Tag Archives: ART OFFICIAL AGE

RIP Prince

Just when I thought the high-profile rock star deaths of 2016 were slowing down, Prince died. He was only 57 years old and apparently died due to complications relating to the flu. I’d heard that he’d taken ill following a recent concert and had been rushed to the hospital, but I never imagined that the Purple One would die. I only recently (the last 2 years or so) got into Prince. I can’t exactly recall what spurred my interest in him, but my wife and I really dug into his second-to-last album, the bizarre rock opera ART OFFICIAL AGE, which came out in 2014. Both of us falling in love with a record top-to-bottom is an extremely rare event in my household, which should tell you something about Prince and his appeal.

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Kids today probably don’t know very much about Prince, and I blame that on him. In recent years, Prince’s militancy regarding the online presence of music essentially resulted in wiping him from history for most young music fans. Hell, I grew up in the early 1980s and prior to 2014 I really only thought of him when watching re-runs of Chappelle Show. Scrubbing his music from the web resulted in him being half-remembered as a joke and as the guy who single-handedly ruined Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN film. I guess this strategy made him some money, because ART OFFICIAL AGE was the last album I purchased in an actual record store last year after Prince removed all of his music from Spotify.

I’m sad that Prince is gone and that his legacy is kinda screwed up, because Prince was simply amazing. Like a weird fusion of Hendrix and Michael Jackson, Prince was a genuine  guitar hero. I think that’s the biggest thing young people today don’t know about Prince: he was a legitimate shredder. There is an outstanding song on ART OFFICIAL AGE called “Clouds” where at the very end Prince does this amazing guitar solo. It’s a brief burst of virtuosity that’s probably the most sublime (yet tasteful) bit of music I’ve heard in the last ten years. There’s something really rad about a guy that talented being so restrained. If I could play guitar like Prince, I’d have a double-album of nothing but obnoxious solos.

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The best artists evolve and shift over time and boy did Prince do that…and then some. From his early days a downright dirty talking pop star to a quasi-religious (or not?) fanatic who shunned his early success. He spent much of his later years holed up in his house studio recording whole albums that he never bothered to release (that’s if filmmaker Kevin Smith is to be believed). If there’s anything positive to come from his untimely passing, I hope that it’s we get access to some of that music. I’ll bet that much of it is fucking amazing and all of it is super weird.

Rest In Power, dear sweet Prince.

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The Music Streaming Gods Giveth and Taketh Away…

Music streaming has been in the headlines this week in a big, big way. I’m sure you’re all aware that Apple threw their proverbial hat into the music streaming business this week with the launch of their new Apple Music service. Everything that I’ve heard about this service sounds a bit underwhelming. I’ve been with Spotify for so long now that Apple really needed something speculator to get my business. And despite what many pre-teens might think, Taylor Swift isn’t that spectacular thing. I get that Swift is the biggest thing in music right now (or whatever) and that she is one of the few acts still selling records, but her exclusivity on Apple’s Music service isn’t what I needed to sway me into changing.

I’m an Apple fan, but I don’t like how restrictive they are when it comes to the music  you buy from them. On top of that, I think the iTunes store is way overpriced, so I’m very reluctant to hop into bed with an Apple Music streaming service. I hope that Spotify can weather the storm and remain competitive. I’m glad that the music streaming field is widening, however I worry about splintering. The thought of many artists only being on one exclusive service is worrisome–how long will it be before fans will need several paid subscriptions just to have access to the bands they want?

I also worry about songs and/or bands vanishing overnight without notice. This has happened a few times with a couple of smaller bands that I like on Spotify, but this week there were two major cataclysms in the Spotify music library.  The Music Streaming Gods giveth and then taketh away! On Tuesday AC/DC showed up on Spotify! I love AC/DC and was luck enough to see them on their last tour a few years ago (when they were supporting BLACK ICE). Sadly, I’ve never really delved too far into their catalog–mostly because it was so hard to find electronically. I’ve been binge-listening to the older, Bon Scott-era albums that I’m not as familiar with as I should be (it’s all really great).

These minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves...

These minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves…

Of course, to maintain balance in the streaming universe, Prince decided to pull all of his music from every streaming service imaginable. This hit me much harder than you might expect. Last year, after he performed on Saturday Night Live, I fell head-over-heels in love with his latest album ART OFFICIAL AGE. Believe it or not, this was probably my most-played record from last year. It’s a big hit in my household, with even the musically fickle Mrs. Defending Axl Rose enjoying the hell out of the Purple One’s most recent album.

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I’d been toying with the idea of writing a review of ART OFFICIAL AGE for several months, but something always seemed to get in the way. I’ve purchased exactly one CD this year, The Darkness’ latest album THE LAST OF OUR KIND, but I‘m seriously considering heading down to my local record shop and picking up ART OFFICIAL AGE just because it bums me out that I no longer have access to it. Is that part of Prince’s plan? Tease us all with his music and then take it away so we all rush out to buy it? Maybe. Is he perhaps jealous of Taylor Swift, who’s decision to leave Spotify was (weirdly) a huge news-making event? I certainly hope he isn’t waiting for Apple to cut him a similar exclusive-deal. Prince has gone to war against the Internet in the past, last year he wiped all of his music from YouTube (a pretty impressive feat if you think about it). I hope these shenanigans are making Prince a shit-ton of money, because I think it may end up costing him most (all?) of his cultural relevance. By disappearing from the Internet, Prince could end up vanishing from history. Think about it, if kids today can’t watch his videos on YouTube or stream his music…does Prince exist for them? I don’t think he does.

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