The very same day he announced a new studio album in the works and a new partnership with Warner Bros. Records, Prince surprised fans with a brand new single, “The Breakdown,” which he dropped shortly before midnight on Friday.
The power ballad begins with a few stark, echoing keyboard chords before Prince’s sweet falsetto enters, promising listeners that “This could be the saddest story ever been told.” What unfolds is a tale of excess and regret, with a lush, string-orchestrated chorus punctuated by laser sound effects.
Prince referred to the song during an interview with Arsenio Hall in March, when asked about his current favorite song to play. “There’s a song we’ve just written called, ‘The Breakdown,'” he said. “One of the things that we try to do, though, is wait until we have other songs that go together with our favorites. That’s why it takes a long time to come out with albums these days. You know, not being under contract, there’s no rush.”
And now “The Breakdown” has become the first release following the announcement of Prince’s reunion with Warner Bros., more than two decades after Prince scrawled the word “slave” on his face to protest his contract with the label. As part of the new partnership, Warner Bros. will release previously unheard material and a digitally remastered, deluxe 30th anniversary edition to the 1984 soundtrack album Purple Rain.