Prince | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The he's-back hosannas that have greeted Musicology (NPG/Columbia), the 25th album of new material Prince has made available in record shops (still more are available online), seem out of proportion to the modest, skillful funk and pop it contains. It's enough to say that the disc is his most straightforward and song-focused since 1996's Chaos and Disorder. Prince seems to be betting that his listeners are ready for a trip back to his (and their) comfort zone; on the title track he demands, "Take your pick: turntables or a band?" (His assertion that hip-hop can't possibly replicate "the feeling music gave you back in the day" would carry more weight, however, if hip-hop weren't the one major pop idiom he famously never got the hang of.) But while the quirky grooves are just what you'd expect (even if the wide-open start-and-stop of "Life 'o' the Party" sounds utterly unlike the earlier "Kiss" or "New Position"), the newfound emphasis on domesticity isn't. Prince's contentment as a married man in his mid-40s is evident in songs like "On the Couch," "The Marrying Kind," and "Reflection," and as subject matter it's more appealing than truly compelling. But it is pretty cute to hear Mr. "Let's Pretend We're Married" sing about watering plants, and if Musicology isn't one of his great works, it's a damn sight better than anything since the underrated three-CD set Emancipation. Expect to hear a lot of the new stuff out in Rosemont, alongside plenty of classics, all cleaned up for family consumption--since becoming a Jehovah's Witness a few years back, the artist who formerly wanted to fuck the taste out of your mouth has excised the swearing from his songs. $49.50 and $75. At press time only Tuesday and Wednesday were not sold-out. Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, 8 PM, and Monday through Wednesday, June 28 through 30, 7:30 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212.

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