What am I supposed to think of The Black Album? In many ways I live in my own blissfully ignorant Prince bubble. I listen to every bit of his music I can get my hands on. I’ve read numerous books, magazine articles, reviews, and blog posts. What I don’t do is mess with message boards. On the rare occasion that I stumble across one doing research for something like my Daily Prince posts, I can usually make it through about five comments before I roll my eyes and close the window. Beauty is in the eye – or in this case, the ear – of the beholder. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I spend a lot of time being critical of Prince’s mid-90’s stuff, yet I saw a comment on a board recently where someone said with all sincerity that The Gold Experience was the best Prince album. Who am I to say he/she was wrong? There is no wrong, which is why I don’t bother arguing about it on message boards. All of this is my polite way of easing you in to this unpopular opinion: The Black Album just isn’t very good, at least by Prince’s standards. The story has been told thousands of times about how he had production on the album stopped just weeks before its release claiming that it was “too dark.” Is it possible that deep down he knew that it just wasn’t very good?
Take today’s song, “Superfunkycalifragisexy” for instance. It’s not bad, but when I hear it this is my takeaway: It sounds like a generic conglomeration of every Prince funk song. Have you ever seen the jukeboxes online that take sounds from a specific artist or genre, then use AI to create a sample of their music? I imagine “Superfunky…” is an AI sample of all of Prince’s funk work from the 1980’s – 1990’s. It’s cool, it sounds good, but it feels a bit soulless. Just an uptempo funky beat for six minutes without any real feeling. By the way, if you’re wondering what the AI jukebox does with Prince, check this out.
I’m just taking a guess here, but this feels like a precursor to the Batman soundtrack. Call it “Batdance Beta” without all the Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger. Batman was released in 1989 and The Black Album was scheduled for release in December 1987, so the dates aren’t that far off. However, “Superfunky…” was actually the first song recorded for The Black Album in September of 1986. It wasn’t unusual for Prince to go back to old vault tracks to inspire new stuff, but I’m probably reaching on this “Batdance” thing. They’re in the same neighborhood, sonically.
Ultimately, I kind of wish The Black Album never saw the light of day. I love the idea of there being this mind blowing Prince album existing out there that he had destroyed shortly before its release. That still exists to a large degree as long as “the vault” still has a stockpile of music, but The Black Album had such a mystique. Then I heard it and thought, “Eh. It’s his worst album of the 80’s.” My rating on “Superfunky…” is probably too harsh. It just feels like Prince mailed this one in.