Partway through the second song on Prince’s 2014 album Art Official Age, the British singer Lianne La Havas broke through a funk-romantic reverie to play sci-fi nurse. In a spoken-word segment, she told a certain Mr. Nelson that he’d been in suspended animation for 45 years, but that now, “Where you are is in a place where time does not exist.”
That very same line is sampled and chopped up on Prince’s new release, HITNRUN Phase One, and it’s not the only moment of déjà vu. One track is a reworking of another 2014 song, “This Could Be Us,” and the album opens with snippets of the Prince classics “1999” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Lyrically, he tries to collapse the space-time continuum a number of times; the album closes with him singing that he wishes he’d been born in a different era (on stage at Woodstock, maybe), and at one point he squeals, “Black don’t crack / Beige don’t age.”
Time indeed does not exist on Prince albums. Perhaps that’s why he’s kept releasing one or two every few years even long after his hit-making days ended. At age 24, on “1999,” he established a dichotomy—“I don't wanna die / I’d rather dance”—and at age 57, he seems to be taking that idea of dance-or-die more literally than ever. Who cares if fewer and fewer people are listening? Who cares if releasing exclusively to Tidal will limit his audience further? What matters is that Prince is working, and that the holy devoted will follow him.