Prince made ‘Welcome 2 America’ in 2010. It speaks to 2021.

it’s almost like Prince What did you know next?

In 2010, Prince recorded but then postponed a finished album, “Welcome 2 America”, which was filled with bleak reflections on the state of the nation. It comes on Friday as the Prince’s estate continues to open the vault of the Prince’s unreleased music since his death in 2016. Contrary to what has come out so far, this is a full, stand-alone album—a disillusioned statement that seems very fitting in 2021.

“Welcome 2 America” It’s been two years in the Obama administration, and Prince hasn’t seen much progress. In the title track, the women sing, “Hope and Change”; The prince then observes dryly, “Everything takes forever / The truth is a new minority.”

The lyrics are based on racism, exploitation, propaganda, celebrity, faith and capitalism: “The 21st century, it’s still about greed and fame,” sings Prince in “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master)”. Eleven years after the album was recorded – as the 2020s have brought bitter division, blatant racism, a battle of history and a digital hellscape of promoted consumption and algorithmic-promoting lies – Prince doesn’t seem pessimistic, just matter of fact.

“Welcome 2 America” ​​was not created by accident. It is one of Prince’s more collaborative albums, produced on different stages with different groups of musicians. Prince began recording the instruments – without vocals or lyrics – in the studio live with Rhythm Wilkenfeld on bass and Chris Coleman on drums. Then he joined singer Shelby J. (for Johnson), worked with Liv Warfield and Alyssa Fiorillo, sharing the lead and harmony with them. Morris Hayes, billed as Mr Hayes, added keyboards and intricately jazzy fake string and horn arrangements, earning credit as co-producer for six of the album’s 12 songs. Prince also made some final changes, including a rewrite of the title track.

But Prince had already released an album in 2010 – “20Ten” – and turned his attention to forming a new live band (including Mr. Hayes and three backup singers), which would tour the world for the next two years. The US portion was called the “Welcome 2 America” ​​tour, but the album was not released. (The deluxe edition of “Welcome 2 America” ​​includes a Blu-ray of a 2011 Jubilant Arena show in Inglewood, Calif.)

Credit…Mike Ruiz, via The Prince’s Estate

“Welcome 2 America” ​​makes its way from the bitter derision of its title track to a secure optimism, with the affair—this is a Prince album—in material pleasures. The title song telegraphs its mood with its first notes: a snake cymbal hiss and a bass line that inches upward, swooping back down and then forward against a background of fuzzy chords and synthesizer swoop. falls. The track turns to funk, and the women sing, but Prince does not; He talks only about information overload, high-tech distractions, privilege, fame and culture, asking, “Think today’s music will last?” Singing in harmony, the women revise an American motto “Free Land, Home of the Slaves.”

In the enigmatic “1010 (Rin Tin Tin)”, the Prince asks, “What could be stranger than the times we are in?” Skeleton, on choppy piano chords, and he denounces “too much detail” and a “forest of lies”. With “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master)”, Prince tackles a microcosm of rich versus poor: the way the music business takes advantage of newcomers.

Yet as usual in Prince’s catalogue, “Welcome 2 America” ​​balances tough insight with visceral joys. He sings about vain struggles over religion in “Same Page, Different Book”—”So Much More Common If You’d Only Look,” he insists—but his lyrics about rocks, missiles, and car bombs are punctuated by crisp syncopation. are supported. In “1000 Light Years From Here”, he puts the alluring Latin funk behind a reminder of the black persistence, subprime mortgage crisis And the 2008 financial sector recession: “We can live underwater / It ain’t hard when you’ve never been part of the country on dry land.” Prince points to new lyrics from “1000 Light Years” as even more of an upbeat coda “Black Muse” — a song about slavery, injustice, and America’s debt to black culture — on the last album released during his lifetime, “Hittenrun Phase Two.”

Prince withheld sociopolitical commentary for “Check the Record”, a rock-funk stomp about infidelity, and “When She Comes”, an erotic falsetto ballad in a woman’s ecstasy. (Prince also reworked “When She Comes” Instead of emphasizing male technique for “Hittenrun Phase Two”.)

As the album ends, Rajkumar calls for positive thinking. The “yes” harks back to the supercharged gospel-rock of Sly and the Family Stone. After that tambourine-shaking peak, “One Day We’ll All Be Free” eases into the reassuring, midtempo spirit. But the “yes” that Prince demands is an affirmation that “We can turn the page / Until they get us into a bigger cage,” and “One Day We’ll All Be Free” is also a warning. Is. About unquestioning faith in what churches and schools teach. The Prince saw a long struggle ahead.

“Welcome 2 America”
(NPG/Sony Legacy)

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