Is it time we stopped looking at Prince with a purple tint? Last year’s double-hit of albums sort of implied that we should, as neither really seem to encapsulate everything the man stands (on his platforms) for. We’ve barely caught our breath and he’s at it again with HITNRUN Phase One. Either he’s going through some sort of creative nymphomania, or he’s just throwing a lot at the wall and hoping for something to stick.
“Don’t worry,” says a distorted voice at the top of the album, “I won’t hurt you. I just want you to have fun.” That ends up being quite debatable by the end, but kicking off with Million $ Show is an apt way to set the tone from a record that seems to be about forced revelry. It’s helped considerably by the presence of Judith Hill (you know, the former MJ backing vocalist from 20 Feet From Stardom) – we already know Prince is capable of extracting the best from female vocalists, but Hill is quite the ringmaster on what is surely a career highlight.
Funnily enough, it goes a bit wrong when Prince himself gets involved. Shut This Down is excruciating to sit through, like your grandad trying to pass a kidney stone while singing along to a Miley Cyrus song. Speaking of kidney stones, Rita Ora also manages to turn up as Prince makes a rare misstep with a female vocalist – really, anyone who okayed the line “If you’re not a Rita-bot you’re a blood clot/clart” (whatever) on a Prince album needs to properly reassess their career choice.
HITNRUN Phase One (dear God, that means there’s a phase two) is, we suppose, a party album, but more in the sense that it’ll help you clear a room at the end of the night. The only time it comes close to being the opposite, apart from the opener, is with Curly Fryz‘s winning turn pre-sax on Like A Mack and the proper disco-funk of Fallinlove2nite (seriously Prince, find the space bar). Other than that, it’s an acute reminder that quality control forever suffers in the face of quantity – hey, just ask Justin Timberlake – and that a crime as grave as HITNRUN surely deserves life imprisonment.
HITNRUN Phase One by Prince is available on TIDAL. Which already sounds like a lot more effort than it’s worth.