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Prince: N.E.W.S.

If you picked up Prince’s N.E.W.S. (NPG) expecting to hear the kind of funky pop-R&B songs for which he’s best known, you might be disappointed. The four compositions on this album, which are entitled “North,” “East” “West” and “South,” don’t employ conventional verse-chorus song structures; they are, instead, abstract sonic paintings that use multistylistic musical motifs to create texture and color.

All four pieces are exactly 14 minutes long. “North” includes rubbery funk grooves, pensive sax, edgy rock guitar and soundscapes featuring wind and sea effects. “East” features a serene Eastern-inflected motif countered by a dark electric-bass pattern, fiery guitar and a fusiony jam. “West” includes a funk-fusion workout enhanced by a jazzy piano solo that transforms into an anthemic, guitar-driven workout. “South” opens with a deep groove and then morphs into a moody, atmospheric sax-driven soundscape that gives way to lush strings and delicate piano, closing with a swirl of effects.

Exploratory and evocative, N.E.W.S. is an intriguing departure for this enigmatic and unpredictable artist.

Originally Published