“Surprise, surprise” purrs Prince in the beginning of his fresh new song, “U Know.”
His first surprise came last week, when he announced that he had not one but two new albums arriving this fall: Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum. To stir up some anticipation, he released “Clouds” (and before that, “Breakdown”) from Art Official Age. Now he’s got more for us.
“White Caps” is a 70s-esque, breezy quasi-melody complete with slow electric guitar riffs. This one comes from Plectrumelectrum, the album featuring his band, 3RDEYEGIRL. She carries the verses about rolling waves as Prince joins in on the chorus. It’s a ballad about trekking through bad weather, but it sounds like a yacht on a lake at sunset. With so little of him in the song itself, the two-album thing makes sense – he might be letting 3RDEYEGIRL take over more often on this album, as Art Official Age is his solo effort.
“U Know” is more Prince-y, with definite shades of contemporary influence. The way he spins out these lyrics, he’s just a few BMPs short of rapping. The best part? His trademark falsetto comes on pre-chorus (“You know how much I want you, you know how much I care”).
Prince has been making sure to release a steady stream of new things for the last few years. His single “Extraloveable” arrived in 2011 (mostly funky), and “Rock and Roll Love Affair” came in 2012 (mostly easy rock). With 2013 he put out “Screwdriver,” (also rock) and “Breakfast Can Wait,” featuring a great cover portrait of Prince presenting a plate of pancakes (R&B feel). Earlier this year 3RDEYEGIRL joined him on “Pretzelbodylogic,” (rock that sounds like the inspiration for something Sleigh Bells would put out), and neon dance jam “FALLINLOVE2NITE” featuring Zooey Deschanel, which appeared on the TV show “New Girl.” The style of the two new singles suggests that Plectrumelectrum will be easy rock, and Art Official Age will be modern/future funk.
Prince came back to Warners Bros Records this spring after a parting of ways 18 years ago. His new deal came with a promise of a re-release of Purple Rain and all rights to his catalog. In April, Prince released a statement saying, “(We) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship.” Those fruits are arriving.