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Thread started 09/23/16 4:09pm

purplethunder3
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TRIBUTE: Rediscovering Prince’s Late-Career Gem ‘Art Official Age,’ Two Years On

TRIBUTE: Rediscovering Pr...o Years On

September 23, 2016 Chris Lacy
*** MODERATORS NOTE ***
Chris Lacy is ChrisLacy1990 a member of the ORG
Thank U 4 sharing your article with the community
-OF4S
259 5

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Prince’s Art Official Age, originally released September 26, 2014.

[Buy Prince’s Art Official Age via Amazon or iTunes | Stream via Tidal]

"Most people in this world are born dead, but I was born alive..."
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What was the most shocking moment in popular music during 2014? No, it wasn't Pharrell's ubiquitous feel-good single "Happy" spending 10 weeks at No. 1, and it certainly wasn’t Miley Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball in her birthday suit. I'm talking about the late-great Prince returning to Warner Bros. Records nearly 20 years after his infamous falling out with the label and delivering his 37th studio album Art Official Age, a 13-track affair that finds him reveling in many of his signature sounds from the '80s.

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In 1994, Prince sacrificed his hard-earned place in the limelightand, for a time, his birth name to fight for complete artistic freedom and ownership of the music he created. Since Warner Bros. insisted on waiting the industry-standard two years between major releases and believed that the albums were their property, Prince gave them multiple albums to fulfill his contractual obligations. After a two-year public dispute, Prince was finally free and elected to release a series of records independently and through one-off licensing deals.

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On April 18, 2014, City Pages launched a press release announcing that His Royal Badness and Warner Bros. had rekindled their musical partnership with some new exciting projects. "A brand-new studio album is on the way, and both Warner Bros. Records and [I] are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship," Prince declared in the press release. As he prepared for his big comeback, many wondered if Prince had enough creative fuel in the tank. Well, in the words of comedian Kevin Hart, they were "gonna learn today!"

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The hyperactive album opener "Art Official Cage" travels across a vast musical landscape at a breakneck pace, from Daft Punk-style EDM and operatic pop to '70s slap-bass funk and dubstep. In this updated lyrical sequel to "Uptown," Prince encourages the masses to embrace their uniqueness instead of conforming to what society says they should be. As a result, the handlers of the "artificial cage" see Prince's act of rebellion as a threat, so they capture and waterboard him like a terror suspect. "We need you to tell us what you know" is repeated to him scornfully followed by a muffled "Let me go!"

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"Clouds" is a blissful R&B/pop number highlighting the importance of love and affection as opposed to seeking validation via mainstream media. The album's loose sci-fi narrative establishes itself here: Prince has awoken from a cryogenic slumber and is learning to adapt to a musical and cultural terrain unfamiliar to him (guided by UK vocalist Lianne La Havas). With its elastic bassline, feathery synths, and soaring guitar solo near the 3:45 mark, "Clouds" harks back to the classic Prince sound. The vulnerable ballad "Breakdown" chronicles Prince's deepest insecurities such as lost love and his former bachelor lifestyle. The somber musical arrangement works well with his vocal dynamics that go from soft and subdued to an all-out screaming confession.

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Complete with brass stabs, Latin percussion, and thick disco beats, "The Gold Standard" is a relatively tame groove compared to his Rude Boy funk workouts of the 1980s. Prince advises today's Selfie generation that "you don't need to be rude, you don't need to be wild" to have fun, which is ironic coming from someone who performed in bikini drawers and a flasher's trench coat. A few resurrected elements of The Black Albumappear here for the deep-rooted fans, one of them being the “Bob George” vocals.
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"U Know," a slow jam built around a looped sample of Mila J's "Blinded," has Prince delivering his best attempt at rapping about romantic misunderstanding and spiritual crisis with an unbelievably lush chorus. Fun fact about Mila J: she performed, at the age of seven, as one of the young dancers in Prince's 1991 music video for "Diamonds and Pearls.”

"Breakfast Can Wait" is admittedly cheesy, but Prince knows the secret to selling material like this is to play it completely straight. Breakfast food is used metaphorically to represent a moment of intimacy between him and his lover before she leaves for work. The instrumentation conjures up memories of "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" from Sign o' the Times (1987) with its smooth blend of drums, synths, and bass guitar with marimba and finger snaps peppered in. The mood is sexy but not dirty and manages to fit in a surprise cameo from another '80s alter-ego, Camille.

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We move firmly into the trance-inducing ballad "This Could Be Us" with a quiet storm arrangement of synths, heavy drums, and percussive elements similar to "The Beautiful Ones." Taking the popular Internet meme "This could be us, but you playing," and building a love song around it is something only he could pull off.

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Although "What It Feels Like" may not be one of the most fondly remembered songs on the album, listeners have come to recognize the value of the bouncy production, vocal chemistry with Andy Allo, and Biblical references to David and Saul. In the context of the record, it fits perfectly and wouldn't feel out of place on Prince's triple-disc record, Emancipation (1996).

