I’ll say this much about Prince: once you think you’ve got his modus operandi figured out, he throws you a curveball. He has just released a new single, “Stare” from his forthcoming album, ironically uploading it to Spotify (one of several digital outlets where he recently recanted the entire Prince catalog) for all to give a listen.
From the opening Funkadelic-informed bass line, to his smoother-than-silk soul croon, this tune marks a return in a big, big way. The song construction itself is undeniably clever, but not in a cloying manner. On the surface, it sounds like the vintage Prince of Controversy, and indeed contains some self-deprecating lyricism: “We like you to stare/We used to go on stage in our underwear/We changed up, we got a brand new beat…..” As the tune progresses, background harmonies enhance his lead vocal, as a horn section stealthily enters.
I must invite comparisons to one of Prince’s musical mentors, Sylvester Stewart, as I felt a strong homage to the classic funk/pop of Sly and the Family Stone here, and frankly, if the band were still recording today, I imagine Stewart would have collaborated with Prince at some point. The horn arrangement is marvelous – starts off funky, then gets a little jazzy. Prince makes a melodic inference to his 1986 tune, “Kiss”, fakes us out with a musical fade that doesn’t quite fade out completely, then unexpectedly returns to let the horn players shine.
In an interview with the BBC 3rdEyeGirl (who will be the supporting band on the upcoming album) described it as “super experimental”, and shared the album’s title, HITNRUN. As for it’s scheduled release date, all the band would say was that it will be “out soon.” Not soon enough for me and all the Prince faithful, but remember, funky things come to those who wait. Besides, this single satisfies enough to invoke my patience. Prince – you still da man!