Prince, a musical film in the works

With “Musicology” Prince reclaimed Prince

Twenty years ago Prince published “Musicology”. This album with its r'n'b sounds was so successful that it reached the Top Ten in the sales charts in around ten countries around the world and earned the musician who passed away on 21 April 2016 two Grammy Awards: one for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song “Musicology” and the other as Best Male R&B Vocal Performance thanks to “Call My Name”. Below is our review of the album.

Devil of a Prince. Capable of surprising you with his unpredictable moves, apparently inconsistent but the result of an artistic logic that is absolutely ironclad in its own way, continually put to the test by the – yes – disastrous logics of show business. And then capable of giving you little jewels that reconcile with music, putting aside any discussion or controversy. Take this “Musicology”. We have told you the story of the album extensively in the news: published on the website, it will be commercially distributed by Sony in a few days, bringing Prince back to collaborating with a major label after some time. It is easy – and inevitable – to read this album in “industrial” terms, trying to understand how a complex artist like Prince relates to an equally complex world, in crisis and continuously evolving like that of the music business.

Listening to “Musicology” the point seems different, however, of a purely artistic nature. “Musicology” is a breviary of all the styles that Prince has frequented throughout his career, from funk to soul, to jazz, to rock to pop. In short, Prince is in that phase that artists often go through: after having experimented, taking secondary and/or experimental paths (think of the instrumental “NEWS”), he returns to the fold, to the starting point, but with the experience gained in the meantime.

Proof of this is that at the same time Prince launched an American tour – the first in a long time – dedicated to his “Greatest Hits”. In short, the process is complete: Prince has regained possession of Prince. “Musicology” combines the funk of the title track with the pop of “Illusion, coma, pimp & circumstance” and “Cinnamon girl” (reminiscent of the days of “Raspberry beret”) with the ballads of “A million days” and “Call my name ”, to the rock of “The marrying kind”. And, above all, he does it in a direct and effective way, without losing any of his writing and instrumental arrangement skills, but not even without overdoing it as happened in some moments of the good but long-winded “The rainbow children”.

If we really want to find a flaw in this album, here it is: the songs are all of the highest level, but there is no masterpiece.

No “Purple rain”, “Gold”, “Kiss”, “The cross”, so to speak. An all in all negligible flaw, given the caliber of Prince's repertoire: reaching the level of these songs is difficult, even just getting close is a great undertaking. Another – minimal – flaw is the complete absence of information and credits in the version of the album downloaded on the site. A lack which, one can imagine, will be made up for in the “physical” version that will arrive in stores. But on the other hand, Prince himself was very stingy in talking about this album to the press, preferring to focus on the tour. The few statements released say that, in his opinion, the sound of this album is that of the freedom derived from being an independent artist, who can choose to do what he wants. Sometimes, we add, too much freedom of choice is bad and can lead one astray, as often happened to Prince in the past. But as long as the sound of freedom is this, that of “Musicology”, we will all be happy, and Prince first and foremost because perhaps he will be able to reconcile with an audience that has always loved him but has occasionally lost track of him.