Prince: Planet Earth

To be a Rock artist is one thing, but to be a true Rock Star is another. The first step towards the latter category often begins with creating a persona that’s not only larger than life, but larger than even the imaginations of the audience. Prince has certainly done that, but after thirty-plus years, it’s become questionable how useful this persona is anymore. When Prince’s name is evoked, it’s inevitable that images of a pan-sexual weirdo in a purple blouse will spring to mind. While Prince hasn’t completely abandoned those stylistic flourishes, the less theatric persona he’s taken as of late is constantly in conflict with the character we continue to imagine. Planet Earth (Columbia) may initially come off as a disappointment to those expecting tales of public self-gratification, but those who manage to take it at face value might find it worth listening to.With that said, Planet Earth still isn’t exactly a revolutionary experience either. While less is more when it comes to the structuring of an album, a concise work such as this can also have the unintended consequence of exposing any flaws. In this case, those weak links come in the form of forgettable pop-rock throwbacks “Guitar” and “The One U Wanna C.” Both are overly glossy retreads on sensibilities embraced by The Rolling Stones or David Bowie in the early ‘80s. Because Prince himself was a pioneer in that field as well, the intentions aren’t worth questioning, but the works ultimately have too much formula and too little charisma.What do work, however, are the more delicate and mature moments that combine Prince’s talent for arrangement typically found in his more electronic works with his modern preference for analog instruments. “Somewhere Here on Earth” is the perfect picture of today’s Prince—sexy without being cartoonishly pornographic. Later, Prince’s humor is communicated in an age-appropriate fashion on “Mr. Goodnight” with playful raps that are spirited enough to not come of as foolish or contrived. Don’t plan on retiring 1999 anytime soon, but Planet Earth shows that Prince still has the chops to turn in a great album in the future should he catch the right inspiration. That inspiration is what’s generally missing from this new effort, resulting in a fairly “by-the-numbers” collection. Still, with an artist as accomplished as Prince, “the numbers” are still higher than most of the current landscape, so in the end, blouses win. B*tches.