Officially planned for a September 30th release, I received both new Prince albums on September 26th, 2014. Two new albums, one in part accredited to his band 3rdEyeGirl, released on the Warner Bros. label. Yes, that’s right, Warner Bros. A look back at, yet again, a period surrounded by turmoil.
After a brief look back at the time preceding the albums’ releases, the albums are presented , followed by a conclusion. Therefore, this article is divided up into 4 parts:
On July 5th, 2010, a few days before the release of his then new album 20Ten Prince was interviewed by the English Daily Mirror. He made some remarkable comments:
“The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”
“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”
Prince disappeared on-line, in part due to the renewed energy put into suing websites, blogs and individual users, oftentimes fans, who used Prince material, like images. Many fans and organizations were covered in lawsuits by Prince(‘s lawyers).
But, 2013 brought a major shift.
20PR1NC3 / PRINCE2013 / 3RDEYEGIRL / 3RDEYE TV / 3RDEYETUNES
On January 22nd, 2013, the website 20pr1nc3.com was launched. Prince was back on-line. A new song was made available: the great Screwdriver. Also, announcements were made for a concert movie dedicated to the superb 2009 Montreux shows and the new site for Andy Allo (www.alloevolution.com), which released the song People Pleaser.
On February 5th, 2013, the website 3rdeyegirl.com was launched. The same day 20pr1nc3.com turned to black. The site merely stated two words: “coming soon”. Starting February 8th, 2013, all traffic to 20pr1nc3.com was re-routed to prince2013.com. From August 27th, 2013, onwards, all traffic to that website was re-routed to 3rdeyegirl.com, from then on thé on-line source for everything Prince (and 3rdEyeGirl).
On June 12th, 2013, Prince launched his own TV channel 3rdEye TV using LiveStream.com. The channel was primarily used for sharing rehearsal and live feeds. During the Prince And 3rdEyeGirl surprise tour through Europe in the summer of 2013 (bringing the band to the Amsterdam Paradiso twice on August 11th, 2013) the broadcasts would take place regularly. Outside that period it was often unclear when and what was being broadcast. After October of 2013 the channel appeared to be offline, with the exception of airing a concert by Kandace Springs at Paisley Park on July 16th, 2014.
On June 28th, 2013, sixteen days after the first 3rdEye TV broadcast, 3rdeyetunes.com was launched, which served as the primary sales site. On the same date 3rdeyegirl.com got a facelift. The message shown above this text was presented from March 28th, 2016, and onwards upon accessing the site.
Prince even started appearing on social media. On August 13th, 2013, he published his first tweet. He would remain using Twitter until the day he died.
At the end of January 2014 Prince started pursuing his own fans (again). No less than 22 different persons and websites were sued, all for the amount of $ 1 Million, totaling the lawsuit to $ 22 Million. See the indightment here. The press had a field day reporting on it (the headline I Would Sue 4 U was funny though).
It didn’t take long for Prince to dismiss the lawsuit. On January 29th, 2014, Prince had changed his mind and ordered to stop the proceedings. According to his lawyers the move was made “because of the recent pressure, the bootleggers have now taken down the illegal downloads and are no longer engaging in piracy”. Of course, speculation has it that Prince realized this wasn’t the right move, to the general public as well as to his fans, even though they were accustomed to Prince protecting his rights in a sometimes aggressive manner.
But the dye had been cast. Coincidence or not, in early February Prince guested on the, in the US rather popular, TV show New Girl and he started the Hit And Run Tour, which focused on England, playing in small clubs. The shows were all announced at the last minute and were, barring the last two shows, very cheap (ticket prices were £ 10 each). On February 4th, 2014, during a press conference at Lianne La Havas’s house, Prince was asked why he was suing his own fans. His response: “Nobody sues fans. It’s just a poor way to phrase it. A bootlegger is a bootlegger, a scalper is a scalper. They know what time it is. Just sharing music with each other — that’s cool. It’s the selling that becomes the problem”. However, the sites that were named in the lawsuit were all dedicated to sharing his music, not selling.
