|N.E.W.S. is the 27th full-length studio album by Prince. It was initially available only to NPG Music Club members, with first shipments arriving on 30 June 2003 (almost six months after the previous album Xpectation), but it also received a low-key retail release the following month.
In 2004, a digital download of the album was offered through the NPG Music Club.
N.E.W.S. was the second instrumental album in succession, and contained only four tracks, each exactly 14:00 long. At the time of release, Prince’s succession of releases from 2001-3 indicated that he was entering into a more permanent jazz/funk territory for his music, although his return to vocal pop music the following year with Musicology and later releases confirms that this was a more temporary era.
Sessions and compiling
The album was recorded all in one day, 6 February 2003, as indicated on the packaging, although it is likely that additional work took place later in February 2003.
The term New directions in music featured in the booklet is a direct reference to a series of albums by Miles Davis from the late 60s and early 70s. The inclusion of Eric Leeds providing lead saxophone on the complete instrumental album brought comparisons between this album and the 1987 Madhouse albums 8 and 16, but the structure and feel of the album is very different. It is notable that Prince chose to release this album under his own name rather than under a pseudonym.
No singles were released from the album, and Prince did not tour to promote the album. In late May 2003, the newly-relaunched NPG Music Club’s 'lobby area' featured the letters "N", "E", "W" and "S" on the floor on consecutive days. Soon after, N.E.W.S. appeared on the site’s discography page, "The Vault". A short flash video containing a clip of East showed images similar to the album cover, and offering the date 19 June.
At 12:01 am on 19 June 2003, a special 'room' opened in the NPG Music Club which streamed the track North, and a chatroom enabled club members to discuss the track. The album was then available for pre-order in the club’s store. The stream and chatroom continued on consecutive days for East, West and South.
This album did not enter the charts in the USA, and is currently out of print. It charted in Germany and The Netherlands albums charts, but at quite low positions and for a very limited time.
N.E.W.S. was nominated for the 2004 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album, but lost to Mambo Sinuendo, by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban (other nominees were Peace by Jim Brickman, Wishes by Kenny G. and Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors by George Winston). Prince performed at the ceremony, however, effectively launching his return to the spotlight in 2004 (see here for details).