ALBUMS / Funk as soap opera: Andy Gill on the latest from Prince, and others

PRINCE & THE NEW POWER GENERATION

(Paisley Park/Warner Bros 9362- 45037-2)

SEX, sex, sex. Get used to it, because over the next few weeks you're not going to be allowed to get away from it, what with Madonna's book and album blast, preceded here by Prince's latest excursion to the moist regions.

A few years ago, both Prince and Madonna spiced up their ideas of sex with religious subtexts, but both now seem to have reverted to the purely carnal for inspiration. They've become hyperbolic porno-fantasy figures in a world where real sex has become too dangerous. Prince acknowledges as much in 'I Wanna Melt With U': 'This is safe sex, New Power Generation style / A funky little story about U and me', the abbreviation here adding to the anonymity of the encounter: it's not even you that's involved, just U.

As with Graffiti Bridge, Prince relies on heavy work-rate, cramming with 78 minutes of music. The tracks are supposedly glued together into a 'rock soap opera' by annoying little bits in which Kirstie Alley, playing a reporter, attempts to get a phone interview with His Purpleness. But too many of these tracks are just routine funk workouts like 'My Name Is Prince' and 'The Continental', libidinal thrustings of a brutish, masculine kind, balanced by too few songs of more feminine grace and beauty, like 'Sweet Baby': it's the difference between raw animal attraction and seduction.

It's the musical equivalent of Dynasty, glamorous and hollow, with dropped hints that maybe we ought to be taking it autobiographically. Certainly, it's difficult to read 'Arrogance' any other way: 'What makes a man wanna rule the world? / Make him man enough 2 say he's 50-50 girl? / What makes a man wanna curse and swear? / Then blame it on heaven cuz he's already there / Pimp-rag, tootsie pop and a cane'.

But so what? For all his abundance of talent, he has no more to say than Michael Jackson, which is not a lot. Pushed for a grand finale to , all he can come up with is a couple of over- inflated blow-outs, '3 Chains O' Gold', all bluster, a grotesque pseudo-operatic arrangement more appropriate to Freddie Mercury, overlaid with heavy guitar, while the lyric offers up portentous nonsense about the eponymous gold chains.

The great shame about all this is that is decently done; Prince's enormous, Tardis-like talent is augmented here by rap acts NWA and Eric B & Rakim and old R & B stalwarts Jimmy McCracklin and Lowell Fulsom. Likewise, the different shades of his production, touching on Bacharach for 'And God Created Woman' and Clinton for the funk, are handled with a rare deftness.

BETTY BOO

Grrr] It's Betty Boo

(WEA 4509-90908-2)

BETTY Boo has yet to elevate herself to the rarefied porno- fantasy status of Prince or Madonna, despite the black plastic and tiger-print outfits flaunted here. She's aiming at a slightly different market, but it remains to be seen whether the Sindy- doll presentation - each song is accompanied by a differently costumed Betty, from the PVC to a more demure gingham - pitches itself too knowingly at the Kylie generation.

The songs on Grrr] are mini- dramas of sexual intrigue, rather than the full-blown evening gown-and-tiara mini-series of Prince's album. There's less erotic headiness, but more self- awareness and wit on display. Her songs are very specifically- positioned scenarios of adolescent sexuality, first-love True Stories, involving much secrecy and hiding from parents as waves of uncontrollable urges crash wildly on young emotional beaches.

In a sense, Betty has come for your daughters, outlining the rules of the gang in her posse song 'Skin Tight'. Out are drugs, fags, streaked hair, Suzuki jeeps; in are 'four fly girlies on four fast wheels', exfoliation, sexual mores that are not kinky but 'kind of fruity'.

NINE INCH NAILS

Broken

(Island IMCD 8004)

TRENT Reznor, frontman of hardcore industrial band Nine Inch Nails, sets himself up, as have many of the same genre before him, as the voice of degradation, obsession and, judging by his lyrics, violent sexual fury: 'I want you to take me,' he screams in 'Last', 'I want you to break me / Then I want you to throw me away'. Oh, all right then.

This is ugly music, for ugly times. Fascistically aggressive, its beat is like steel forges on overtime and heavy guitar riffs loop implacably like Golem on the move. It's a compelling performance, the logical conclusion of NIN's concentrated dose of nihilism and misanthropy ('You know me, I hate everyone' poor Trent howls in 'Wish'). But the last track, 'Gave Up', admits a glimmer of deeper self-knowledge, being a frank admission of auto-destructiveness in the name of lust for life.

OMAR

Music

(Talkin Loud 512 401-2)

'THERE's Nothing Like This,' sang Omar on his acclaimed debut. How times change. There's plenty like this now. In particular, there are plenty of Stevie Wonder albums with tracks like 'Music' itself, a floaty summer's-day mid-tempo ballad which, like much of Music, acts like soft-soul balm. Then again, if you must sound like someone, it might as well be Stevie.

Omar is an abundantly talented multi-instrumentalist with a firm grounding in a vast array of mainly (but not exclusively) black musics. Music opens with a snatch of multi-tracked doowop, just to show you Omar's vocal moves, before settling into a cool flow that adapts samba and soul rhythms to his own ends. Most tracks feature airy vocals borne aloft on soft jazz-soul grooves, with Omar again playing most of the instruments himself, but augmented by string and wind arrangements.

Compared to his debut, however, there's a material shortfall here, with little beyond the romantic or social platitudes that are Brit-soul's stock-in-trade.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century