You’re invited to the purple palace

Religious themes on Prince’s new CD keep him from fully disrobing

Keri Carlson

Prince invites us all to a party at 3121 – his rented Los Angeles mansion decked out in a Playboy-approved decor of plush, suede couches, scented candles and hot tubs strewn with rose petals.

If 2004’s “Musicology” was a return to form for Prince, his new album, “3121,” returns to the sextastic, down ‘n’ dirty Prince. “3121” has funked-up dance songs to hook us at the club and seductive slow jams to seal the deal in the bedroom.

The Pied Piper of sexiness has returned to lead us all back to “Erotic City.”

But while Prince howls and moans in his signature sexy falsetto, don’t get your hopes up. After all, Prince is a reformed man, or at least a Jehovah’s Witness. Prince still is a sexpert, but now it’s just a tease. Often it seems as if he uses his seductive powers for religious conversion.

“Get on the Boat” is the most up-front song in this gospel. Although he never directly mentions Christianity, the song sends the message that once onboard, darkness will turn to light and we’ll all love one another. (Wait, Prince, are you a Jehovah’s Witness or a Scientologist?)

On the title track, a relaxed groove that begins the album, Prince tells you to leave your clothes at the door, slip into a Japanese robe and drink champagne from a glass with chocolate handles. Maybe it’s not your average gathering, but considering it’s Prince, it sounds relatively tame. But then he slyly mentions that once at the party, you never can leave. (Will you be serving Kool-Aid as well, Prince?)

The most bizarre and freaky song on album, “The Word,” has Prince singing “Don’t U wanna know The Word? Who’s gonna save us when them spiders get next 2 U?”

But if you can get past the boat, the cult party and the spiders, “3121” contains plenty of classic Prince moments. Songs such as “Lolita” and “Incense and Candles” aren’t exactly revolutionary, but they recall Prince in his ’80s heyday. And no one does Prince better than Prince.

The highlight of the album clearly is the single “Black Sweat.” The song has a similar stripped-down, dancy feel as a song like “Kiss.” But the grimy beats and electronic hums give the song an updated Neptunes-like spin. Unfortunately, “Black Sweat” is one-of-a-kind on the record, and although the classic purpleness is good, it leaves us wanting more 2000-sex-era Prince.

This is the problem with “3121”; it gets us all worked up with no climax. Prince’s religious conversion hasn’t turned him into a eunuch, and “3121” is plenty hot and kinky, but come on, Prince, there’s only so much foreplay a girl can take.