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Prince’s “20Ten” Reviewed

When he wasn’t arguing with Warner Brothers, the former slave Prince was arguing with the entire world about music distribution. How does music make the rounds? In the 20s, everything was sheet music, by the mid-30s it was his master’s voice single 78s,  and by the mid 40s the vinyl album was nascent. The 80s saw the advent of CDs till 1999 when Napster changed the game for a decade or so till streaming services like YouTube and Spotify changed it back again. In 2010, just as streaming was breaking through, for 20Ten Prince returned to a form of distribution he toyed with in 2007, but now taken to another level: “It was initially released on 10 July 2010 (fifteen months after the previous albums Lotusflow3r and MPLSound), included as a covermount with the Belgian newspapers Het Nieuwsblad & de Gentenaar and the British newspaper Daily Mirror (sold in a different edition as the Daily Record in Scotland), following the UK and Ireland distribution model of Planet Earth. German music magazine Rolling Stone also carried the CD with their issue released on 22 July 2010, as did the French paper Courrier International.”

Unfortunately, 20Ten, album # 38, is a very dry piece of product whichever way you pick it up. The lead off track, “Compassion” might make it as third tier Prince but nothing else is even close. Except for a couple of other female singers, and a horn section, this was all Prince all the time, and nothing quite sticks, a little god, a little jazz, a couple of funk workouts and Prince is in full Jehovah’s Witness mode, lecturing us about the Universe in the keyboard riff in search of a song, “Beginning Endlessly” –a trifle by his standards. “Future Soul Song” is a very minor Chi-Lites knockoff, and “Walk In The Sand” isn’t even that. “Sea Of Change” is the best of the ballads, and there are no banging bangers, though “Everybody Loves Me” with a tweak and a tuck coulda been covered by the Archies.

20Ten is as slight as an album can be, it wasn’t even properly distributed though, talking about distribution again, it gained a second life on Tidal. Prince wasn’t capable of really cra music,  he understood rhythm, funk, and groove, way too well to simply be bad, everything here has a bottom, everything here has a certain funkiness built in. I am not even claiming it was laziness, at least not quite laziness, I just think he had coasted on his Purpleness with no repercussions (except for a loss of sales) and no quality control for so long that he lost track of his genius. 20Ten doesn’t even have that terrific guitar to spur it forward. It is as bad as Prince gets and still not terrible.

Grade: B-

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