We will soon be awash in new albums by a man who has now been dead for more than two years. Today, Tidal announced that it is preparing a new album culled from Prince’s legendary vault for a 2019 release. Tidal CEO Jay-Z is assisting in its compilation.
Jay is quoted in a press release, via Pitchfork, stating that Tidal’s goal “is to share Prince’s music with his fans as he wanted.”
“After thoughtful and honest conversation with him, he chose TIDAL as his partner for HITnRUN Phase One and HITnRUN Phase Two, and we will continue to respect and honor Prince’s enduring legacy and wishes with this new collection,” Jay continues.
I mean, let’s not fool ourselves here: Prince could have released whatever he wanted from his clandestine back catalog. He was a master of the self-edit, which makes listening to these posthumous releases a little morally sticky. But then again, to be a Prince diehard when he was living was to always be at least a little at odds with the man himself, as it involved chasing down music of his that he had no intention of us ever hearing (or did he...how did the huge amount of leaked material comprising the bootleg market of Prince demos, outtakes, and rarities get out there in the first place?).
So, bittersweet as it is, that’s the good news portion of this announcement. The bad news? This new Tidal release “does not involve any of Prince’s music catalogue that is subject to prior agreements with Warner Brothers Records,” which is to say that it will surely contain material recorded after he severed his deal with Warner Bros in the ’90s. In my purple opinion, there was a precipitous drop in the quality of Prince’s material after his 1996 three-disc opus, Emancipation, and this new old material is likely to be lesser work, at best.
But we’ll see. In the meantime, Troy Carter, who’s currently in charge of Prince’s vault, told Variety in April that yet another album of previously unofficially released Prince tunes is due September 28. Carter called the forthcoming release “a full-length album,” which he characterized as a “piece” and “time-specific.” By that description, it sounds like an entire album Prince assembled but did not release will be presented in whole. And there were several of those. Fans have been wondering if this could mean the legendary Dream Factory album, perhaps Camille, maybe a full-length follow-up to 1999 that Prince once mentioned off-handedly in a Rolling Stone interview, or the entire debut by the Family as originally recorded by Prince (the version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” that his estate released last month is from those sessions). Of course, a lot of this is already out there in listenable quality, if you know where to look. It is the idea that something has been sealed off so well that even so-called “elite” collectors aren’t aware of it (a la the studio version of “Electric Intercourse” that appeared on last year’s Purple Rain deluxe reissue) that makes the prospect of these releases truly exciting.