From the very beginning of the album, things sound experimental even for Prince. There are layers of thick electronic sounds, sexy robots, and funky samples. "Art Official Cage" kicks off the album with android-disco rhythms, setting the stage for some of the themes and motifs, but it's actually the most atypical track on the record. "Clouds" takes us to the future as an early standout, with a steamy hook, powerful guitar playing, and the news that The Artist has been in suspended animation for 45 years.
The futuristic concept is explored with tracks like "Affirmation I & II" and "Way Back Home," but that takes a backseat to the spectacular, head-nodding songwriting and production throughout the bulk of the album. "U Know," "The Gold Standard," and the rattling "Funknroll" show off Prince's sexy side, but his sensitive side is showcased in equal measure. "Breakdown" and "This Could Be Us" are heartfelt ballads done as only Prince can do them.
Considering the spacey abstractions and the straight-up eroticism, the intimacy throughout the record is surprising, but it works well. The album could easily have turned into a self-parody full of sex robots, but the balance between the tracks keeps everything in totally equal measure. "Time" winds things down for us before "Affirmation III" ties everything together, repeating the refrain from "Way Back Home."
Prince's immaculate musicianship allows him to explore sonic territory which would be otherwise considered tacky, and his varied songwriting approach allows him to tackle subjects as varied as the music. Even the title -- Art Official Age being a play on "artificial age" -- explains the way Prince feels about the modern world, but he manages to reconcile with the technology and come out more human than ever.