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In "Affirmation I & II," La Havas reads a few lines of dialogue that float above gorgeous harp strings before the gospel-infused "Way Back Home" begins. It starts out sluggish at first and slowly builds into one of the most telling moments of Prince's career. "Most people in this world are born dead, but I was born alive," he says, "I was born with this dream, with a dream outside my head that I could find my way back home." While "Anna Stesia" remains the gold standard of Prince's heartfelt confessions, "Way Back Home" just might be in line for the silver medal.

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http://www.albumism.com/f...ficial-age

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #1 posted 09/23/16 4:17pm

SquirrelMeat

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Wow. Its it two years already? Loved it then love it now. I still play all the 2014-2016 content in the car.

This album has a special place in my heart surrounding my (then) 8 year old son. As a dad, there are pivotal moments. That first word. That first step, that first bike ride. But for me it was when he said, "Daddy, could I get my own CD of Art Official Age for my birthday?".

Boom.

.
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Reply #2 posted 09/23/16 4:30pm

roxy831

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SquirrelMeat said:

Wow. Its it two years already? Loved it then love it now. I still play all the 2014-2016 content in the car.

This album has a special place in my heart surrounding my (then) 8 year old son. As a dad, there are pivotal moments. That first word. That first step, that first bike ride. But for me it was when he said, "Daddy, could I get my own CD of Art Official Age for my birthday?".

Boom.

yes Awesome...that's all I can say!

Welcome home class. We've come a long way. - RIP Prince
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Reply #3 posted 09/23/16 4:43pm

nonames

SquirrelMeat said:

"Daddy, could I get my own CD of Art Official Age for my birthday?".

Boom.


Sweet.
My 2014-2016 playlist also gets plenty of listens. Some of the music he released in the last two years is amongst my favourite post-80s output.
I don't get why people don't like What It Feels Like, though: Andy and Prince sound great together!
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Reply #4 posted 09/23/16 5:00pm

gandorb

I have fantasized how AOA would finally be seen outside the org and those closet to Prince as the work of art that it is. There has been so little mention of prince's most recent work, and AOA is especially neglected given it's excellence. So, this made me biggrin .

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Reply #5 posted 09/23/16 10:40pm

dance4me3121

I don't see any mention of "FunknRoll",the last minute of that song always makes me smile
Very nice post though .thanks for sharing
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Reply #6 posted 09/23/16 10:48pm

jaawwnn

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Still a great album, still a seriously flawed album imho.

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Reply #7 posted 09/24/16 1:58am

LondonIrish197
0

I couldn't belive this when I first listened to it on the release day. The tracks we had heard beforehand didn't prepare me for this in it's entireity.

It works for me, beginning to end. The only track I saw him play live was FunkNRoll at KoKo in Camden.

I would rate this amongst my very favourite Prince albums. It is also very touching.

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Reply #8 posted 09/24/16 7:09am

herb4

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It's a fine record. Some of his finest work in years. Only clunker on it is the first track.

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Reply #9 posted 09/24/16 4:56pm

anangellooksdo
wn

This is my favorite album right now. I left it in a rental car and I called over this part of the state chasing it down.
Hertz Rental Car will not miss me if I never do business with them again.
Now it occurs to me that maybe God wanted some poor soul on a long lonely ride to listen to it and I could've just bought another one.

I love This Is What It Feels Like and my favorite right now is This Could Be Us. God, his vocals are so incredible.
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Reply #10 posted 09/24/16 8:53pm

Asenath0607

Just found AOA and I love it. I had stepped away for years (decades honestly) and after hearing some of his songs from various albums I am having a hard time understanding why some of his songs were not "hits". I know the record industry has changed drastically, but after listening I just felt like some of the songs were just as good as what he had hits with in the past. Don't want to come across as a conspiracy nut; but was he subjected to backlash/blackballing?

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Reply #11 posted 09/24/16 9:00pm

Latin

Always loved this album.

It's sad that so many orgers posted their strong dislike for it when it was released because it's an awesome album.

Hopefully, Prince did not see on this site all that negativity related to this particular gem of his.
[Edited 9/24/16 21:04pm]
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Reply #12 posted 09/24/16 9:22pm

purplethunder3
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I wish Prince had played more songs from the album when he toured in 2014. I so wanted to see him play Clouds live...

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #13 posted 09/24/16 9:56pm

wonder505

AOA is a brilliant album. Loved it when it was first released and love it now. cool
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Reply #14 posted 09/25/16 3:41am

funkaholic1972

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SquirrelMeat said:

Wow. Its it two years already? Loved it then love it now. I still play all the 2014-2016 content in the car.

This album has a special place in my heart surrounding my (then) 8 year old son. As a dad, there are pivotal moments. That first word. That first step, that first bike ride. But for me it was when he said, "Daddy, could I get my own CD of Art Official Age for my birthday?".

Boom.

Sweet!!

I am still waiting for one of my 3 kids to take an active interest in Prince. I still love 'em though... lol

RIP Prince: thank U 4 a funky Time!
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Reply #15 posted 09/25/16 11:22am

PeteSilas

jaawwnn said:

Still a great album, still a seriously flawed album imho.

ok, i'll bite, what's wrong with it?