The Hit And Run Tour, which consisted of 12 shows, made England, and fans internationally, go crazy. The story on the lawsuit soon faded into the background.
On April 18th, 2104, it was announced that Prince had signed a deal with a (major) record company. The name? Warner Bros. Yes, the same company that led him to legally change his name and paint the word slave on his cheek (also see Prince and the name change).
Prince Gains His Catalog in Landmark Deal With Warner Bros.; New Album Coming
(4/18/2014 by Ed Christman)
Prince has returned to Warner Bros. Records after 18 years with a deal that will see him regain ownership of his catalog. His classic Warner albums like “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy” and “1999” will continue to be licensed through Warner Bros as part of a new global agreement.
As part of the deal, Prince’s classic “Purple Rain” album will be re-released in a remastered deluxe version in time for the 30th anniversary of the album and movie. Other planned re-issue projects will follow and Prince will issue a new album too, although it is unclear if that title is a part of the deal.
“A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros Records and Eye (sic) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship,” Prince said in a statement.
Prince famously had a highly publicized and turbulent split from Warner Bros. in 1996 when he called himself a slave to the label, changed his name to a symbol, and condemned the way the major label system worked.
This deal marks a new era as the ability to terminate master recording copyright after 35 years was granted in the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 and became effective in 1978, the year that Prince’s debut album came out.
Prince albums have scanned 18.5 million units in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan’s inception in 1991; albums issued by Warner Bros. Records have sold 14.3 million units, Billboard calculates based on SoundScan’s data.
As 2013 loomed, record label executives and artists managers said that they were unsure how copyright terminations and ownership reversions would play out as they expected a precedent-setting court case to decide whether the “work-for-hire” clause in standard recording contracts could successfully be challenged by artists. Works created under work-for-hire contracts are not eligible for copyright reversion. But privately some label executives have also said that in some instances the wiser course might be to negotiate the reversions and retain control of issuing artists’ catalog eligible for copyright terminations.
In cutting what appears to be a landmark deal, Prince has chosen to remain with the label that was the subject of his ire back in the 1990’s avoiding a risky and costly legal battle and still regains ownership of his catalog.
Financial terms and length of the licensing deal were not disclosed; nor does the announcement make clear on whether the artist is gaining ownership of his catalog all at once; or more likely as each album becomes eligible for copyright termination.
The Warner Music Group decline to provide further comment on the details of the deal. But Warner Bros. Records chairman and CEO Cameron Strang said in a statement: “Everyone at Warner Bros Records is delighted to be working with Prince once again: he is one of the world’s biggest stars and a truly unique talent. We are also very excited about the release of new and re-mastered music from one of his greatest masterpieces.”
Besides announcing new music that was underway, it was also stated that his older work would (finally!) be re-released and supplemented with extra (previously unavailable) material. In other articles the album name that had been floating around for quite some time, Plectrum Electrum, was explicitly mentioned. At the time nothing was known as to what the new music would be and whether or not it would be called Plectrum Electrum.
Hit And Run Part II
In May and June of 2014, Prince was in Europe for his Hit And Run Part II Tour. It would be his last regular tour on European soil and the concert on May 27th in Antwerp would be the last time I saw him perform live.
On August 25th, 2014, the website 3rdeyegirl.com disappeared and was re-routed to the pre-order site for both of the new albums: plectrumelectrum.3rdeyegirl.com. It was the day I ordered them.
Hello Mr Erwin B…,
Thank you for your order from Prince Eurostore.
Please check your order details, confirmed below. If you have any questions about your order visit our FAQ page for help and further contact.
Your Order #233100000130 (placed on 25 August 2014 11:27:46 BST)
Customer was redirected to Payone.
Thanks for your order and we hope to see you again soon!
Your Prince Eurostore Team.
