There are two rock and roll giants who have come out of Minnesota, but only one of them was responsible for creating an entire genre of “The Minneapolis Sound.” Bob Dylan is an icon, for sure, and a genius, but Prince is something else entirely. It’s no fluke that the second part of his two-part album release (frankly, I’m ignoring the Bria Valente disc) as it is not only a celebration of the sound he created, but goes hand in hand with the nod to the many artists he’s assisted over the years with that very same sound. The Time, Jesse Johnson, Vanity 6, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis all embody that Minneapolis sound Prince birthed. Sheena Easton, the Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, Chaka Khan and a dozen others all benefited from the Purple One’s songwriting prowess. And while yet another rides the Kid’s coattails with this release, it is the recognition of the founding artist himself that deserves the praise. MPLSound is a party that travels backwards in time faster than a Lost episode.
The album kicks off with the signature synth and processed drum sound that is synonymous with the trend of the album’s title in “(There’ll Never B) Another Like Me.” The accompanying braggadocio and intentions to turn the night into an extended dance party are par for the course and a proper introduction for the rest of the album to come. The suggestively titled “Chocolate Box” follows, and is certainly a dance floor come on to a hot young thing, recalling some of the spiciest songs from Prince’s colorful past, including Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl” and Appolonia 6’s “Sex Shooter.” Q-Tip guest stars, oddly, as his appearance is brief, and there are a few questionable lyrics including “are you gay or popping pills,” alluding to homosexuality as a vice, but other than that, the song is highly infectious.
Remember the high-pitched sped up voice from some of the best songs on Sign o’ the Times? Well, that voice was supposedly supplied by `Camille,’ Prince’s female alter-ego. The voice returns in “Dance 4 Me,” a sister song to “Housequake,” though not quite as rambunctious. “U’re Gonna C Me” barely toes the line between tender ballad and theme song for Doogie Howser, M.D., but maybe I’m just bitter over the fact that none of my exes let me play Prince tracks during `snuggle time.’ I mean, come on, I could get down to this joint. Oh well. Prince does his own wooing in “Valentina,” trying to get none other than Salma Hayek in bed. I can’t blame the guy, she’s smokin’. Only Prince could get away with a public booty call. I’m not sure it worked for Toto when they gave a shout out to Rosanna Arquette. After all, this is the guy who reportedly nailed Kim Basinger, Carmen Electra and the one that elicits the most envy, Susanna Hoffs. I’d say good luck, but she just got married a month ago. Sorry, Prince.
Another ballad follows with “Better With Time,” and this one far exceeds the former. Prince’s falsetto is sweeter on “Better With Time” and the sentiment is more touching. After all, Prince is 50 years old, and the woman he just dedicated a song to is 42. And hell, I’m not saying that’s old. I’m no spring chicken. But Prince’s message, to this aging divorcee, is well taken. If Prince is still nabbing honeys after five decades, and looking for women closer to his own age bracket, then maybe I can as well.
The true magic of the “Minneapolis Sound” comes with the last two tracks, “Ol’ Skool Company” and “No More Candy 4 U.” The former finds Prince denouncing the Wall Street Bailouts in the funkiest forum whatsoever. Only Prince has been able to address serious issues while enticing listeners out to the dance floor. The latter dismisses the `Internet’ and `haters’ over a Quincy Jones inspired ’60s mod style, i.e. “Soul Bossa Nova.” It is near impossible to get this song out of your head. In fact, you’ll probably be saying “No More Candy 4 U” as much as people were saying “No soup for you,” after the infamous Seinfeld episode. It may remind some of Gwen Stefani’s equally infectious, “Hollaback Girl.” And yes, this shit IS bananas. My favorite line from this song sums up the entire album, “I’m too funky, you can’t handle my groove.”
MPLSound is like the jelly to LotusFlow3r‘s peanut butter. They can exist on their own, but they’re oh so much better when joined together. One is a retro-funk celebration and the other is awash in Hendrix-guitars. They are the two sides of Prince, and they both define him without confining him. That has always been the allure of this talented artist. He could bring you “The Cross” and “Housequake” on the same album. He could floor you with a blistering guitar solo, then make you swoon with a sultry ballad. He could make you think with lyrics that are thoughtful and politically charged, then make you laugh with a sped up voice spouting things like “Shut up, already! Damn!” And, guess what, he still can.
Prince- Sign o’ the Times
The Time- Ice Cream Castle
Gwen Stefani- Love.Angel.Music.Baby