Update May 14th, 2018
Sounds like it's official: next year, you'll be able to hear a new Prince record through the streaming service Tidal, and via a "physical release" a few weeks after that. All the songs will be culled from the musician's vault.
Below, our resident pop-culture editor states his case for why any new release from Prince is sacrilege to the artist's legacy. Caveat emptor.
New music from Prince will be released (or maybe not) this Friday, on the one-year anniversary of the singer’s death. A new single, “Deliverance,” is already available for purchase and streaming via Apple.
Notice we didn’t say “Prince is releasing new music...”
Because he isn’t. The release is actually the doing of sound engineer George Ian Boxill, who reportedly recorded the songs with Prince from 2006-2008 and spent the last year “completing the compositions and arrangements,” according to Billboard. Oddly enough, it’s Prince’s estate that’s suing Boxill.
We’ve already covered the singer’s estate, his family, their questionable decisions and why we shouldn’t hear new music from the singer (or tour his Paisley Park studio). But let’s put that quibbling aside for a second. Since hearing unreleased music (or releasing private journals or publishing unfinished novels or plays) is bound to happen once a great artist shuffles off this mortal coil — hey, Shakespeare — let’s make some rules for deceased musicians that nobody will follow.
- Don’t buy this particular record. First single is a guitar/gospel/rock scorcher. It’s good. But since you can’t name a single song the Purple One recorded in the 2000s (except maybe “Black Sweat”), why would you think these previously unreleased tracks are going to add to the man’s legacy? Oh, and if you have to spend time re-recording and adding to the mix, as Boxill did, you don’t have a real record to release.
- Do buy Prince’s old records. If his estate wants to tack on some b-sides, live recordings, archival photos and a few demos ... well, it’s not quite as tacky.
- If a musician has a literal vault to safeguard his music, respect the vault. Until you find a note saying otherwise, this is music that wasn’t meant (or worthy) of wider consumption.
- Do buy a live album. Sort of a grey area here, but if a singer performs in public, I don’t see any moral harm in taking music originally heard by 10,000 people and amplifying it. And Prince’s live shows were scorching right up until the end (the man only released a few barely promoted live records, after all, and only one really captured him in his full glory).
- If you’re going to release something no matter what, find a charitable component. It’s amazing what “all profits will go to Prince’s favorite charity” could do to change a skeptical music buyer’s mind.
- Don’t let Prince become Sublime. Or 2Pac. The ska-punk band has eight posthumous collections and two spinoff bands (and one new, stupid beer) that continually tarnish their legacy. And the late rapper (yes, he’s dead) has seven posthumous studio albums and 14 post-death compilations. None of which were worth hearing.
Photo: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images