Confirmation email order PLECTRUMELECTRUM and ART OFFICIAL AGE dated 08/25/2014
Contrary to the advertising, I received both albums on September 26th, 2014. I immediately listened to both repeatedly. It made me happy, so happy that, in the night of September 26th/27th, I stated on Facebook:
And then it happens!
New Prince cd’s that are actually good! Just finished listening to Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum. Very happy!
And do the albums still live up to my initial findings (or hopes)? No, even though both albums are a giant leap forward compared to the preceding Prince album released in 2010, 20Ten. There’s no way the albums could be regarded as classic Prince albums, and yet they do contain some classic songs, enough to buy both of them.
PLECTRUMELECTRUM is the 36th studio album by Prince, and the first (and last) album accompanied by 3rdEyeGirl. Three singles were culled from the album. The band 3rdEyeGirl was founded at the very end of December 2012, so all music stems from 2013 and 2014. In the first half of 2013 it was made public that Prince was working on an album entitled Plectrum Electrum en that many of the songs intended for the album, were to be played at the Live Out Loud Tour.
Originally intended as a solo album for the group 3rdEyeGirl, it was ultimately credited to Prince And 3rdEyeGirl.
The titles of all the songs are stylized in caps, which is also used in this article. All songs written by Prince, unless stated otherwise. Probably all of the songs were recorded at Prince’s own Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis in 2013/2014.
(written by Prince & 3rdEyeGirl)
Using the moniker The Unexpected, the song was released on February 18th, 2014 on Liv Warfield’s second album (also entitled The Unexpected). Prince doesn’t play on that version.
Both versions were recorded in 2013. Both song titles stem from the lyrics:
“U can call it the unexpected or u can call it… wow!”
A magnificent start to the album. A slow, convincing rocker, filled with energy. A very promising start.
Released as a single on February 3rd, 2014, preceding the album’s release almost 8 months. Vocals are handled by 3rdEyeGirl. A fine and catchy song.
A remix of the song was made available on Tidal, Jay-Z’s streaming service, in October of 2015. Honored as the Purple Pick Of The Week, Pretzelbodylogic Reloaded was released. Kendrick Lamar contributed a rap.
Heavy song, which utilizes (drummer) Hannah Welton-Ford vocals. Not really happy with that choice, as she has a rather bland voice. Musically however, everything’s perfect. At the end of the song Prince really shreds on his guitar.
Maybe the hand you’re looking for is at the end of your arms
(written by Donna Grantis)
An instrumental that was released by the Donna Grantis Electric Band on the 2012 album Suites using the name Elektra (Elektra Suite).
The song was partially released on March 13th, 2013, as a video, accompanied by the text “An extremely short film”. Great song.
Okay song, once again with leading vocals by Hannah Welton-Ford. Although the voice doesn’t irritate as much as on AINTTURNINROUND, it isn’t the choice I would have made (again).
The song was made available for download on September 1st, 2014 to those who had pre-ordered the album.
The very first release by 3rdEyeGirl, the single that was made available on May 16th, 2013. Initially the song was credited to 3rdEyeGirl feat. Prince, later on to Prince And 3rdEyeGirl.
A rather nondescript song. The presence of Lizzo, who delivers a rap, stands out. Nowadays Lizzo is known and regarded as a big promise.
Throwaway song, that adds little to nothing.
(written by Alice Smith, Rebecca Jordan and Reginald Perry)
The album credits state this song was “adapted from original song by”, but it actually is a cover of the song Another Love by Alice Smith, which was released on her 2013 album She.
The title, together with FUNKNROLL, was mentioned on July 13th, 2013, by online blogger Dr. Funkenberry. Great song, by the way.
This song gives me a kind of Blue Light, coming from the O(+> album, feeling. And that’s not meant to be a compliment. Just like that song, this is a disappointing song (according to me anyway). In an interview with Mojo Magazine Prince stated:
“We recorded it in Bryan Ferry’s studio Studio One in London, after a night of partying for which the Cocteau Twins was the soundtrack. You can’t understand the words of Cocteau Twins songs but their harmonies put you in a dreamlike state.”
