Music Review: Prince's 'America' vault release stunning

This image released by Sony Music Entertainment shows "Welcome 2 America" by Prince. (Sony Music Entertainment via AP)
This image released by Sony Music Entertainment shows "Welcome 2 America" by Prince. (Sony Music Entertainment via AP)

Prince, “Welcome 2 America” (Legacy Recordings)

Anyone who feared that Prince's vault was filled with nothing but Billy Joel covers, as the satirical website The Onion joked shortly after his death, need not worry.

“Welcome 2 America” is the first complete, previously unreleased record to come out since Prince died in 2016. And it's a stunner.

Incredibly, “Welcome 2 America” manages to be as relevant, or maybe even more relevant, today than when it was recorded, and promptly shelved, in 2010. Most of the songs have been unheard until now.

Confronting themes of racial justice, equality, big tech and just what it means to be human, “Welcome 2 America” feels like the soundtrack for the years since Prince's untimely death. It's almost as if Prince knew “Welcome 2 America” would mean more in 2021 than it might have when first recorded.

From the first song and title track, which starts off with Prince bemoaning the power of the iPhone and Google, the tone of “Welcome 2 America” is made clear.

“Land of the free/home of the slave,” Prince determines, and we’re off.

Oh, and it rocks too, in the genre-defying way that defined Prince’s career.

Just try not to get up and dance during “Hot Summer” or “1000 Light Years From Here.” There is one cover on the record, but it's not from Billy Joel. Instead, Prince taps fellow Minneapolis musicians Soul Asylum, making their song “Stand Up and B Strong” sound like a Prince original.

But “Welcome 2 America” is also tinged with melancholy. As alive, relevant and fresh as Prince sounds, there's no escaping the fact that he's gone and the only reason we're hearing this now is because of that.