Prince is up to double trouble. The legendary funk master marked his return to Warner Bros. Records with simultaneous releases: his new solo set, Art Official Age, and Plectrumelectrum, his debut with 3RDEYEGIRL, his new backup band. Two to pick from? Indeed, but choose Art Official Age first.
With Art Official Age (whose tracks are listed uppercase), the listener gets the classic Prince sound (THE GOLD STANDARD and CLOUDS) but with added modern influence. Prince embraces EDM breakdowns, hip hop elements and bouncy 808 beats, which he blends into his standard funk style. He also slightly ventures into modern R&B with the help of Mila J's Blinded in U KNOW. The album keeps a constant theme, with skits about his arrival in a futuristic world. The record showcases eccentricities only Prince can pull off: high pitched wailing, up and down pitched vocals, pseudo-rapping. Also significant in many songs is the repetitive, and sometimes erratic, shift in direction with every hook and verse. The opening track, ART OFFICIAL CAGE, a prime example, goes through a myriad phases from fast-paced funk to slow, grinding dubstep in less than four minutes.
Though the changes are confusing at times and longtime fans might crave more old Prince, he made a commendable leap of faith. He's not afraid to experiment when most artists would be content to produce the same music over and over.