'3121' is Prince's latest album and is something of a departure from his earlier works. In the same vein as 'Musicology', Prince has focused on producing a tightly arranged collection of songs as opposed to the epics musical masterpieces exemplified in such classic albums as 'Sign O' The Times', 'Purple Rain' or the more recent 'Emancipation'. Nevertheless, the album is a finely polished piece of work and proves that while occasionally the diminutive superstar misses the mark he can still churn out a great tune.
The album begins with the titular '3121'. Whilst not the strongest song on the album there is a definitive Prince quality to the song, reminiscent of such songs as 'Jam Of The Year' from the 'Emancipation' album. The rhythm of the album picks up with the second track 'Lolita', a funky, synth inspired masterpiece with some deliciously cheeky lyrics and in my opinion possibly the finest track on the album. Prince appears to have chosen a less consistent musical signature for '3121' than some of his earlier work, selecting the order of the tracks in a contemporary arrangement to present each track on it's own merits. This is particular evident in the way 'Lolita' transitions into the balladic and silky smooth 'Te Amo Corazon' and segues to 'Black Sweat', a classic Prince tune evocative of his earlier catalogue - the song has a distinctive sound which instantly reminds one of 'Kiss' from the 'Parade' album. 'Incense and Candles' takes the album in an R&B direction, with a slow yet captivating rhythm that draws the listener in, which is contrasted by the punchy 'Love', a galvanizing rocky track that grabs hold of your ears and refuses to let go until the final bar of the song.
'Satisfied', the next track on the album, could easily be considered a sibling of 'Call My Name' from the 'Musicology' album - it's a simple song, with subtle sexual undertones and a slow, languid pace. Maintaining the contrasting elements of the album, Prince has chosen to follow 'Satisfied' with 'Fury', a high energy tune with lively production and some fantastic guitar solos, excellent lyrics and an inescapably catchy tune - if your head isn't nodding to this one, then you probably don't have a pulse.
Two topics have always been prominent in much of Prince's music - sex and religion. Prince celebrates intercourse and God in his various guises in equal amounts, often using the notions as the basis for his songwriting, occasionally basing entire albums around one concept ('Lovesexy' is a prime example). As Prince's religious perspective has changed throughout the decades, so has his music reflected his evolving perception of sexuality and his religious beliefs. Prince's religious direction has migrated towards a more fundamental doctrine and this has been reflected in his music. This fundamental change in religious philosophy is exhibited in the second half of '3121' and can be most readily identified in such songs as 'The Word', which has echoes of 'Holy River' from the 'Emancipation' album - both are infectious songs with deep lyrics and a hook that buries itself in your subconscious to the degree that you'll find yourself humming the song long after you've first heard it.
The religious theme of the latter half of the album continues with 'Beautiful, Loved and Blessed', an uptempo song which also plays host to the fabulous soulful voice of Tamar, a guaranteed future star in the making. This is followed by 'The Dance', which, along with '3121', is possibly the least successful song on the album. Both songs are fine on their own but when held up against the inherent quality of the other tracks they fall short. Finally, we have 'Get on the Boat', a strong, energetic and highly danceable track that finishes the album on a high.
'3121', could quite easily rate as Prince's finest album to date - along with 'Musicology' it certainly ranks very high up on the list. Production quality is as smooth as we've come to expect from Prince and his trademark heavy guitar solo's are in evidence on a number of tracks, most notably 'Fury'. Additionally, the return to a firmer 12 track album lends the album a fuller, less drawn out sensation than albums such as 'Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic', which delivers a more taut, satisfying listening experience. In summary, an excellent follow up to the remarkable 'Musicology' and a perfect vehicle to showcase why Prince is still one of the greatest musical talents of our era and a living legend.