Prince: Welcome 2 America
"Good" is a relative term when it comes to Prince. Let's be honest, Prince's worst is better than many other artists' best. So when we use the terms "good" and "bad," we have to say it within the context of Prince and Prince alone.
We also have to understand who Prince was as an artist. He was wary of this industry and its classifications for "good" music and "bad" music, especially because the manner in which this industry rewards those artists they believe are "better" than others (boiling it mostly down to 1. money, 2. mainstream, read "white," appeal and 3. proximity to whiteness) is with a gold-plated metal replica of a phonograph. Simply put, he wouldn't want to be given accolades that hold little value just on the merits of his name alone.
He was a true artist. A man who was known for his perfectionism and his dedication to ensuring he created music he could be proud of. Though many would consider it blasphemy for a mere mortal to even attempt to criticize one of the greatest artistic minds of all time, you have to remember, Prince thought the exact same thing. He spoke openly and candidly about what happened to work he wasn't satisfied with, for whatever reason. Whether the pieces weren't finished, were just sketches of incomplete ideas, weren't mastered to his liking, whatever the case may be.
He produced, wrote and composed every single one of his albums. He might have called in assistance for mastering, as he admitted to not being the best at that fine art himself. Not only was the music compiled for Welcome 2 America shoved into Prince's mythical Paisley vault, he didn't end up producing whatever was mostly finished from the album.
All this preamble to say, Welcome 2 America is not a good Prince album.
It's clear those in charge of Prince's estate took it upon themselves to release this amalgamation of songs for nothing more than financial amplification. Prince certainly doesn't need it. He named no one in his will (as far as the public knows). This was a personal payout for someone using Prince's musical empire as a check-cashing joint or a readily available ATM.
Let's be honest. Anything with Prince's name attached is going to be a financial boon to anyone who has the card and the right PIN number. Those who decided to release Welcome 2 America did what most people do when seeking the perfect circumstances for success: capitalize on trauma. Trauma will always be profitable, and while it's not entertaining, people turn to entertainment of any kind to both speak to them and give them something to run to. Escapism is a lucrative industry.
While Welcome 2 America is certainly relevant, it's not the prophetic work of poetry of 1999, Around the World in a Day or Sign O' the Times. Nor is it unique in how it delivers its message. It's not the innovative departure or transition into an era of musical evolution (Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, 3121 or Art Official Age). Everything on the album is something he's already said and done before and with more conviction and musical nuance. It's dated and redundant. Certainly not fluff by any means considering the subject matter. But filler in the pantheon of Prince's artistry nonetheless.
Prince shelved his own project for a reason. So when I say this wasn't a good Prince album I say it with my whole chest knowing that the man himself made it clear he felt the same.
(Note: I won't be sharing any videos from this album because Prince didn't actually want his stuff on YouTube in the first place. Call me crazy, but I want to honor that.)