In 2003 Prince released two of the most avant garde albums of his career, Xpectation and N.E.W.S. Both of the albums were entirely instrumental, and were released exclusively through the NPG Music Club, eschewing all traditional retail and media outlets and connecting Prince directly with his worldwide network of “fams.”
The first album, Xpectation, was released as a surprise mp3 download on New Year’s Day, 2003. Spare and jazz-inspired, the album features Prince switching between the Fender Rhodes organ and other keyboards and the guitar, accompanied by the drummer John Blackwell, saxophonist Candy Dulfer, bass player Rhonda Smith, and violinist Vanessa Mae.
Because the album was released digitally at a time when Billboard and other charting services were just beginning to track these kinds of releases; in fact, Xpectation was so digitally focused that it didn’t even have official album artwork until it was reissued by TIDAL in 2015. As he had long dreamed about, Prince did not have to concern himself with the performance of his more experimental albums on the sales charts. Instead, he could focus completely on fostering his growing online community, performing live, and preparing to release more music.
Xpectation Album Credits
Prince keyboards and guitar John Blackwell drums Rhonda Smith bass guitar Candy Dulfer saxophone Vanessa Mae violin