Sound: Given the exclusivity of this album (tentatively released in England, Scotland and Germany only), the nature of it's release (free give-away within newspapers) and the controversy surrounding it (Prince's declaration of the Internet being dead) it's fair to say that both Prince's fans and detractors are waiting with baited breath to either worship his return to form or attack. Lesser musicians may have cracked under the pressure, but this is Prince; ever the showman, he managed to cause a stir and create a solid album that will remind all why he made it big in the first place.
Put simply, this is textbook Prince; that may sound like a criticism, but after years of filed experimentation and lacklustre song writing, it couldn't be a more refreshing thing to hear. As ever, Prince manages to defy real classification, skipping from genre to genre in single tracks, melding his trademark grinding drum machine loops with synths, the occasional searing guitar solo such as that on "Beginning Endlessly" and a sense of style and flair that, in all fairness, he did first. // 8
Lyrics: This area perhaps lets Prince down, if only slightly; it would be hard to say that Prince has really progressed in the lyrical department. Lyrics still consist of harsh juxtapositions between crude innuendo's and romantic gestures, with the odd politically-charged line thrown in for good measure, as if he just feels it's the right thing to do. But really, what more does anyone want from a pop album? To put things in perspective, it's about as enlightening lyrically as anything in the charts right now. Fans won't complain, and (generally) those looking for intelligent, thought-provoking words wouldn't have looked here in the first place. Thankfully the vocals themselves are as good as ever, with a 52-year-old Prince still able to hit all the right notes, never relying on one vocal style for too long; falsetto, breathy whispers and cheeky, tongue-in-cheek lyrics manage pull this one back. // 7
Overall Impression: As stated before, this album has certainly garnered more attention than many like it, and thankfully it packs the goods to meet that hype. There are better places to start for the uninitiated, and in years to come this will still be overshadowed by "Purple Rain" and "Sign O' The Times" but for those fans who've watched album after album be churned out, with seemingly little regard for what the fans want ("N.E.W.S" was hardly one for the pop lovers out there), this is undoubtedly the return to form we were all hoping for. If Prince sticks to his plans to not release this in shops or online, it's highly likely that many people won't ever hear this album... That would be a shame; here we have the perfect example of The Purple One doing what he loves, and what made us love him in the first place. // 8