Prince did 'Welcome 2 America' in 2010. It speaks until 2021.

It’s almost like Prince knew what to expect. In 2010, Prince recorded but then put aside a completed album, “Welcome 2 America,” which...


It’s almost like Prince knew what to expect.

In 2010, Prince recorded but then put aside a completed album, “Welcome 2 America,” which was full of dark thoughts about the state of the nation. It comes on Friday as the Prince Estate continues to open the vault of Prince’s unreleased music since his death in 2016. Unlike much of what has emerged so far, this is about ‘a complete, standalone album – a wry statement that seems too apt in 2021.

“Welcome 2 America” was done two years in the Obama administration, and Prince hasn’t seen much progress. In the title song, the women sing “Hope and Change”; then Prince observes sharply: “Everything takes forever / Truth is a new minority.”

The songs address racism, exploitation, misinformation, fame, faith and capitalism: “The 21st century is always about greed and glory,” Prince sings in “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master) “. Eleven years after the album was recorded – as the 2020s brought bitter divisions, blatant racism, battles over history and a hellish digital landscape of consumer hype and algorithmic lies – Prince didn’t looking pessimistic, just down to earth.

“Welcome 2 America” was not done casually. It is one of Prince’s most collaborative albums, built in discrete stages with different cohorts of musicians. Prince began recording instrumental tracks – voiceless or lyric – live in the studio with Tal Wilkenfeld on bass and Chris Coleman on drums. Then he worked with singers Shelby J. (for Johnson), Liv Warfield and Elisa Fiorillo, sharing tracks and harmonies with them. Morris Hayes, introduced as Mr. Hayes, added intricately and jazzy simulated keyboards and strings and brass arrangements, earning him credit as the co-producer of six of the 12 songs on the album. Prince also made some final adjustments, including a rewrite of the title song.

But Prince had already released an album in 2010 – “20Ten” – and his attention turned to forming a new live band (including Mr. Hayes and the three backing singers) that would tour the world for the next two years. years. The American part was called the “Welcome 2 America” ​​tour, but the album remained unreleased. (The deluxe version of “Welcome 2 America” ​​includes a Blu-ray of a jubilant 2011 arena show in Inglewood, Calif.)

Credit…Mike Ruiz, via The Prince Estate

“Welcome 2 America” ​​goes from the bitter derision of its main song to cautious optimism, with twists – it’s a Prince album after all – to physical pleasures. The title song telegraphs its mood with its first notes: a snake whistle of cymbals and a bass line which progressively advances, descends then plunges further, against a background of ambiguous chords and synthesizer swoops. The track turns to funk, and the women sing, but Prince doesn’t; he speaks simply, unmoved, about information overload, high-tech distractions, privilege, fame and culture, asking, “Do you think today’s music is going to last?” Singing in harmony, the women change an American motto to “Land of the Free, House of the Slave.”

In the enigmatic “1010 (Rin Tin Tin)”, Prince asks, “What could be stranger than the times we live in? To skeletal, jerky piano chords, and he goes on to decry “too much information” and a “desert of lies”. With “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master)”, Prince confronts a microcosm of rich versus poor: how the music business benefits newcomers.

Yet, as usual in Prince’s catalog, “Welcome 2 America” balances tough ideas with visceral joys. He sings of unnecessary conflicts over religion in “Same Page, Different Book” – “So much more in common if you only look,” he insists – but his lyrics about rocks, missiles and car bombs arrive backed by crispy syncopations. In “1000 Years Light From Here”, he puts the light Latin funk behind reminders of black perseverance, addressing the The Subprime Crisis and the collapse of the financial sector in 2008: “We can live underwater / It’s not difficult when you’ve never been part / From the country on dry land”. Prince put new lyrics on “1000 Light Years” as an upbeat coda for the sharpest “Black Muse” – a song about slavery, injustice and America’s debt to black culture – on the last album he released in his lifetime, “HitnRun Phase Two”.

Prince pauses the socio-political commentary of “Check the Record”, a rock-funk track about infidelity, and “When She Comes”, a sultry falsetto ballad marveling at a woman’s ecstasy. (Prince also reworked “When she comes” for “HitnRun Phase Two,” emphasizing male technique instead.)

At the end of the album, Prince calls for positive thinking. “Yes” returns to the supercharged gospel-rock of Sly and the Family Stone. After this peak to shake the tambourine, “One Day We Will All B Free” turns into a reassuring midtempo soul. But the “Yes” Prince calls out is a claim that “We can turn the page / As long as they don’t move us to a bigger cage” and “Someday we’ll all be free” is also a warning on the unconditional belief in what churches and schools teach. Prince saw a long struggle ahead.

Prince
“Welcome 2 America”
(NPG / Sony Legacy)

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Newsrust - US Top News: Prince did 'Welcome 2 America' in 2010. It speaks until 2021.
Prince did 'Welcome 2 America' in 2010. It speaks until 2021.
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