July 24, 2007

Prince Restrained On Planet Earth

Prince needs to tap back into his dirty mind. His previous album, 3121, offered some hope that the man could still deliver the erogenous goods, with songs like “Black Sweat” and “Lolita.” However, his latest release, Planet Earth, regresses into safe and average R & B territory. If this album were released by anyone other than Prince, few people would even take notice. 

One crucial factor to Prince’s appeal has long since been his gift for writing intriguing and innovative songs that, usually through adept use of metaphor, addressed sex (in its myriad facets and emotions) without sounding gratuitous. For clarity’s sake, if you’re still thinking that “Little Red Corvette” is a cute song about a car, well, it’s not.

Unfortunately, most of the songs on Planet Earth come across as pale derivatives of Prince’s libidinous past works. “Somewhere Here On Earth,” for instance, which is perhaps the most sensual song on the album, sounds like a clichéd and timid remix of an assortment of previous Prince slowjams. On “I’m The One U Wanna See,” he blandly says to a prospective catch, “So if you ain’t busy later/And you want some company/I ain’t trying to be a hater/But I’m the one U wanna see.” This is now the pick-up line for the man who once proposed, Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours/To help me forget the girl who just walked through that door?” How come Prince won’t do that anymore?

Most likely, Prince has curbed his carnal expression due to the influence of his faith, as he is a converted Jehovah’s Witness. In the 1980s, though, Prince openly practiced Christianity and he skillfully reconciled his sexual and sacred callings to create some of the most visionary music of the decade. Yet, his faith, at least on this album, appears to have hindered his natural creative drive. “Lion Of Judah,” a song with religious imagery that, for all intents and purposes should feel inspired, sounds downright dull.

The closest Prince comes to flirting with his own past brilliance is on the title track. In this one instance, he offers direct and relevant commentary on the current sociopolitical climate in the world to the sound of a guitar-driven fury.

That being said, little else on this album lends credence to Prince’s stature as the uninhibited musical genius he has proven himself to be time and again. Ultimately,
Planet Earth is a disappointment, not only because Prince is more than capable of producing invigorating and innovative music, but also because, for once, the artist sounds restrained.