Just when I thought my enjoyment of Prince had dwindled down to laughing at skits on The Dave Chappelle Show, the bloused one has reemerged as an icon who did not expire in 1999. 3121 represents the first album to draw my attention since the New Power Generation replaced the Revolution, and Prince became a symbol temporarily in the early '90s. It's funny that in a year that we're all following leaked recordings of Axl Rose, like we are part of some awful Eddie and the Cruisers sequel, Prince can quietly steal the "risen from the dead" title by releasing an actual product.
3121 is heavily based on Prince's desire to move crowds and remove clothing. It is considerably dance-oriented, along the lines of earlier albums such as Lovesexy and Diamonds and Pearls. It also compares favorably to those albums in that it features elements of soul during its slower moments, which prevents it from being one dimensional. The relaxing quality of the album is quintessentially apparent on the hit single, "Te Amo Corazon", which must mean something very nice in Spanish, or he has fooled the hell out of me. The Latin feel of the song makes it perfect for some additional vocals by Sade, but Prince carries the song melodically, showing that his voice has not aged in the slightest. Though not a personal favorite, this song would definitely make my playlist for a candlelight dinner.
"Black Sweat" should become the biggest hit off this album. For this song, Prince played all the instruments himself, and the lyrics are dripping with the sexuality attributed to a classic like "Darling Nikki". There is a definite truth to the lines, "I don't want 2 break Ur pride/But I got 2/U better take Ur woman and hide her." Prince has always been an enigmatic star, in that most men mistake his eccentric style, and sometimes demure personality, for homosexuality, yet no man would comfortably leave his significant other unattended with the artist. It would be a difficult challenge to name a more sexual individual, regardless of gender. "Black Sweat" will also attract today's listeners with its heavy bass, making it suitable for every booming system, from clubs to cars.
As an older fan, my favorite moment on 3121 is "Lolita", because the track reminds me of how fun it is to listen to Prince. It is a very light in its context, like "Tamborine" and "Round and Round", and even features a similar keyboard rhythm and tone, to his earlier music. The chorus truly shows his ability as a lyricist, in that it features internal rhyme, a tool most writers seldom use successfully. More importantly, the chorus is contagious, telling Lolita, "U're sweeter but U'll never make a cheater out of me." The song ends with a humorous conversation between Prince and The New Power Generation (playing the voice of Lolita). After admitting to being a bad girl, she tells him they can do whatever he wants, and he ironically responds, "Then come on let's dance!" It's just a great song that looks at the lighter side of temptation, and the simplicity of self-control.
This new album shows what is great about the music world. Songs can be timeless, as artists can be ageless, if they can effectively work within their limits and be in tune with the public's desires. Prince has shown this ability over four decades. It's about time we admit that someone wrongly christened the "king of pop" years ago, especially considering that Purple Rain is one of the greatest albums ever. What is truly ridiculous is that Prince never really got the praise and credit he deserved because he was odd. Look back at the eccentricities he displayed, in comparison to the skeletons those we embraced were hiding. Prince is the godson of soul and proprietor of dance, along with being an extraordinary guitarist and pop royalty. 3121 may not be Prince in the mid-80s, but it is definitely Prince near the top of his game.