Before September’s HITnRUN Phase One has had the chance to settle controversy among his fan base, Prince now drops surprise release HITnRUN Phase Two only three months later. Although Phase One flirts dangerously with the generic, Phase Two reinstates what we know and love about an artist that exudes complete weirdness, brilliance and soul. The entirely analogue production adds warm tones and organic sounds to Prince’s signature funk. With a body of work as impressive and varied as Prince’s, it is a wonder how he is still going for it relentlessly after 30 years in the business (he’s 57 this year).
HITnRUN Phase Two included at least 7 tracks that have been previously released as either official singles or giveaways. As good as it may be then, the ‘new’ album will sound very familiar to hard-core Prince fans, and those who knew where to look. Nevertheless, its wild inconsistency actually helps to sustain an overall coherence. To describe Phase Two as a recapping of Prince’s greatest hits would be completely inaccurate, as he is methodical and exacting in his production. After recording demos that match themes at the core of the album, he will dig through his giant vault of unreleased material to to find others that match them. The addition of an impressive horn section is a move that demonstrates the man’s pure genius, creating upbeat vibes nostalgic of classic Prince moments often seen in the 80s.
Although ‘Baltimore’ is an overtly political song inspired by protests against the brutal murder of Freddie Gray, and expresses solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, serious elements don’t overwhelm the mood of Phase Two. Not only due to a pulsing groove and Prince’s flamboyant vocals, allusions to sex can be heard through evocative lyrics and flirtatious beats, which detract from heavier topics. While ‘2.Y.2.D’ is a far cry from ‘Dirty Mind’, the main catch ‘She’s old enough to do ya, but too young to dare’ reminds us of his raunchy past. Weakness come in the form of forgettable track ‘Groovy Potential’, which acts like a filler in the otherwise excellent album. All is made up for with the smouldering ‘Black Muse’, however, dating back to 2010 on Prince’s Welcome 2 America’ tour. The ambitious track contains complexities that unfold with every subsequent listen, with especially breath-taking harmony vocals.
Prince should not be criticised for recycling tracks; some of his best works have been melting pots of diverse material. As unexpected as its release, HITnRUN Phase Two is an exhilarating listen, and acts to redeem the earlier Phase One. Full of vitality and energy, Prince once again asserts his place in the industry as a truly gifted artist, even on his 39th album.
HITnRUN Phase Two, released 12th December (NPG Records), buy and stream here.
by Ha Vu