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Reply #16 posted 09/25/16 5:10pm

Starrdust505

PeteSilas said:

jaawwnn said:

Still a great album, still a seriously flawed album imho.

ok, i'll bite, what's wrong with it?

I would be interested to know what these serious flaws are too. I had to play this album again when I saw this thread. The art work on the vinyl is stunning and the album contains some really cool tracks such as Clouds and Breakfast Can Wait. I also like this albums version of FunknRoll. Time and The Breakdown are stand out tracks for me. Time in particular was so good I had to play it twice. I really think that Prince didn't do badly with this album at all.

[Edited 9/25/16 17:11pm]

Come now, isn't life a little better with a pair of good shoes? - Prince 1985
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Reply #17 posted 09/25/16 5:36pm

PeteSilas

Starrdust505 said:

PeteSilas said:

ok, i'll bite, what's wrong with it?

I would be interested to know what these serious flaws are too. I had to play this album again when I saw this thread. The art work on the vinyl is stunning and the album contains some really cool tracks such as Clouds and Breakfast Can Wait. I also like this albums version of FunknRoll. Time and The Breakdown are stand out tracks for me. Time in particular was so good I had to play it twice. I really think that Prince didn't do badly with this album at all.

[Edited 9/25/16 17:11pm]

got great reviews and I loved it, not each and every song but just about every song is a winner and he was showing a maturity he never had. Of course, it also contains the things that made me worry about him, it sounded like he was in the process of saying goodbye. Way Back Home is his Change Is Gonna Come.

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Reply #18 posted 09/25/16 5:46pm

jaawwnn

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Starrdust505 said:

PeteSilas said:

ok, i'll bite, what's wrong with it?

I would be interested to know what these serious flaws are too. I had to play this album again when I saw this thread. The art work on the vinyl is stunning and the album contains some really cool tracks such as Clouds and Breakfast Can Wait. I also like this albums version of FunknRoll. Time and The Breakdown are stand out tracks for me. Time in particular was so good I had to play it twice. I really think that Prince didn't do badly with this album at all.

[Edited 9/25/16 17:11pm]

Oh hey, sorry, I wasn't trying to be mysterious here.

Leaving aside certain songs that I like more than others I just felt that it never made sense that the Art Official Age concept that is introduced in the opening 2 tracks completely disappears from songs 3-8. They always feel like they were just put in as filler (not quality-wise, U KNOW is the stand out track for me personally), like he had an idea for a concept but wasn't bothered to see it to its fruition by writing an actual albums worth of tracks. It's all a bit Batman-soundtrack in that way.

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Reply #19 posted 09/25/16 7:17pm

scratchtasia

This was my favorite Prince album since the '80s, and it still is.

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Reply #20 posted 09/26/16 5:45am

herb4

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purplethunder3121 said:

I wish Prince had played more songs from the album when he toured in 2014. I so wanted to see him play Clouds live...


He played it live on SNL.

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Reply #21 posted 09/26/16 6:13am

dodger

herb4 said:

purplethunder3121 said:

I wish Prince had played more songs from the album when he toured in 2014. I so wanted to see him play Clouds live...


He played it live on SNL.

He also played it at the Fox Theatre, Detroit last year. Short but sounded great.

.

I love AOA, his best album since Gold for me. Some top notch P tracks in Time, Way Back Home, Breakdown, Clouds and affirmation III

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Reply #22 posted 09/26/16 6:26am

alandail

Latin said:

Always loved this album.

It's sad that so many orgers posted their strong dislike for it when it was released because it's an awesome album.

Hopefully, Prince did not see on this site all that negativity related to this particular gem of his.
[Edited 9/24/16 21:04pm]


Don't remember the middle part at all, I remember this as being the most universally praised albums I can recall on the org when it was released. This is the album I've had on repeat play in the car lately.
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Reply #23 posted 09/26/16 6:28am

BoraBora


In my book AOA is the "Classic" of this P's decade.

Probably not perfect, but surely more ispired and accomplished than the other P releases.



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Reply #24 posted 09/26/16 6:43am

Poplife88

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My fave album of the 2000s. THIS is classic Prince. Totally original, but totally enjoyable. I stil have a hard time getting through Way Back Home without a tear.

We're gonna need a bigger boat
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Reply #25 posted 09/26/16 7:21am

purplethunder3
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herb4 said:

purplethunder3121 said:

I wish Prince had played more songs from the album when he toured in 2014. I so wanted to see him play Clouds live...


He played it live on SNL.

Yeah, but I wanted to hear it in person, as well as some other songs from AOA other than Funknroll.

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #26 posted 09/28/16 8:36am

ChrisLacy1990

dance4me3121 said:

I don't see any mention of "FunknRoll",the last minute of that song always makes me smile
Very nice post though .thanks for sharing


Go to http://www.albumism.com/f...ficial-age and you'll see the parts that were cut off. Thanks for reading!
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