At its best, Prince's biggest seller of the '90s is an archetype of seemingly casual inspiration, thanks mainly to the ease tracks such as "Cream," "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," and "Willing and Able" exude. Of course, he's working as hard as ever, whether in a mellow groove or an aggressively funky one ("Gett Off"). Compared with the masterpiece Sign o' the Times, Diamonds and Pearls is a minor creation, but it's one for the long haul. --Rickey Wright
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Prince spent the latter half of the '80s courting the pop audience, and by the time of Graffiti Bridge, he had lost much of his R&B fan base. As a response, he formed the New Power Generation and recorded Diamonds and Pearls, his first record to reconnect with the urban audience since 1999, as well as his first to acknowledge the hip-hop revolution. Although he still has a problem with rap -- "Jughead" is simply embarrassing -- he manages to skillfully reinvent himself as an urban soulman without sacrificing his musical innovation. The New Power Generation is a more skilled band than the Revolution, and they are able to make Prince's funk jazzier, particularly on "Willing and Able," the breezy "Strollin'" and "Walk Don't Walk." It's clear that these subtly textured songs are where his heart is at, but the songs designed to win back his audience -- the slamming dancefloor rallying cry "Gett Off," the sexy T. Rex groove "Cream," the extraordinary Philly soul of the neglected masterpiece "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," and the drippy mainstream ballad "Diamonds and Pearls" -- are all terrific pop singles. However, much of the rest of Diamonds and Pearls is comprised of middling funk and R&B that sounds less like inspired workouts than stylistic exercises. Even with such weak moments, Diamonds and Pearls is a fine record, even though it's only marginally better than Lovesexy and Graffiti Bridge.