Expecting the Unexpected
What may behold us for news in the wake of Prince’s disappearance from social media? That, and with the future of 3rdEyeGirl thrown into doubt with one fell stroke, in 2015 fans face a repeat of the great internet blackout of 2010/13. Well, that’s not as if we have cause to complain following what was a tremendously busy 2014, a year which saw the release of two albums and that whirlwind tour of London then of wider Europe. Coupled with the release via social media snippets of new songs, which (prior to the deletion of Prince’s social media accounts) heightened prospects for a second 3rdEyeGirl album, to be then dashed by sudden doubt over the future of the band itself, we may just be witnessing the unfolding of yet another transition in Prince’s career.
Maybe Prince will take a year out, and do like the record labels want and let sales take their course before another release – but we know market saturation has never been any concern of Prince, right? With his return to the Warner Bros. fold we can surely guess what or who is directing his output for 2015. Yes Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age were great, but speaking of saturation, was a dual album release a wise decision? Prince does famine and feast really well: remember Emancipation in 1996 and in 2009 LotusFlow3r / MPLSound, Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age show that 2014 was no break from routine. Emancipation became the biggest selling triple album to date, and LotusFlow3r / MPLSound charted at number 2 despite of their very limited distribution. Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age are two very different albums and worthy of independent releases: Art Official Age landed the top spot in Billboard’s R&B chart and Plectrumelectrum likewise in the Rock & Roll chart. Proof enough, some shall argue, that the 3rdEyeGirl project was already over by its release since let’s face it Art Official Age was the horse Warner to put its money on yet luckily for them the race between the two albums was pretty much even and them backing both puts to bed those doubts in their wisdom to reunite with Prince (a process of reconciliation which took twenty years).
However, the eagerly-awaited re-release of Purple Rain, the Purple Rain Deluxe, which was to celebrate the 30th anniversary, might now, if it is to be released at all, not appear to be ready until the 31st anniversary instead. Prince maintains he is uninterested in what are past recordings: the state of the art sound of Purple Rain Deluxe is more for the fans than him. Although the royalties will no doubt be gratefully received, I put to you this: If music-buying punters could choose the prospect of a brand new Prince album or the re-mastering of his Warner Brothers back catalogue (1999, Around The World In A Day, Sign O’ The Times, Lovesexy …), all his releases prior to 1989 used analog technology, it is the reissues of the past music that will excite the market most.
Prince is in equal measure both blessed and haunted by his musical legacy and the re-mastered albums will be his tonic. Indeed in April 2014 he set up NPG Music Publishing to grant and administer the licensing of his music for movies, TV and elsewhere, so even he acknowledges that his past is also his future. Whilst his legacy is buoyant these days the re-masters are the goose to lay him the golden egg for his retirement. He would be free to do his own thing as they drip out into the market and find old fans returning with the fresh interest of a newbie. He must of course want to be seen reluctant to release them and will dog fans throughout 2015 that perennial fear of will he, wont he, which they experience with every Prince release anyway. Yet whilst a tour or a new project may be in the oven for 2015, whatever format it takes, 3rdEyeGirl were in rehearsals prior to the social media disappearance but further releases with Warner Brothers – the re-releases – seem the most sound direction and where the focus is at now (otherwise they have abandoned the plan already). The re-masters carry weight with the rumours abound for a reunion of the Revolution, so how else can Prince follow up on what was a remarkable 2014.
A new Gold Standard?
27 September 2014