112: Come On

Newpower Soul (1998)
Come On comes on strong. In the first verse Prince asks for keys to your room and in the second he’s asking for your hand in marriage. By verse three he’s talking about babies. This forwardness evidently fails as he ends the song alone, taking out his sexual frustrations on his guitar. But he needn’t have spoken at all. Underneath his gung-ho seduction sits a slab of a beat. A hard funky groove as relentless and impatient as the song title and infinitely more seductive than promises of perfumed baths and champagne dinners. If your hips can resist the lure of that then you may need to see your GP about replacing them.

229: The One

Newpower Soul (1998)
If you’re looking for a Newpower Soul slow jam that has teeth, something that is rich but not cloying, Until U’re in my Arms Again ain’t the one. And if you’re looking for class and sophistication, a track that delights without leaving an icky taste in your mouth, then Shoo-Bed-Ooh: that ain’t the one. But if you’re looking for a dancefloor respite with a beat that “sweeps you off your tired, weary feet”, with a gentle array of string instruments that lap at the frayed edges of your existence; if you’re looking for a soulful potpourri that doesn’t turn to compost after repeat listens, then look no further, The One is the one.

272: Freaks on This Side

Newpower Soul (1998)
The beat may be pedestrian, the live chants overdone, but what better terrain to witness the power of a fully armed and operational brass section? The Hornheadz are on fine form as they break curfew and run riot all over Freaks on This Side like gremlins fed after midnight. Apocalyptic trumpets sound the charge of the undead and inhuman. The lyrics are further dispatches from Prince’s Book of Revelation and repeat Anna Stasia’s ‘God is love, love is God’ refrain but the effect on the vocals is more revolutionary than the content. They sound like a vortex of demons fighting for power and are the reason why I included this song on my Lovespooky Halloween mix. Who else could create a song that sounds like the Ghostbusters’ containment unit getting its funk on? There’s others here with us and they’re freaking their non-corporeal heads to this.

299: Newpower Soul

Newpower Soul (1998)
The Exodus songs New Power Soul and Big Fun hit it off so well on tour that they got together and three years later had a baby. Newpower Soul may have her daddy’s name and her psychedelic momma’s “head bob” but she’s forging her own path as the title track of an often overlooked album – an lp that’s a Prince solo release in all but name. Her horns are divine and she scats through the tracklisting with the clout of Ella introducing the band. Newpower Soul may not be the deepest groove on the record but in her words “keeping the crowd moving” is her “one and only duty” and in that role, she’s a five-star general.

318: Mad Sex

Newpower Soul (1996)
This song itches parts of my soul I’m scared to probe. Spoonfuls of piano and horns are piled onto a dank and sleazy groove to mask the grime. and the result is an off-kilter, back-alley jazz hand-job. The album’s lurch from this dark dishevelment to the syrupy schmaltz of Until U’re In My Arms Again gives the kind of jolt that can cause whiplash. I avoid that clash by skipping past tracks 3 and 4, allowing Mad Sex to flow straight into the equally scab-picking satisfaction of Shoo-Bed-Ooh. Two songs that feel so good by sounding so wrong. Rumours are rife online that Mad Sex is about Mel B. I don’t believe that’s true but that’s now who I involuntarily picture when Prince sings about tongue studs and animal prints. Thanks internet!

340: Shoo-Bed-Ooh

Newpower Soul (1998)
On the face of it Shoo-Bed-Ooh is a skippable track – unpleasant lyrics, lazy chorus, generic beat – but what makes it work is the glue. Sparkling synths slip and slide over the percussion, filling all cracks with effervescent elegance. Prince then ties it together with strings and leaves to harden into a Michelin Star melody. If you only listened to Newpower Soul once and discarded it because of the ‘plastic’ sound I urge a relisten. The delight is in the details.

358: Wasted Kisses

Newpower Soul (1998)
Coming from an album that isn’t short of detractors, this brief, hidden track receives an unusual amount of praise. Unmentioned in the tracklist and buried after 38 tracks of silence it can feel like an uncovered gem and the way it sounds like nothing else on the CD will only endear it further to those who aren’t fans of Newpower Soul’s one-man funk (a camp that included myself before a fifth listen finally seduced me). Wasted Kisses is certainly the black sheep of the album and does not play well with others. The dark lyrics on their own could be passed off as lighthearted metaphorical play if they were not wrapped in disturbing sound effects of bloodcurdling screams, wailing ambulances, hospital chatter and flatlining monitors. It’s a radio drama adaptation of your suppressed traumas and is best stored where it was found – cushioned by several minutes of insulating, protective silence.

429: Push it Up!

Newpower Soul (1998)
Prince trims the fat off 1996’s Jam of the Year and boils it down so just the vocal hook and the beat’s bare bones remain. Choice cuts of Larry Graham, Chaka Khan and Doug E Fresh are then added with a soupçon of juicy synth to create an unblinking George Clinton-style funk number that surpasses the original Emancipation track. Dance-inducing and unapologetically single-minded, Prince shrugs off all aspirations of profundity and harpoons you right in your cerebellum.

440: (I Like) Funky Music

Newpower Soul (1998)
The simple, unwavering beat may be “specially designed to make you lose your phone number to somebody fine” but that can only be through the persuasive joy of repetition as it’s pretty unmemorable and doesn’t so much as blink until the fade-out. But like Dirty Mind it’s all that’s needed to carry the cream of the song: Prince delivering on the title by surfing in on funky guitar licks and crowd chants while the horns sing Feel U Up. At two minutes Doug E Fresh is on and the original Human Beat Box, the Entertainer, performs passably in the role of Not Prince, a hard and thankless role to pull off, especially for a rapper. Overall it’s hardly a “brand new groove” but you could sooner outrun entropy than fail to dance to it.