This song wasn’t recorded at Paisley Park, but, according to Prince, at Studio One in London.
A heavy, short rock song. Great.
Lost my job at Mickey D’s
For giving away too much food for free
But I couldn’t watch another black child go to school
With nothing to eat
Made available on September 18th, 2104, to anyone who had pre-ordered the album. It was played live for the first time on August 4th, 2013. On March 4th, 2014, the song was played at The Arsenio Hall Show, marking its first real public appearance.
A remix of FUNKNROLL is part of the album ART OFFICAL AGE.
All vocals and instruments by Prince, with help from:
- Hannah Welton-Ford – drums, vocals on PRETZELBODYLOGIC, AINTTURNINROUND, WHITECAPS and STOPTHISTRAIN, background vocals on FIXURLIFEUP, BOYTROUBLE and ANOTHERLOVE
- Ida Nielsen – bass, vocals on PRETZELBODYLOGIC, background vocals on WHITECAPS and ANOTHERLOVE
- Donna Grantis – guitar, vocals on PRETZELBODYLOGIC, background vocals op WHITECAPS and ANOTHERLOVE
- Lizzo and Sophia Eris – rap on BOYTROUBLE
- Joshua Welton – background vocals on STOPTHISTRAIN
ART OFFICIAL AGE is the 37th studio album by Prince. No less than 4 singles were culled from the album. Joshua Welton worked closely with Prince and was honored with the ‘co-producer’ title. The album features collaborations with, amongst others, Lianne La Havas and Andy Allo.
Virtually all song titles are shown in caps, which has been used in this article as well. All songs written by Prince, unless stated otherwise. Probably all songs were recorded at Prince’s own Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis, during 2012, 2103 and 2014.
ART OFFICIAL CAGE
A somewhat odd title given the title of the album. It starts of with “Welcome home class”. Based on this song, things aren’t looking good. Predictable rhythms and synthesizer noises. Not very inspiring.
Luckily things improve with song number two. Great song, that was made available on August 25th, 2014, upon pre-ordering the album. In Europe the song was made available as a promo-only cd-single.
The song contains guest vocals by Lianne La Havas, the young British singer/songwriter, who is loved to death by my 10 year old son.
A remix of the song, called Mr. Nelson was part of the 2015 HITnRUN Phase One album.
And then it’s time for BREAKDOWN. A highlight of both albums. Even more, it’s a highlight in Prince’s career (it holds position 19 in my Prince top 50 songs).
Originally called The Breakdown, it was released as a single on April 18th, 2014. During a visit at The Arsenio Hall Show on March 6th, 2014, Prince called it his favorite song of the moment. It’s easy to understand why.
A slow ballad, that intensifies with each verse. At the end, Prince screams his lungs out. A very, very impressive song.
I used to throw the party at the New Year’s Eve
First one intoxicated, last one to leave
Waking up in places that you would never believe
Give me back the time, you can keep the memories
THE GOLD STANDARAD
Great funk song, that makes old times seem current.
Yet again, a nice song, which contains a sample of Mila J’s Blinded. The song was made available on September 1st, 2014, to everyone who had pre-ordered the album.
BREAKFAST CAN WAIT
The song had been available ever since February 5th, 2013, the day the 3rdEyeGirl.com website was launched. On August 17th, 2013, the song was made available on 3rdeyetunes.com accompanied by a cover that shows Dave Chappelle dressed as Purple Rain era Prince.
The photo stems from an episode of the famous Chappelle Show from 20014, in which Charlie Murphy (brother to Eddie Murphy) tells the tale of a party at Prince’s house and a subsequent basketball match. The sketch is truly hilarious, and was regarded as such by Prince as well, hence the single cover.
When Chappelle was asked about the cover he said: “What am I going to do – sue him for using a picture of me dressed up like him? That’s checkmate right there”.
