The years were opaque and inscrutable at times. In 1998 the album Newpower Soul was released under the moniker New Power Generation. The symbol was clearly visible on the album cover and the term The Artist was used to promote the album.
New Power Generation
The name “New Power Generation” was officially used for the first time in 1991 to name the backup band for Prince. In the coming years the band made music under their own moniker as well. That music was largely provided and written by Prince, taking on production duties as well. Often Prince would play on the albums as well, using a pseudonym.
The first New Power Generation album was released in 1993: Goldnigga, in 1995 followed by Exodus. Both albums were hard to get, even though the latter received an official release in Europe.
On June 30, 1998, the Newpower Soul album by New Power Generation was released. It was released by NPG Records in cooperation with BMG. The album is credited to New Power Generation, yet it differed quite a lot from the previous two albums:
- is explicitly named
- is prominently pictured on the cover
- The symbol is clearly visible on the cover
- The vocals are handled by
- In advertising campaigns the name “The Artist” was used to identify the performer (“The Artist” as in the abbreviation of “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”)
- The tours for the album were done by The Artist (or ) And The New Power Generation
Within the Prince community the album leads to some debate whether or not Newpower Soul isn’t in fact a Prince/ album. Since the album is filed under Prince in my own cd collection since its original release, placed between The Truth and the compilation The Vault… Old Friends 4 Sale, I treat this album as a Prince/ release.
The online Prince encyclopedia Princevault treats the album as a release by a satellite act, because the album itself isn’t officially credited to Prince/, which may very well be the correct way.
The album collided with ‘s desire to revive the careers of Chaka Khan, Larry Graham and Doug E. Fresh (a.o.). To that end, Newpower Soul was also available as a part of the so-called Newpowerpak, which not only consisted of Newpower Soul, but also contained the NPG Records albums by Chaka Khan (Come To My House ) and Larry Graham (GCS 2000). Both albums contained songs written by , were produced and were distributed by BMG.
The album spawned one single: Come On. The One, for which a video was shot, directed by Mayte Garcia (‘s spouse), was available as a promo only single. On February 20, 1998, an announcement on Love4OneAnother.com stated that was contemplating the first single of the album, limiting the choice between Mad Sex, Newpower Soul and Push It Up.
Initially the album contained The Good Life (Big City Mix) as the sixth song on the album. The first copies of the album had a back cover numbering the songs from 1 to 5 and from 7 on onwards. On the following pressings this glitch was rectified.
The Newpower Soul album received bad reviews and sold poorly (135,000+ copies worldwide), despite the huge media attention that was generated for the album.
The term “new power soul” has a rather long history. In 1988 the term was first audible as part of the lyrics to Alphabet St., the first single off the Lovesexy album. In 1992 the term was used in the song Love 2 The 9’s (off the O(+> album). In 1995 New Power Soul was the title to a song on the New Power Generation album Exodus.
Song by song
All songs written by (credited to New Power Generation), unless stated otherwise. The album was recorded at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota between May 1997 and February 1998.
Not the same song as New Power Soul, that was part of the second New Power Generation album, Exodus. That’s probably the reason for the divergent spelling of “new power”. The song re-uses the music of the New Power Generation song Big Fun and contains a rap that recites all the song titles on the album. The song The Good Life is also named, but that song was pulled from the album at the last minute.
(written by Kirk Johnson, credited to New Power Generation)
Up-tempo funky song where makes his voice sound like a ‘cool’ person, as he used to do for The Time.
Recorded between mid-November and December 1997.
Until U’re In My Arms Again
An emotional ballad, which addresses the tragic death of and Mayte’s son in late 1996.
The song contains orchestration by Clare Fischer, recorded in Los Angeles.
When U Love Somebody
Poppy song that utilizes two horn sections. Next to the frequently used The Hornheadz, the song also contains contributions by Pierre Baptiste, Wayne DuMaine and Clark Gayton, who were part of the horn section of a Prince cover band called Days Of Wild, hailing from New York.
Recorded in August and September 1997.
Back in June 1997 a sample of this song was offered on Love4OneAnother.com.
The song was recorded in May 1997.
Push It Up
(written by , Larry Graham & Doug E. Fresh, credited to New Power Generation)
The song stems from a remix of the Emancipation song Jam Of The Year, that contains a rap by Doug E. Fresh. In the autumn of 1997 the remix was streamed on Love4OneAnother.com. It was renamed to Push It Up on August 12, 1997. Both Chaka Khan and Larry Graham provide vocals on the song.
The song was recorded in the summer of 1997.
Freaks On This Side
The songs contains the chant “freaks on this side”, something delegated to the audience in a live setting.
The first (and last) official single from the album, that was released on October 16, 1998. It was played on the PA prior to a show on January 2, 1998, in New Orleans. A video was shot for the single.
The song was made available as a promo-only release on June 13, 1998. According to engineers The One was the first recording following the release of Emancipation.
