Album Review: Prince, ’20Ten’ (NPG)

You can only hear this by buying a copy of The Mirror. Don't bother

Since his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, [a]Prince[/a] is far from the man who, in 1982, “sincerely want[ed] to fuck the taste out of your mouth”. These days he’s more likely to wash it out with soap and sell you a Watchtower

The 52-year-old gets mad when judged by his sexual and musical revolutionary past, though he himself invites these comparisons: ‘20Ten’ opens with ‘Compassion’, a pale imitation of ‘1999’’s futurist jitter-funk, and of the album from which such questionable mouth-fucking chat-ups come. Prince today? A Xerox of a Xerox.

He’s also temporally challenged – not only loudly pronouncing the internet over (the print media, meanwhile, in the form of the Daily Mirror, already giving the album away for free, thanked Prince by – amazingly! – proclaiming it his best in 23 years…), but for sagely decreeing, on ‘Act Of God’, that taxes go to build bomb-dropping planes “Supposedly to keep us safe from Saddam.” Not so much of a threat these days since being hanged in December 2006, though, is he?

Then again, Prince has always lived in a different world. That was great when he effortlessly threw out mind-melting reconfigurations of pop likes ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’; but ‘effortless’ is a very different thing from ‘making no effort’…

‘20Ten’ has its moments: ‘Sticky Like Glue’ masquerades as a stop-start chicken-scratcher, before Prince drops a hideous rap and forgets to write an ending; ‘Walk In Sand’ is a lovely quiet storm ballad… apart from that photocopier noise.

Typically perverse, he buries the best, ‘Laydown’, in “hidden” territory, camouflaged as uncredited track 77. With complex synth lines and a convincing rap, Prince calls himself “the Purple Yoda” on a spooky, ragged cut that hints at those once-otherworldly powers.

His best album in 23 years? No way. His best in four? Eh, go on then; but that’s a bit like saying, “I had my best acid trip ever because this time my nan didn’t crawl up my leg with a Bowie knife in her teeth, threatening to cut my nuts off and feed them back through my nose.”

We don’t expect – or even want – another ‘Housequake’, but the least his majesty could do is more than phone in snooze-funk for a presumably hefty advance from a newspaper. Then again, it seems Prince has been more interested in studying popular science: “All of the same minerals and chemicals of space/You carry within your womb/That’s how we got to this place,” he informs his lover, suggesting, if such cosmological ponderings turn her on, perhaps he could be allowed to explore her anatomy. Boy, how those seduction techniques have changed…

Jason Draper