Once upon a time, Prince strutted around the Bottom Line, strumming G-chords in a G-string, screaming about blowjobs and incest. But hip-hop did shock and awe better Prince could never be more salacious than BET Uncut dancers or rappers fucking for voyeuristic fans during song interludes. So in the '90s, he went syrupy (think "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"). Earth's "Future Baby Mama" comes in that model, an easy-listening ballad passé by anybody's standards, much less his. More successful is "Somewhere Here on Earth," a slow jam with muted trumpet up-front as Prince rues the BlackBerry era: "In this digital age/You could just page me/I know it's the rage/But it just don't engage me."
Anti-war, pro-environment, religious ("Chelsea Rodgers" only gives up trim if you're baptized), and funky, Planet Earth is still merely an excuse to tour, as obligatory for Prince as any other artist who's been around this long. (He's walked 29 years in those high heels since For You, after all.) Until an '80s nostalgic like the Roots' ?uestlove gets executive producer duty assuming Prince will ever deign to take outside direction at all we'll end up with mixed-to-middling records like this one, 3121, Musicology, etc. At least he's starting to give 'em away free.