by Hobey Echlin
A record of Prince covers by just-under-the-radar beat collectives like Soulwax and Peaches collaborating with 7 Hurtz should make for some decent homages, ribald if not reverent interpretations, maybe even some groovy iconoclasm. Instead, it makes for oddly disembodied versions of his Purple's reign that feel alternately stale and half-baked. Not that it had to go wrong; maybe it just needed less-upbeat source material. Exit Songs: Music For Radioheads from 2005 showed such artists as Bilal and Mark Ronson taking on the surly alt-rock of Radiohead and finding an ominous joy where used to dwell an ominous melancholy and made it ominously great. Hell, Ronson was so inspired, he built last year's great Versions around his take on "Just."
He's sadly missed here, because Controversy's versions are mostly high and dry and feel like fake plastic trees. Hefner's "Controversy" turns the ejaculatory-pulse of the original into a glaucoma test puh — little force and less impact. Stina Nordenstam's "Purple Reign" has a certain Flowers in the Attic-charm to it — but it's so slow and caught up in its own doleful swoon it gets lost in its own shadows. A group of reggae new jacks calling themselves the Dynamics [How dare they?? — Ed.] try to brighten things up with their "what's-not-to-love" version of "Girls and Boys" and, to his credit, D'Angelo, who seems more and more these days to be relegated to the role of reverbed-out background singer for Common, gets positively grunge on his riff-heavy version of "She's Always in My Hair"( even though the murky production sounds like he sang the whole thing swatting his own hair out of his face).
If the mostly downtempo stylings of Blue States, etc. feels dated it's because they are; some of these covers have been around since 2002. But then, what's shit-hot dub-step prodigy Kode 9 and Space Ape's excuse for turning "Sign o' the Times" into the somnambulant "Sine of the Dub"? Prince deserves better. Controversy, indeed.