It was quite a surprise when Prince announced that he would be releasing two new studio albums this year, one with new group 3rdEyeGirl and another solo record. But for someone who has now released thirty-four full-lengths over the last 40 years, it can hardly be seen as a rare occurrence. But for someone so incredibly talented and prolific, the purple one kept this new work quiet until the very last minute, which shows one of two things; either he was looking to deliberately surprise his fans or this was a rushed release to compete with his more in-demand collaboration with 3rdEyeGirl. Either way, 'Art Official Age' is a far sight from the Prince we once knew.
While he'll always be remembered as one of the greatest and most influential musicians of all time, his work of late has been layered in self-indulgent ramblings and religious subtext. And while that is seldom seen on this new release, the lack of method and message means that the album strays from one sound and influence to the next, making it feel more like a collection of off-cuts from his older, more familiar material. It zig-zags from inspired originality to banal and dated compositions at the drop of a hat and leaves much of the record lost in a sea of confusion about its own identity.
There is no denying that this is definitely a Prince record. All the hallmarks and familiar nuances are here but the formula doesn't gel as well as it used to, and 'Art Official Age' just hasn't got that same magic he was once capable of producing.