August 16, 2007

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Prince, Planet Earth
Sony, July 24

Perhaps the nicest thing that can be said about Prince, pop’s reigning elder statemen, is that he is pretty much the same guy that he was 20-plus years ago. Michael Jackson lost all touch with reality, and Madonna has tried so hard to stay on the cutting edge that her image changes every two years or so. Prince is still Prince, and in this summer’s lean 10-track offering, Planet Earth, he is still funky, and out to simultaneously save the world and steal your girlfriend through song. He doesn’t really care which one he accomplishes first. After all, he’s Prince.

Anyone looking for a full comeback to the 1999 or Purple Rain days won’t find it here. The title track and the closing track, “Resolution,” offer up political commentary and a call for world peace, but the delivery isn’t as searingly iconic as “Sign o’ the Times.” “Future Baby Momma,” and “Mr. Goodnight,” show that he still has a knack for setting the mood, and “Guitar,” the debut single from the album, has enough bounce to get you to move in your car, but it’s all been done before by Prince a little bit better.

Prince doesn’t embarrass himself here, and the above five tracks are all worthwhile downloads. For a guy who changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol just to screw with his record company, it has always been about the music. Planet Earth is a more mature, less manic evolution of the sound Prince created with his earlier albums.

See? You can grow up in the world of pop without getting weird. Er, more weird, that is. BXander Scott.