We are nearing the end of this project, friends. Now is not the time to think about how long it took, or to remember any wild claims about “finishing by summer.”1 There is no need for officials to appear and concede that mistakes were made and writers have become distracted from time to time. Instead, I will just admit that the Prince catalog proved more daunting that I had imagined at the start, and the final years of career have, at times, left me exhausted. I am here to finish, because closure is important in this crazy and chaotic world. The entries will probably be a little shorter, but don’t worry, the records under discussion will keep being too long.

Over these last three entries, I’ll be looking at the final six studio albums released before our Purple hero’s untimely passing. I will be skipping 20Ten, also known as “ The Newspaper” album, because it was given away in two British newspapers—the man was not above trying new ways to get records out, as should be clear by now.

Like, say, releasing what you can call “The Target Albums.” In case you have forgotten:

I dutifully went to Target and purchased Lotusflow3 and MPLSound the day they were released.1 I remember listening a few times, trying to find some sign that he was back on track. It didn’t take long for me to give up, shelve the CDs, and then never listen again.

Until now, faithful reader!

Revisiting Lotusflow3r, I found it was better than I expected. The opener, “Boom,” is a generic midtempo excuse to have lots of guitar leads, but there are worse things to do for three minutes than less to Prince play guitar. The best moments on the record, though, are the weirdest, like the slinky samba “Love Like Jazz,” and the sweet instrumental, “77 Beverly Park.”

There are also plenty of missteps. “Crimson and Clover” is an uninspired, and unnecessary, cover, and really makes me wonder what he was thinking. “Colonized Mind” features awkwardly spoken verse, and is a reminder that, for me, his messages always worked best when he came at them indirectly. “Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful” is one of those late period Prince dance numbers that does not age well.

MPLSound pushes the “Let’s Dance!” more relentlessly, alas. The opening track, “(There’ll Never Be) Another Like Me,” rambles on for almost six minutes, ironically sounding like the kind of bragging funk track that is like many, many others. There are still glimpses of the Prince magic, though, albeit fewer moments than can be found on Lotusflow3r. “Here” goes on too long, but there’s a catchy little keyboard lick, and it sounds like it could have been a good three-minute pop song, if he had just been in the mood to shape it more. “Better With Time” has some decent melody ideas, but oh, oh no, the lyrics:

I don’t know if this is a bore
But I just can no longer ignore
This fact so sublime
You get better with time

It’s a lovely sentiment, even if a bit tired and awkwardly phrased, so I will resist the urge to turn it into some meta-statement on the battle all artists much wage as they battle time. Instead, we will leave Prince in the electronics section of Target, and wait to see where he goes next.

1 For the record, I did not say which summer.

2 OK, there was also a third CD, Elixir, by Bria Valentine. We don’t ever need to talk of it again.

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