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20Ten Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Once again abandoning retailers for U.K. newspaper giveaways -- ever the eccentric, he’s the only artist who's seized upon this unconventional distribution method -- Prince continues his bold voyage into the past on 20Ten. Its title may celebrate the present but the music is all about the past, continuing the retro-shock of the MPLSound segment of 2009’s triple-disc set, reviving the synthetic funk of the pre-Purple Rain days while adding too heavy a dose of slow-burning grooves. The songs have more snap and polish than those on LotusFlow3r/MPLSound -- enough of a shape to be attractive from a distance, not enough to withstand closer scrutiny. Everything on 20Ten exists on the surface: hooks don’t sink in, funk jams are stuck in low gear, sensuality only simmers, the rhythms are somewhat stiff, and Prince’s deliberate mining of the past only highlights how he’s stripped the freakiness out of his entire persona. What’s left behind isn’t bad -- he is a master musician luxuriating in his comfort zone so naturally that there’s some pleasure to be had within 20Ten, but it’s a passive pleasure and one that is forgotten within a day, so perhaps it’s fitting that it was packaged with a newspaper.

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