Prince: The Rainbow Children

Prince: The Rainbow Children

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Prince

Album: The Rainbow Children
Label: NPG
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Prince

Album: The Rainbow Children
Label: NPG

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The problem with labeling artists as geniuses is that sometimes they take the tag seriously, using it as a license to indulge every whim. After all, who's to question a genius? Prince lived up to the label for a long time, but his badge of genius began to weigh heavily on him as his commercial fortunes slipped in the early '90s, and subsequent efforts have found him alternating between courting the mainstream (1999's Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic) and delving ever deeper into the rabbit hole of a private mythology. The new The Rainbow Children falls squarely in the latter category. A mystical-striving conceptual piece along the lines of 1992's glyph-titled album, but without the Kirstie Alley spoken-word interludes or the catchy songs, Rainbow presents a genre-mixing musical account of some sort of apocalyptic/ utopian event. This seems mostly to involve a struggle between The Rainbow Children and The Banished Ones, characters such as The Muse and The Pharaoh, the destruction of something known as The Digital Garden, narration from a computer-distorted Prince, and a lot of the aimless smooth-jazz that's become a staple of his recent concerts. Much of Prince's genius used to lie in his ability to snare listeners into his genuinely avant-garde work, weird pop constructed from the outer reaches of R&B, funk, rock, and whatever else occurred to him. Here he mostly harnesses bits and pieces of the past—James Brown on "The Work, Pt.1," Sly Stone on "The Everlasting Now," fusion-era Miles Davis most everywhere else—in the service of a vision that makes sense only to him. The Rainbow Children contains one good song, a ballad called "She Loves Me 4 Me," buried beneath layers of spiritual horseshittery. On the albums that first earned Prince the label of genius, it was always the other way around.

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