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Prince

20Ten


[NPG; 2010]



By ; July 12, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

I like to think I wasn’t the only person who put 20Ten in their CD player on Saturday and proclaimed “Holy fuck! 77 tracks!?.” Come Saturday evening as I was leaving work I got talked into buying The Daily Record for the free new Prince album that came along with it. Less than the price of an iTunes track, what did I have to lose other than a mere 65p? I dropped into the express supermarket on the way home and sheepishly bought myself one. When I got home I told my brother to pause his current iTunes track as I had a new CD. He saw what it was and smirked and allowed me to continue loading the CD into the stereo. After my surprising assertion about the number of tracks I awkwardly yet excitedly hit play. Ten minutes and less than four tracks into the album my brother turned off the stereo.

Honestly I couldn’t blame him. I barely noticed him actually. I had become so passive to the music that I had actually started to read the dire journalism in the newspaper which gave me this CD. And The Daily Record isn’t much a paper to get engrossed in. In fact calling it a newspaper is hugely inaccurate statement for the waste of dog’s toilet paper that it is. What’s even more depressing and confusing is a quote from Prince apparently saying “I’m so proud my new record is in the Record.” For some reason I can’t picture him even giving the Record a passing glance were he to be shown a display of all the possible papers he could release 20Ten with. But after hearing (and even enduring) 20Ten in its entity, I wouldn’t blame every other paper for not wanting to be associated with this.

Before getting to the music on 20Ten I have to bring into question the manner in which Prince is releasing it. He claims “the internet is dead” as a way to release music but the inevitable irony of it is that because he’s not releasing it in beyond Europe, a fair majority of listeners will be hearing this via uploads on the internet. In one sense I can respect Prince for putting a little more emphasis on the material product but when you actually have the final product in your hand it’s so pathetic it looks like a cheap job done by a bedroom band. The cardboard sleeve is flimsy and likely to crease if you exert the smallest amount of pressure on it while the cover art itself is a horrid mix of unfinished and pasted sketches.

In a way the album art is a good representation of the music on the CD but not in a good way. Instead of actual Prince we get what appears to be a sort of Prince-by-numbers. It’s like someone had all the elements of what could make up an average Prince album loaded onto a computer and then used them to somehow create something much less than average. But the fact is this is Prince all the way (“Produced, Arranged, Composed & Performed by Prince” so claims the back of the CD sleeve) and that’s what makes it all the more depressing to listen to. The end result is a collection of songs all hollow and lacking in any sort of over-zealous sexual flair that made Prince the exciting artist he’s remembered as today.

With a near countless amount singles under his belt it’s hard to bring into doubt Prince’s ability to put together a good song, or at least a pretty awesome one. But what 20Ten screams for is something to give it any sort of identity. The polished drum machines, the squelchy synths, the restrained guitar, the tinny horns and the lifeless backing vocals all come to equate a record so generic and lacking in any real hooks that it becomes a chore to have to press play again on my stereo.

There are hints of promise that seep through but because they are surrounded by the same lacklustre backdrops they can’t break free. Hidden track “Laydown” has sleazy atmosphere and the weird-ass lyrics of “purple Yoda” (“from Minnesota”) don’t even detract attention too much. All it screams for is bitchin’ guitar solo but after all the 67 individual tracks of silence nothing comes except an ending cut short. “Lavaux” is pretty solid in terms of the content here but unfortunately it comes at a point where all the tracks start melding into each other and the latter half of the album sounds like on incredibly overlong lame jam. Vocally Prince gives a good performance but his voice is so toned down it just sits there amongst the music, not even flailing. When the superfluous final section of closer “Everybody Loves Me” comes his voice has fallen to an almost monotonous tone. But when you actually hear the song you’ll likely be too warped by the sheer ugly cheesiness of the thing you’ll be too busy wiping away the tears your stereo started bleeding out.

And it’s the clunky bad numbers which really draw your attention away from the few passable moments. Opener “Compassion” is a cumbersome and messy number driven by those horrid drum machines (seriously, someone get this man a real drummer) while “Walk In Sand” sounds exactly like you’d expect a song like “Walk In Sand” to sound, complete with slower pace, falsetto and twinkling piano and chimes. “Sticky like Glue” sounds like the typical sexual reference title you’d expect for Price but it comes off more embarrassing as he works his way through some weak funk and spoken rap.

Perhaps I just had my expectations too high. But they weren’t too high really; I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. There were adverts in other newspapers all week ahead of the album’s release but when those adverts come with recommendations from Paolo Nutini, your faith in the record can only diminish. But I was expecting to at least take a little enjoyment from it, to just revel in some hugely zany guitar solos and glam rock. I was, like many, expecting Prince to return to his old days when he went over the top and didn’t care. And while he still doesn’t sound like he cares about what others think, he never sounds like he’s even being risqué. When he breaks it down on numerous songs he doesn’t do much more than play safely inside the same key. Hell I can’t even recall a single guitar solo. Not one. And he had a whole 77 tracks to nail one.


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