Scroll To Top

Prince phones it
in for Planet Earth

Prince phones it
in for Planet Earth


The Purple One is still making enjoyable music, but a little change might do him good

Prince says something peculiar on his new album, Planet Earth, and it's easy to worry about. During the otherwise listenable "The Lion of Judah," our sexy little fawn purrs, "I've probably passed my expiration date / But I still adore you."

Truthfully, the man did peak sometime around 1987. That's when his double album Sign 'O' the Times synthesized funk, balladry, and consciousness into an arresting aphrodisiac. However, Prince's watershed successes don't consign him to history books. As the man pushes 50, he continues to produce music that collects flourishes of familiar R&B, hip-hop, and funk while possessing a lethal swoon and an ever-vital throb. His music is so singularly Prince that it's always a dear commodity, no matter how predictable it ends up.

So hearing His Royal Badness bemoan growing pains feels disorienting, even distracting. After all, his last effort, 2006's 3121, offered "Black Sweat, his most sweltering, bossy jam since, oh, "Kiss." He made it plenty easy for listeners to call him older yet no less lusty. But Planet Earth, despite such delectable precursors, pushes its listener to keep considering Prince's expiration date, since so many of the album's 10 tracks replay his trademark poses.

Though Prince remains something of a life force, his albums lately have tended to slip into forgettable mid-tempo cuts and lounge-worthy ballads, and Planet Earth is no exception. Early on we're subjected to the lilting, mega-slow "Somewhere Here on Earth," which croons on and on without any original sentiments. Later, "Future Baby Mama," which would be an awesome, pulsating number that references the Maury show in a better world, phones in with hushes and a recycled beat. Add "Mr. Goodnight" ("All over the world, people call me Prince / But you can call me Mr. Goodnight"), and you may have a recipe for boredom. Not to mention a lame, cocky lyric. Worst of all, these songs hardly seem plunked in the present--they sound like B sides that could've sailed alongside filler on either 3121 or Prince's 2004 comeback, Musicology.

But past-evoking is also welcome, occasionally. The faux-angsty, gleefully stupid "Guitar" whips some spitfire back into the mix. The song conjures the bump and bounce of 3121's "Lolita" without that pesky Nabokov reference smarting things up. And the rollicking "The One U Wanna C" reminds us of two things: One, Prince will forever spell how he damn well pleases; two, he's game to reference disgusting titles of old hits ("I don't want to waste your time / If you wanna get creamy"). And there's something in the playful longing here that's very "I Would Die 4 U"--the heat, the immediacy, the hollers. A definite highlight.

Planet Earth's title track may be the best of the bunch, thanks to topical war commentary and mushroom-cloud drums that pummel the song's twinkling piano. The message conjures "Sign 'O' the Times," even if it lacks that masterpiece's entrancing beat. Is it all enough to forget the album's middling material? Certainly not, since the album's lack of firm direction only certifies it as an unsurprising follow-up to 3121. Prince unquestionably stamps his identity and vitality all over Planet Earth, but few can say this album marks new progress in his oeuvre, which has recently hit a plateau. But as he validates his signature sound with each new work, perhaps what's most reassuring remains Prince's commitment to his musical pulse. Thankfully, he's not expired--he's just self-satisfied.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Louis Virtel