Crowned Prince

An excerpt from Hilton Als’s new essay on the artist:

[Prince] wanted to be a boy and play in the world of corporate politics. He split with his record label, albums were released under other names, all that twisted righteousness forsaken so Prince could approximate being less a freak and more a man in the eyes of those white men he disparaged but must have admired for what they had that so few colored boys ever have: power. Maybe Prince was trying on power like he’d try on garters or fishnets. But he didn’t jettison the suit — or his suit — fast enough to win me back. And if it hadn’t been for the love of others, I might never have forgiven him. So until I met him, I saw Prince only through other people — when I saw him at all. He was like a bride who had left me at the altar of difference to embrace the normative. Could my queer heart ever forgive him?.

But all that gender and race was in the past. By the time Prince sat in his dressing room in St. Louis going over a few things with his security guard before I was allowed to enter, he had become someone else. Gone were the panties and the towering hairdos; they had been replaced, in recent years, by relatively tame suits, Borsalinos, and discreet pendants. Gone, too, was his nervous synthesis of black soul beats and white rock riffs; if Musicology was about anything at all, it was about the nostalgia Prince — and his audience — had for those presampling days when soul was soul, not pasteurized rap, and when Prince had been a phenomenon. And it was either because his audience was older, or Prince was older, or the music industry itself had grown older — and more embattled and more segregated along the way — that Prince, once the most forward-looking of artists, had entered the Negro music ghetto he once disavowed. Now he even dressed the part.

Joseph McCombs sounds off on Prince's latest single, seen above:

"All these computers and digital gadgets are no good,” Prince declared in an interview two years ago. And that was before the mercurial mononym subjected the Internet to "Rock & Roll Love Affair," his first new release since 20Ten and his most disappointing since The Rainbow Children. His Purpleness has never been afraid of calling back to his catalog, but never before has he sounded so dated as in this “When You Were Mine” retread with phoned-in guitar work, uninterested vocals and a powerless New Power Generation backing him. It’s encouraging that Prince is once again embracing the digital delivery of music, but here’s hoping that whatever comes next from him has lyrics more clever than this somnambulent tale of the fated relationship between a rocker guy and his girl who "believed in fairy tales and princes." (Or is that Princes?)