456: Emancipation

Emancipation (1996)
A low slung funk number kept on a steady boil, which unfairly suffers from sharing the album’s name and with it all of the accompanying baggage – the indulgence, the name change confusion, the artwork, the Oprah interview, the “no power generation” slings and arrows. When held on its own merits though, stripped of this surrounding ambience, the song’s qualities shine through. It has an incredibly catchy chorus that will still be going round my head when the earth gets consumed by the sun, and the various musical elements bubble away in elegant equipoise. Stellar bass work holding it together as a faultless binding agent. The one criticism you could level at Emancipation, along with rest of the album in general, is that it’s devoid of peaks and troughs. Three minutes in when Prince’s voice escalates into a demob happy scream, the music tries to match the ascendancy but never really gets out of third gear. If this is Prince at his happiest, then where’s the uncontrollable joy of Delirious or Let’s Go Crazy or the higher reaches of the Lovesexy album that we’re used to? But contentment isn’t the same as the giddy highs of being in love or beatific rapture. This is hard won artistic freedom, not precarious or momentary flights of passion. It’s the sound of a well upholstered life, devoid of drama and instability. The song ends with a gong, an implosion and the sound of Prince’s demons being expelled into the ether. You’re happy for him but damn those were some nasty, funky demons.