|Musicology is the 28th full-length studio album by Prince, and his first release on a major label since 1999’s Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. The album was released initially on CD in a basic slipcase, and was given to every audience member of every show on the Musicology Live 2004ever tour (and at each movie theater which simulcast the tour’s second show).
It was also released as a download at the opening of the NPG Music Club’s Musicology Download Store.
Three weeks later, the album was released in retail stores, with complete packaging. This retail CD also included a CD-ROM component which showed the Musicology video.
The album, and the corresponding tour, were timed to coincide with Prince’s induction into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, and marked Prince’s return to the mass media spotlight after five years of low-key and online-only releases.
Sessions and compiling
Recording details for many of the album’s tracks are not known. Given the specific jazz or piano themes of albums released between 2001 and 2003, it is likely that many of the tracks included on Musicology may have been recorded during that time and saved for this release.
Engineer H.M. Buff has stated that A Million Days was recorded in 1995 at Paisley Park Studios, Chanhassen, MN, USA, and that If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life was also recorded during his time working for Prince, indicating that it was recorded between 1995 and 2000.
It is assumed that the rest of the album was recorded in 2003 or early 2004, but this may be inaccurate. Despite having a cohesive band for live shows, many of the tracks on the album are largely solo recordings by Prince, with only four of the tracks featuring drums by John Blackwell.
The album produced three singles, Musicology, Cinnamon Girl and Call My Name (available as a promotional release only).
Ten months prior to the album release, however, Reflection was offered as an mp3 download on a revamped NPG Music Club website. What Do U Want Me 2 Do? was also streamed on the NPG Music Club five months before the album’s release.
Prince toured North America extensively with the Musicology Live 2004ever tour, beginning shortly before the album’s commercial release, but as the tour ticket included a CD copy of the album (given to attendees as they entered the venue), the tour should not be considered promotion for the album.
The album was very successful, reaching number 3 on The Billboard 200, and number 3 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums, although the inclusion of the album in ticket sales greatly increased its chart presence (resulting in a policy change by Billboard to prevent such inclusions in future charts).
The album was also successful in other countries, however, perhaps boosted by Prince’s induction into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
On 8 February 2019, The Prince Estate re-released the album with Sony’s Legacy Recordings (3121 and Planet Earth were also re-released on the same day).