Prince - 'HITNRUN Phase One'
The purple-loving icon follows last year's promising two albums with something more hit and miss
Prince never lost it. The 1990s and 2000s are littered with albums that were dismissed as the work of a once-great, now-irrelevant artist, but which are packed with overlooked gems. Nevertheless it’s true that His Royal Badness has only recently regained his foothold in the mainstream, cannily exploiting retromania in order to slip albums like last year’s excellent ‘Art Official Age’ into the upper reaches of the charts – note how ‘HITNRUN Phase One’ kicks off with a collage of intros from ‘For You’, ‘1999’ and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ before hitting listeners with the new shit. Like ‘Art Official Age’, the album is co-produced by Joshua Welton, who is swiftly distinguishing himself as one of Prince’s most significant collaborators chiefly by joining the dots between the classic ’80s Minneapolis sound and the dancefloor styles of now.
The most successful tracks are located squarely in the party zone. The thunderous bleep‘n’bass of ‘Shut This Down’ evokes ’90s rave-influenced deep cuts like ‘Eye Wanna Melt With U’, ‘The Max’ and ‘Loose’. The haywire stomp of ‘Ain’t About 2 Stop’ (featuring Rita Ora) is along similar lines, while ‘X’s Face’, built upon a rolling synthetic bassline and crunching snares, is the hands-down standout.
The slinkier tracks are more disposable. ‘Fallinlove2nite’ boasts (synthetic) horns reminiscent of Earth, Wind & Fire and a bassline that’s pure Chic, but it’s little more than well-produced filler. ‘This Could Be Us’ is reworked from ‘Art Official Age’ but the new IDM-style arrangement is heavier-handed and less affecting than the original. ‘1000 X’s & 0’s’ is the best of the ‘smooth’ tracks; it’s also the one that sounds most like Prince, rather than Prince with Joshua Welton.
Last year’s double whammy of ‘Art Official Age’ and ‘Plectrumelectrum’ served as a reminder that Prince’s capacity for self-reinvention should not be underestimated. ‘HITNRUN Phase One’, on the other hand, feels like a stop-gap. There’s nothing with the emotional weight of ‘Breakdown’, ‘Waybackhome’ or ‘Whitecaps’, and the overall emphasis is more on groove than songwriting. ‘HITNRUN Phase One’ isn’t one of Prince’s best albums. But neither is it his worst. He hasn’t lost it. He’s just resting it.
Director: Prince, Joshua Welton
Record label: NPG