection of singles and demos of Prince singing songs he wrote for other artists, and Welcome To America, easily the best of the trio.
There's not much for me to do with Piano And A Microphone. It's a live album, and not even a particularly well produced one. Nothing on it jumped out to me as Necessary. And I've sprinkled some of the tracks from Originals on previous albums because the tracks have been around forever, they just didn't have their own album in the real world.
I decided to combine this most recent album with the HitNRun EP that I had already made. Look, there was no way to use 21st century Prince songs to make something as good as Sign O'The Times or anything. But this is a much more fun album to go out on than the previous version. The grungey somewhat overproduced HitNRun EP benefits from the more open and breezily mixed tracks from Welcome To America. I would much rather listen to this album than either of the real world counterparts that make it up.
Welcome To America is the obvious opening track for this album. Prince starts off going after capitalism with some moderately cheesy lyrics. It's catchy. It really wants to be Gil Scot Heron good, but it definitely sounds like an old person talking about modern things (modern being early 2010s) while using slogans from the late 80s and early 90s. It's still good, but without the music this would sound like a sloganeering slam poem that Old Heads would shit talk relentlessly when they got together.
Fixurlifeup sounds like a Foo Fighters track. A really good one. The lyrics are generic fixyourlifeup bumper sticker wisdom. But the guitar is a buzzing wasp, killing everything in its path.
My previous version of this album (The HitNRun EP) closed with Revelation but Welcome To America deserves better. This is some 90s sex under a waterfall music video with Kenny G on horns. It's really good for what it is, as it definitely sounds more Of An Era than an Outdated Shell Of A Song. Like, this SHOULD have been released in the 90s. People would have Fucked to this song, which is what Prince would have wanted. People still might be fucking to this song, but they're probably moving slow because they have to not because they're trying to be erotic. Nobody is breaking a hip to this song.
Break out your pompoms for Yes, it's got crunchy guitars but kind of bland sing-along vocals. Prince sings bass harmonies under the lead, and it's ... a choice. It's simultaneously a very late 80s and very late 90s production sound where the vocals feel like they're sitting in the wrong section of the mix, and all of the instruments are at the wrong volume. It's still a head bopper but with better production it could actually be good instead of just listenable.
There was a version of When She Comes on the HitNRun EP but this is not that version. That was a kind of overproduced definitely 21st century erotic Prince song. This version is Classic Prince. The instruments are stripped down. The harmonies are flawless. The lyrics are filthy. This is easily one of the best 21st century Prince songs. It could have been put out at any time in his career. Thank God for the return of Prince's falsetto erotic balladeering.
Another song from the previous version, Whitecaps is a loud bass and slamming drums song with an almost Porno For Pyros underwater instruments feel. Until the guitars kick in, it's difficult to realize this is a Prince track. He's barely a background vocalist here but it eventually morphs into recognizably Prince.
The song floats right into Stopthistrain. It's almost a continuation of the previous track, but now we at least get Prince harmonizing to Hannah Ford-Welton's lead vocals. The brief, echoey breakdown near the close of this track was probably the best part of the 3rdeyegirl portion of this album.
The lick of a bass. Prince shows up. Talking about his old days, taking the stage in our underwear. Who can help but Stare at Prince when he's on stage? And now that we've put the proper funk into the music, we're in familiar territory. He even pulls out the "Kiss" lick to remind us who he was. Ok. But who are you now, Mr. Nelson?
The keyboard intro for 1010 (Rin Tin Tin) is another case of This Could Be Prince From Anywhen. The lyrics are 21st century but the production is so much cleaner than most of the rest of this album. I would put this on a Best Of Prince album if I had to represent each of his albums.
Another Lover starts out with an almost Tom Morello riff before descending into ... Incubus? When I was writing about this for the previous incarnation of this album, I mentioned how itneresting it was to hear someone who influenced so much of modern music turn around and be influenced by the artists who came after him. Often it doesn't work at all. I think Duran Duran's Thank You was the first album where I thought bands should really stick to covering the songs from before they started making music, not the songs that came after them. This song isn't a cover, but it definitely sounds like Prince trying to capture a sound that has evolved past him. I still like it but it sounds like A Band With Vocals By Prince as opposed to A Prince Song.
Plumelectric is straight up the licks from Rage Against The Machine's "Revolver" slightly retooled. Morello could have definitely sued him for credit as a songwriter. It's a banger, but, again, not precisely a Prince song even though it's definitely his fingers absolutely destroying the guitar in a late 90s grunge fashion.
Here we go, Prince wants to make this woman scream in Hardrocklover which is half slow jam, half rock track. All Prince. This is the first production that sounds 2010s. It could also be a Frank Ocean track. Beyonce could be on vocals here. But, again, it's completely Prince on guitar.
Now that all that heavily bassed guitar portion of the album is over, it's time for hand claps and harmonies with a 90s Prince feel instead of a 90s grunge feel. Same Page Different Book is Prince singing about war and religion, which he felt passionately about but never wrote particularly well. The lyrics to this song are ... fine. They're not going to explode your head. It has that "Yea, I Said It" feel without actually presenting any challenging ideas. But it feels good to listen to. The funk guitar is On Point.
Running Game (Son Of A Slave Master) is the best middle finger song on the album. It achieves what many of the rest of the songs on the actual version of Welcome 2 America aspired to. Nothing earth shattering or that you couldn't have heard at the average poetry slam before the pandemic but it feels better conceived than the other tracks.
The album Has To Close with One Day We Will All Be Free. It's just a great optimistic sounding closing track with lyrics that defy the optimistic music and title. It's the inverse of Jason Mraz's "Life Is Wonderful" where the lyrics are all about how great everything is while the vocals and instrumentation make it sound like someone is holding a gun to the head of Mraz's favorite dog. This is a false flag song that doesn't seem to believe in its title. And then it closes with that buzzy amp sound that filled most of the HitNRun era tracks. It's a phenomenal end to this particular album.