In October 2013 the single got a physical release.
THIS COULD BE US
Nothing noteworthy about this song that quietly passes by. Released as the third single. In an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune issue of June 23rd, 2014, journalist Jon Bream writes that Prince stated that the song was “inspired by a meme of him and Apollonia riding on a motorcycle, clearly a scene taken from the 1984 movie Purple Rain. It’s a joyful ballad with some ecstatic Prince vocalizing”.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE
A duet with Andy Allo. Contrary to the rest of the songs, this song stems from 2011 or 2012, recorded at the time when sessions were held for Andy Allo’s album Superconductor, which was released in 2012.
affirmation I & II
More of a segue than a song.
WAY BACK HOME
Lianne La Havas is audible as the tale-teller at the beginning of this beautiful song. Second highlight on the album.
I never wanted a typical life
Scripted role, huh, trophy wife
All I ever wanted, to be left alone
Power to the ones who could raise a child like me
A remix of FUNKNROLL that’s also part of the PLECTRUMELECTRUM album. Redundant version.
Probably dating back to the end of 2012, the second duet with Andy Allo. Once again, a beautiful song.
A kind of sequel to WAY BACK HOME, but this hardly counts as a ‘real’ song.
All vocals and instruments by Prince, with help from:
- Ida Nielsen – Danish vocals on ART OFFICIAL CAGE
- The Golden Hippie – background vocals on ART OFFICIAL CAGE
- Stringenius – strings on ART OFFICIAL CAGE, BREAKDOWN, THE GOLD STANDARD and affirmation III
- Lianne La Havas – vocals on CLOUDS, affirmation I & II, WAY BACK HOME and affirmation III
- Andy Allo – background vocals on BREAKDOWN, vocals on WHAT IT FEELS LIKE and TIME
- NPG Hornz – horns on THE GOLD STANDARD (unconfirmed)
- Delilah – background vocals on WAY BACK HOME and affirmation III
- Hannah Ford – drums on FUNKNROLL
- Ida Nielsen – bass on FUNKNROLL
- Donna Grantis – guitar on FUNKNROLL
As stated above, I was quite happy when the albums had just been released. The music was so much better than that on the preceding 20Ten. Prince had found the right spirit again. A lot of the songs sparkle their way through the speakers and sound energetic and fresh. And yet, it never gets really classic. How come?
Personally, the 3rdEyeGirl concept never appealed to me. The rock may have been exciting, but it was more often than not predictable and rigid. The day after both August 11th, 2013, shows at the Amsterdam Paradiso, the Dutch reviewer of De Volkskrant wrote that we already had Lenny Kravitz, and that was enough. I could relate to the sentiment. Yet, Prince’s soloing was otherworldly.
So, I value PLECTRUMELECTRUM less than I value ART OFFICIAL AGE. The latter is a typical Prince pop record, which is remarkably melancholy. More than ever, Prince is, lyrically and visually, looking back on his life, his decisions and the people that came and went. I like it very much!
Both albums contain songs that are magnificent. Prince is often criticized for putting out too much material using the assumption that, had he held back a little more, his impact would have been even bigger. I never subscribed to this, but I do see the point when it comes to these both albums. PLECTRUMELECTRUM in particular contains some songs that are mediocre at best and add nothing to Prince’s body of work.
But the songs below are all great and beautiful and actually are an (essential) addition to Prince’s already immense legacy:
- THE GOLD STANDARD
- BREAKFAST CAN WAIT
- WAY BACK HOME
This would have made a terrific album…
|Title||Then (2014)||Now (5 years later)|
|ART OFFICAL AGE|
Mails from Warner Bros./Prince kamp
Before and after the albums’ releases, all could subscribe to the newsletter regarding the albums. Early October I received an ad for both albums.
From: Prince <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday October 2 2014 3:39
Subject: GET 2 NEW ALBUMS FROM PRINCE!
