Album Review: HitnRun Phase Two, Prince (NPG Records, 2015)

prince-hitnrun-phase-twoI can’t say I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Prince fan but I do enjoy a lot of his music and admire his career. There’s no question Prince (a.k.a. Prince Rogers Nelson) is a living legend of pop music. With roots in funk, soul, and R&B, he is prolific, averaging more than 1 album per year since 1978.

What has always eluded me is why I don’t like more of his music. Engaging less and less with his new music over the years, I felt he had lost his touch. With his latest release, I’ve come to realize: Prince just bores easily. With so much chart success early in his career, Prince’s musical centre of gravity shifted to anti-pop experimentation. The hits continued through the 90’s but his albums on the whole bore the mark of an artist striving not to be boxed-in by conventional pop.

Prince bores easily

HitnRun Phase Two is his most consistently accessible album in a very long time. As if to show off his hit-making prowess, Prince serves up pop hits in multiple sub-genres of the form. “Rocknroll Loveaffair” and “Big City” are vintage 80s/90s Prince. “Look at me, Look at U” draws more from his R&B/ballad chops. “Black Muse” is different yet again, verging on smooth jazz. What’s remarkable is that they are all chart worthy songs [drop mic here].

This album is only a couple of months on the heals of HitnRun Phase One (NPG Records, 2015) which is more like his recent body of work: innovative dabbling in unconventional genres like dancehall (“Like a Mack”) and synth pop (“Fallinlove2nite”) mingled with select hits like “1000 X’s and O’s” and “This Could be Us.”

Phase Two reminds us that Prince can dispense music at will in almost any form that strikes his creative fancy. If this album happens to be a crowd-pleaser, some may unfurl the “comeback” banner but Prince quietly knows, he never left. He’s just allowing us to catch up again.