If you’re a Prince fan and it’s been a minute since you thought about his royal badness, you might want to know that he’s playing three shows at Mohegan Sun Arena this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Although the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t been in the commercial forefront for some time (to put it charitably), Prince’s sound certainly hasn’t evaporated into the ether.
From Justin Timberlake to Maroon 5 to Janelle Monae to Bruno Mars — especially Mars’s recent hit “Treasure” — to countless others, the influence of the Minneapolis musician looms large. (As does the influence of the other two-thirds of the holy trinity of pop soul: Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.)
In particular, Mars and Timberlake have been vocal in their appreciation of Prince’s place in the pop firmament, with Timberlake telling Playboy in 2011 that the singer-songwriter-guitarist who has sold more than 100 million records “is the greatest musician who has ever lived. He keeps producing, keeps writing, keeps making unbelievable music — all because he’s true to his passion.”
Mars told USA Today in 2012, “I love artists like Prince, who hold on to that element of mystery. You don’t know where the hell Prince is in this world. He’s probably on a unicorn somewhere, you know?”
Of course, that quirky, potential unicorn-riding air of mystery can work against an artist who has indeed continued to produce, write, and make music — some of it very good. But thanks to a strong Internet aversion (including shutting down his website in 2010) that in the modern age can amount to self-exclusion, even those of us who never stopped waving the purple flag have had to do some spelunking to locate that music.
For whatever reason, and it is surely his own, Prince has been making inroads back into the broader pop culture consciousness of late.
In addition to the Mohegan-style pop-up residencies he’s done around the country and in Europe for the past few years — which serve as a potent reminder of his incendiary gifts — Prince has also surfaced on television, performing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and the Billboard Music Awards, where he received the Icon award this spring. He also closed down this year’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, which by many accounts was an epic, 2½-hour affair.
The 55-year-old artist also has been offering impromptu Livestream broadcasts of rehearsals and jam sessions at his Paisley Park studios. And, in true random Prince fashion, he will guest star in the episode of the Fox sitcom “New Girl” that airs after the Super Bowl. (Apparently, even Prince can’t resist Schmidt.)
Perhaps most importantly in terms of reminding people that he continues to make new music, Prince joined Twitter. He began his social media journey in August at the preexisting handle @3rdeyegirl, the name of the new, all-female group with which he performs.
Given his disengagement from the game and the lack of linear narrative as he’s followed his own curlicued glyph arrow, it’s no surprise that Prince sometimes feels like an app running in the background on your phone that you occasionally check and remember, “Oh, right, Prince. He’s fantastic!”
It’s time to check the app, which comes in the form of several tunes available for 88 cents apiece at 3rdeyegirl.com.
All the Prince hallmarks lurk within the tracks without them seeming self-consciously retro.
“Breakfast Can Wait” is a slinky slice of funk in service of staying in bed just a little longer, that lives in a similar sonic neighborhood to “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” The horn-topped “Da Bourgeoisie” is a sometimes playful lament about the vagaries of romance. “Ain’t Gonna Miss U When Ur Gone” has some straight-up Vanity 6 vibes in the old-school hand claps and keyboard clumps.
While few artists with careers as long and prolific as Prince’s can boast of making music as vibrant in their latter days as they did in their youth — and Prince fans have certainly suffered their share of disappointments — these tracks make clear that it’s good news that he continues to chug away for the passion of the process.
And whether he’s in the forefront of the marketplace or not, people are still clearly interested. Prince continues to play full arenas even with most fans fully aware that he does not play pure greatest hits sets, instead diving into the deep end of his back catalog, reimagining and mashing up hits and b-sides, and refusing to stint on the new.
So, while we may not have thought about him for a minute, it’s comforting to know that Prince is still thinking about the music.