Often acts have the problem of what direction to go in on their third album. This is Prince’s 33rd. With a career spanning almost four decades Prince is unarguably one of the most influential figures in pop and R&B music. On this album Prince embraces styles and sounds from across his career.
‘The Gold Standard’ is reminiscent of past material, with funky retro guitar and harmonized vocals creating a catchy and layered end product.
Other tracks fully embrace new musical fashions. ‘U Know’ uses sampled synthesizers which brings the track, which is probably the best on the album, right up to date.
However while Art Official Age is easy to lay back and listen to, it lacks the panache to really become a great album. Songs like ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ contain interesting ideas, but have a tendency feel a little unsubstantial. In some cases there are actually too many sounds happening at once to really appreciate the music.
On lead track ‘Art Official Cage’ the musical style of the song changes every few seconds, and although there are good sections, the listener does not have time to appreciate them.
All things being considered, Prince has done well to avoid simply resting on his laurels and producing a lazy record.
Clearly a lot of energy has gone into the production of this album. Prince has also, with relative success, managed to combine his own iconic sound with that of modern R&B. This album manages to feel like Prince without seeming dated.
This album makes most sense when placed alongside Prince’s simultaneously released album Plectrumelectrum. While this album offers relaxed R&B, its twin provides the rock edge that some fans may have expected from this album.
As such Prince’s decision to release two albums at once has perhaps resulted in two ok albums rather than one particularly good one.
Art Official Age consciously seeks to make the listener question whether the music is artificial or art. One seems to feel in the end that a greater sense of irony in its presentation would have improved the album.