By Steph Salo
Prince is one of the most brilliant musical masterminds of his generation. He is like a beautiful butterfly who can morph into a new him with the bat of an eye. He can slay on the guitar or piano, or dance like a maniac. He is one of my favorite musicians of all time, and I love him like a weird uncle. His new project featuring the three-piece girl band 3RDEYEGIRL entitled PlectrumElectrum definitely does one thing: it proves that at fifty-seven, Prince still puts the “FUN” in “FUNKY.” There’s only one problem: it is Very Not Good.
If PlectrumElectrum is a party, then Prince is the one throwing it and 3RDEYEGIRL is his new annoying girlfriend that gets too drunk off of Mike’s Hard Lemonades and needs to be put to bed early. Fifteen minutes in, it’s still a pretty okay party, you just wish she wasn’t there. After forty-five minutes, however, you are frantically begging your friends to drive you home.
We start off with “WOW,” a song previously released on Liv Warfields’s album as “The Unexpected.” This track is the best possible way to start this album off as it is very Prince heavy. It’s got a very “I’M BACK, BITCHES!” feel to it which I really appreciate. While it’s a little basic in terms of composition, Prince’s execution is perfect, it is everything that you would expect of him. When this song was over I thought to myself, “Gosh! It’s only going to get better!”
“PRETZELBODYLOGIC” is a rompy, campy, fun song with a lot of heavy metal elements. This is where 3RDEYEGIRL is more present and things start to get weird, but that’s okay. The lyrics make little to no sense:
Promoter try 2 rob ‘em
We said, “Go ‘head son”
Cuz we both 2 sleepy 2 get the gun
Is it just me or is the use of the word “sleepy” absolutely hilarious? The music sounds like something out of an 80s hair metal song met with drinking music. Throw in some Prince funk and you have a sound that encapsulates the feel of the whole album. This is one of two tracks that were teased earlier this month, and the teaser looks like something a fourteen-year-old made in Microsoft Movie Maker.
“AINTTURNINROUND” is the first song with Hannah Ford of 3RDEYEGIRL doing lead vocals. Her voice isn’t bad per se, but she does sound like she’s in a Disney teen movie-musical, with impeccable “choir class” diction. But that’s exactly where she goes wrong. She is trying too hard, and ends up sounding a little too saccharine for this edgy song. In fact, I think the annunciation is ultimately what ruins this song. That and the fact that the lyrics are…kinda bad.
Let’s stop looking 4 a reason 2 die & just sound the alarm
Maybe the hand that ur looking 4 is at the end of ur arms.
The title track is one of the real winners here. That may have something to do with it being an instrumental, but I’ll take a win where I can get one.
“WHITECAPS” is a soothing California beach rock ballad and is one of the easier songs to listen to, but again Hannah Ford sounds like a character from Disney’s Camp Rock. I don’t know if the diction is an affectation or if that’s really just how she sings, but it is really reminiscent of musical theater, which in the context of this record feels is over the top, distracting, and frankly, annoying. If we could do it all again, I would love for someone else to have lead on that song. Maybe a little more Amy Winehouse, a little less Lea Michele.
“FIXURLIFEUP” is a bit messy. The lyrics are hilariously bad, a theme you will come to recognize. The first thirty seconds sort of sound like Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” but then when the vocals cut in, especially the backing vocals from Ford, it sounds like a b-side from High School Musical. Honestly, all I can picture is Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens dancing in a cafeteria while some weird goth band plays in the background. And then there is this gem:
Tryin 2 b a star when ur just another brick in the misogynistic wall of noise.
I’m not going to get on a soapbox and talk about why Prince criticizing the music industry for being misogynistic is mildly troubling… but it is.
Then we have “BOYTROUBLE,” which is a rap/rock/funk mess of a thing. The featured rapper, Lizzo, delivers what sounds like a bad Nicki Minaj impression mixed with a little Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. This is another track that could have easily been written to score High School Musical 4: FUCK IT I’M IN COLLEGE! and not what you would expect of a Prince project.
“ANOTHERLOVE” is by far my favorite track. The harmonies are subtle yet strong, Prince is on lead vocals, and the lyrics aren’t half bad! The best part is the “another love” hook that repeats at the end, which fits perfectly as an outro to this song. This is the Prince we all know and love. I can’t help but think of “Purple Rain” when the chorus kicks in. Prince’s guitar riffs are absolutely insane, and you can tell they had a great time recording this song. The hook is absolutely infectious, definitely an earworm. It struck me as odd, since this song is lightyears ahead of the rest of the record. It didn’t make sense for this song to be so great and the others to be so lackluster. After a quick Google search, I discovered that this is not an original song, rather a cover of “Another Love” by Alice Smith.
I really appreciate the blues rock twist Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL took to this song. It makes the repetitive “find another love” hook even better. The sweet violins from Smith’s original are replaced with some sick guitar, reminiscent of something Slash would play on top of a giant piano.
“TICTACTOE” is next, and Prince himself described it as an “ethereal new ballad” in an interview with Mojo Magazine. He says that he took a lot of inspiration from The Cocteau Twins, and that the intention of the song is to put you in a “dream-like state.” While I admit the song itself is really dreamy, the lyrics are completely distracting:
Like a buncha blind people playing tic-tac-toe
who knows where the zeroes and the x’s go?
I’m not sure if this line was meant to be poetic, or funny, or just supposed to rile up Tumblr activists, but in the coming weeks you can probably look forward to a bunch of essays accusing Prince of being ableist.
“Marz” is my least favorite song on the album, an overproduced track with crazy whirring guitar and whining high-pitched vocals. The lyrics, again, are the biggest weakness. Here, Prince paints the story of being a young, down on his luck scrappy teen, and it’s a little difficult to buy into. I put it on when I was driving around with my boyfriend. His direct quote: “It reminds me of, I don’t know man, sitting in my friends house and smoking cigarettes while his mom wasn’t home and listening to them play shitty music.” Sounds about right.
Then, we finish it all off with “FUNKNROLL,” which also appears on Prince’s solo album. It is SO overproduced; Prince’s vocals sound way too high pitched and warped. The guitar, drums, and bass are all fun and driving, exactly what you think a Funk N Roll song would sound like. The lyrics are pretty in line with the rest of the campy material we hear on PlectrumElectrum.
There is something very Dad Rock about this record. It doesn’t sound innovative, it doesn’t sound new. It sounds like he wanted to transport himself to his early teenage years, when he dreamed of having a rock band with hot babes. That’s probably the thing that confuses me the most about it: it’s clinging on to the wrong memory. If he had to make a “simpler times” album, couldn’t it have just been another Purple Rain? PlectrumElectrum has that same signature Prince funkiness, but it’s mixed with this sort of try-hard girl band metal that just doesn’t really work. By trying to make his sound more youthful, Prince accidentally ages himself. The campiness is over the top. I can imagine this would be popular among thirteen-year-old girls, but I don’t really know if other audiences will be on board. Prince’s guitar work is impeccable, definitely channeling Jimi Hendrix in all the right ways, but when it is met with the Disney Princess backing of 3RDEYEGIRL it loses me.
Steph Salo is a millennial from the suburbs, sells soap, and has a strong dislike of Taylor Swift. You can follow her on Twitter, or into the dark.