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Rock

Rare Prince B-Side Hits Streaming Platforms for the First Time

"United States of Division" originally came out during his acclaimed 'Musicology' era.

Prince performs after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004 in New York.

Prince performs after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004 in New York.

Kevin Kane/WireImage

When Prince released Musicology in 2004, it was hailed as a comeback — and greeted with a few sighs of relief. The Purple One’s previous albums had either been too conceptual (The Rainbow Children, 2001) or uncommercial (N·E·W·S and Xpectation, both 2003, were fully instrumental) for most listeners, so when he delivered a party album of old-school funk, critics and fans were thrilled to press play.

The album netted him two Grammys and a No. 3 spot on the Billboard 200 – his first album to reach that peak since 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls. Even better, the ensuing Musicology Live 2004ever tour found the icon delivering lengthy, hit-filled sets with a loose warmth you didn’t always get from Prince on stage. (The album was also sold as part of each ticket to the tour, with the LP’s cost baked into the ticket price.)


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For the album’s 20th anniversary, NPG Records and Paisley Park Enterprises, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, are releasing his rare B-side “United States of Division” to streaming platforms for the first time. Previously available as an mp3 download to members of Prince’s NPG Music Club, “United States of Division” is a six-minute soul-funk jam that tackles the Iraq War, America’s dwindling global reputation and internal social divisions.

Musically, Musicology received a warm welcome – and in hindsight, it’s one of Prince’s best latter-day albums, with the title track and the hilarious “Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance” being particular standouts. But its release strategy had people in the industry a bit confused.

“Instead of Musicology, Prince should have gone back into his catalog and named his new album Controversy. That is what he is once again stirring up as he distributes Musicology free to fans at his shows,” reported the May 8, 2004, issue of Billboard. “Nielsen SoundScan is counting those copies as sales. Of the 191,000 copies of Musicology Nielsen SoundScan tracked for the week ending April 18, 12,600 — 6% — were counted from his April 21 concert in Columbia, S.C.”

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Despite some questioning the strategy’s efficacy or fairness, it proved influential – dozens of acts would follow suit in the ensuing years until Billboard stopped counting album sales that were part of ticket bundles in 2020.

This article was first published by Billboard U.S.

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Jag Gundu Photography

Performers at the Gordon Lightfoot tribute concert at Massey Hall, May 23, 2024

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