The song is a love song that, in a prior version, was offered to Mayte Garcia as a gift to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of their wedding day on February 14, 1998.
Even though their marriage was in trouble, primarily caused by the traumatic experience of the death of their newly born son Amiir in 1996 followed by a miscarriage, Mayte was invited to direct the accompanying video for the song.
The opening line “If U’re lookin’ 4 the man that will walk away from responsibility: I ain’t the one” is a rather dubious statement to all who have read Mayte Garcia’s biography (The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince). Prince/ didn’t show his most empathizing side towards Mayte and buried himself in his music. It contradicts the image he tries to conjure up with that particular line.
The song contains orchestration by Clare Fischer, recorded in Los Angeles.
( Like) Funky Music
(written by & Doug E. Fresh, credited to New Power Generation)
Back in June 1997 a sample of this song was offered on Love4OneAnother.com. The song contains the chant “ like funky music”, something delegated to the audience in a live setting.
The song was recorded in May 1997.
The ‘regular’ album is followed by 37 tracks of 5-second silence, followed by one track of 44-second silence, when the song Wasted Kisses starts. The song isn’t credited on the album cover. It was played on the PA prior to a show on January 2, 1998, in New Orleans.
Where The One can be interpreted as an attempt to salvage the relationship with Mayte Garcia, following their traumatic experiences, Wasted Kisses is quite the opposite. The questions “Why did I waste my kisses on you baby? Why did I waste my time?” seem to be directly aimed at Mayte. It gets really harrowing from 02:30 to 02:50, when an electronic heartbeat can be heard, which ends up as a flatline. A downright shameful and cruel sound clip, especially for Mayte, who was only 22 years old when she lost her son and had a miscarriage.
The song was played live only once, on February 10, 2007 in Las Vegas.
All vocals and instruments performed by , with help from:
- Kirk Johnson – drums, drum and synth programs (credited as KAJ)
- Rhonda Smith – bass, fretless acoustic bass on The One
- Mr. Hayes – keyboards, background vocals
- Rev. Scott – guitar
- Hornheadz – horns on Newpower Soul, Mad Sex, Freaks On This Side
- DJ Brother Jules – scratches on Mad Sex, Push It Up
- NPG Orchestra – orchestra on Until U’re In My Arms Again, The One
- Pierre Baptiste, Clark Gayton, Wayne DuMaine – horns on When U Love Somebody
- Larry Graham – vocals on Push It Up (uncredited)
- Chaka Khan – vocals on Push It Up (uncredited), background vocals (“laidback groundz”) on Come On
- Marva King – background vocals on Push It Up
- Kim Berry – background vocals on Freaks On This Side (uncredited)
- Doug E. Fresh – rap on Push It Up (uncredited), ( Like) Funky Music
- Kat Dyson – guitar on Come On
The involvement of the musicians named above is somewhat questionable. It seems logical to assume that recorded all songs by himself and invited others to contribute extra vocals and horns.
Following the heavily disappointing Emancipation and not a single release in 1997, 1998 was a busy year again. Both Crystal Ball (a collection of older songs) and The Truth (a semi-acoustic album), were like a breath of fresh air. Newpower Soul isn’t. But, the album does contain a number of truly fantastic songs: Mad Sex, Push It Up, Come On, The One and Wasted Kisses are all Prince worthy songs, that sound great and are funky or moving. But, the album contains too much fillers and isn’t a highlight in the overall Prince/ body of work.
After Newpower Soul
The promotion for the album, and the connected albums by Chaka Khan and Larry Graham, was intense. Many TV shows were visited, where interviews were held and songs were performed. and entourage visited The Today Show (05/29/1998), Vibe (06/08/1998) and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (07/24/1998), amongst others. The album spawned no less than 2 tours:
- New Power Soul Tour
(US: April 20 to June 1, 1998, Europe: August 8 to 28, 1998)
- New Power Soul Festival Tour
(VS: September 23 to October 24, 1998, Europe: December 15 to 28, 1998)
The tours helped the meager sales of the Newpower Soul album, but not much. As usual, the tours were fine.
Unfortunately the album isn’t available on streaming services, an omission that’s hopefully restored sooner than later.
Update 07/01/2023: the album is still available on Tidal, thank you Martin Willer. “I stand corrected”.
What’s your opinion on Newpower Soul? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Newpower Soul: music by New Power Generation or Prince/The Artist?.
Prince presents Chris Rock Man Of The Year in Television Comedy award (GQ’s Men Of The Year Awards 1998) image: sampleface.co.uk
New Power Generation – Newpower Soul image: discogs.com
New Power Generation – Newpower Soul inlay + New Power Pak image: 45worlds.com/metason.net
New Power Generation – Newpower Soul – Ad image: luisposter.de
New Power Soul Tour & New Power Soul Festival Tour banner images: princevault.com
All other images: 45worlds.com