"I think Prince is magic," said Jess (Zooey Deschanel) at the conclusion of last night's post-Super Bowl episode of New Girl, which featured a visit from His Purple Majesty. And she's probably right — after all, immediately following the show's broadcast, he convinced a room full of people to wait around a nightclub into the wee hours of Sunday, with only the vague promise of hearing some new music.
Prince's appearance on the sitcom was good-natured, if ultimately inexplicable, and offered a rare chance to display his comic touch. After a quick, convoluted plot twist brought Jess and her friends to Prince's house for a party, the singer advised Deschanel's character on love, fed her pancakes (shout-out to Dave Chappelle) and displayed his prowess at ping-pong and his control over butterflies. He also let Deschanel sing with him on a snippet of a breezy new song, presumably titled "Don't U Want 2 Fall in Love 2 Night?"
The song is not to be confused with Prince's latest single, "Pretzelbodylogic," though that's what he had teased in a New Girl trailer; he saved the debut of the single, which was recorded with his all-female band 3rd Eye Girl and is available on iTunes as of today, for a late-night party at New York supper club the Darby (which was a long-time favorite for Prince when it was a fabled night spot called Nell's). Hopes for one of his famous late-night performances, though, were quashed when it was clear no stage or instruments were set up.
A little after midnight, former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Demaris Lewis, who has been working as Prince's back-up dancer on recent tours, introduced the evening. She brought on the three women of 3rd Eye Girl: Donna Grantis (guitar), Hannah Ford Welton (drums) and Ida Neilsen (bass), who offered some brief comments on the forthcoming Plectrumelectrum album.
"The album was completely recorded live, analogue, old-school," said Nielsen. "It's going to pull something inside of you that you may not be feeling listening to music these days." Ford added that "Prince is a phenomenal teacher. . .the knowledge that you gain spending two seconds with him is limitless."
The playback of "Pretzelbodylogic" revealed a song with a crunching, hard rock guitar and a sing-song chorus — "Pretzelbodylogic is so much fun/Dreaming of each other on each others' tongue." There's a brief, screaming guitar solo and a heavy emphasis on Ford's heavy, John Bonham-style drums. After some technical difficulties, they spun another Plectrumelectrum song called "Funk N Roll," a party chant featuring the sped-up vocal effect Prince often used in the Sign O The Times/Black Album days, and a rave-up/break-down section slightly reminiscent of "Let's Go Crazy."
These two songs were followed by some live video footage of Prince with 3rd Eye Girl last summer in Switzerland, including one of the group's other new songs, "Skrewdriver" and a lengthy version of "She's Always in My Hair." "This is real music, these are real musicians," Prince said in the clip.
Hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh then took over in the DJ booth, spinning classic funk and back-in-the-day rap records and encouraging the crowd (which included NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and TV host Wendy Williams) to "get over the [Super Bowl] and move on." It was after 2 a.m. — sometime between Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love" and DMX's "Up In Here" — when Prince finally materialized, in a fringe vest and bug-eye shades, grooving behind the turntables and huddling with the 3rd Eye Girls. He stuck around for about 20 minutes, but when Doug E. put on a sparse, spacey remix of "Funk N Roll," Prince stepped down from the booth — not to hit the dance floor or sit amongst his public, but to head straight back out the door.
Still, a network appearance and the active launch of a new single, a few weeks ahead of a U.K. tour, all seem to indicate that 2014 could mark a return to the spotlight for Prince. After all, 1984 saw the release of Purple Rain; 1994 brought him back to the top of the charts with "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"; and 2004 broke a commercial slump with the Musicology album and a triumphant tour. Could Prince's ascension work in 10-year cycles? Hey, it's no stranger than watching him play ping-pong with Zooey Deschanel.