Advertising mail PLECTRUMELECTRUM and ART OFFICIAL AGE 10/02/2014
Promotion at Paisley Park
On September 30th, 2014, an “album release party” was organized at Paisley Park. Prince And 3rdEyeGirl played a short set with guests Lianne La Havas and Kendrick Lamar.
The event was broadcast live on the internet. It wasn’t the greatest of broadcasts, particularly due to the rather short performance.
On July 24th, 2015, the message below appeared on the website jambase.com.
3RDEYEGIRL Confirms New Prince Album Coming This Year
(Jul 24, 2015 8:25 am PDTAndy Kahn)
In an interview with the BBC, Prince’s backing group 3RDEYEGIRL confirmed a collaborative album will be issued later this year. Named after his tour of surprise concerts, The Hit & Run Album features new and reworked Prince material according to Hannah Ford Welton, Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen who make up the backing band.
The trio revealed the album, co-written by Prince and Hannah Ford Welton’s husband and prior collaborator Joshua Welton, will be released “soon.” The album’s first single is the previously shared track “HARDROCKLOVER.” Also on the album is a Diamonds and Pearls era song “1,000 Hugs and Kisses” and an updated version of “This Could Be Us” from Art Official Age which along with the LP Plectrumelectrum was issued by Prince last September. Prince reportedly recorded the album with Joshua Welton and debuted the new material at an aftershow party held after a recent private celebration at the White House.
The trio described the new LP to the BBC, stating:
It’s phenomenal, there are so many hits on this album. It’s super experimental … Super hardcore Prince fans that know every song he’s ever recorded -we refer to them as ‘The Purple Collective’ or ‘The Purple Army’ -this album is absolutely for them, because it’s super funky … It’s weird, there’s a lot of experimental sound. It’s just hit after hit and definitely caters to those fans who just love to hear what Prince has to say, rather than wanting to always hear that classic Purple Rain Prince sound.
The album that’s advertised here is HITnRUN Phase One, which would be released as a Prince album.
Even though both albums will not be categorized as classic Prince material every music lover should have, they do show that Prince was still able to be relevant and capable of adding to his immense body of work. The last thing in particular was a soothing thought.
In the year 2015 Prince would again release two albums, which would be his last ones. On April 21st, 2016, Prince died unexpectedly.
What do you think of PLECTRUMELECTRUM and ART OFFICIAL AGE? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince releases 2 albums in one day: PLECTRUMELECTRUM and ART OFFICIAL AGE. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Song lyrics: © 2014 Prince
Prince And 3rdEyeGirl image: jambase.com
Prince – 3RDEYETUNES closed image: twitter.com
Prince on Twitter 08/13/2013 image: buzzfeed.com
Prince – Lianne La Havas – Press conference, Prince And 3rdEyeGirl – FIXURLIFEUP – Single images: okayplayer.com
Warner Bros. Records Logo image: warnerbrosrecords.com
Hit And Run Part II Tour, Prince – CLOUDS – Single, Prince – BREAKDOWN images: princevault.com
Prince – PLECTRUMELECTRUM en ART OFFICIAL AGE – Facebook review image: housequake.com
Prince And 3rdEyeGirl – PLECTRUMELECTRUM, Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE images: time.com
Prince And 3rdEyeGirl – PRETZELBODYLOGIC – Single image: spotify.com
3rdEyeGirl – Plectrumelectrum – An extremely short film image: welcome2thedawn.com
Prince And 3rdEyeGirl – PLECTRUMELECTRUM – Back cover image: g2ckquiqm.ml
Prince – BREAKFAST CAN WAIT – Single image: stereogum.com
Prince – THIS COULD BE US – Single image: tidal.com
Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE – Back cover image: bol.com
Prince – PLECTRUMELECTRUM and ART OFFICAL AGE – Ads image: diffuser.fm
Prince And 3rdEyeGirl – Album release party 09/30/2014 image: funkatopia.com/thecurrent.org
Prince 3rdEyeGirl 2013 image: thecurrent.org