Prince has spent much of the decade in an artistic and commercial wasteland, releasing self-indulgent multi-disc sets on his own NPG label and filling out his old contract with a series of corporate fuck-offs thinly disguised as albums. The buzz on Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic is that it marks his return not just to major labels, but to commercial ambition and accessibility. Though riddled with his patented eccentricities, Rave is indeed his most pop-oriented album in ages, a slight but welcome return to the pop arena that's as disposable as it is entertaining. Much has been made of the slew of superstar guests, but fans needn't worry: Even when Prince shares lead-vocal duties, as he does twice here, there's never any doubt about who's in charge. On "Undisputed," he boasts, "I don't follow trends, I start them," and while that sentiment reeks of wishful thinking, Prince does sound agreeably relaxed and laid-back throughout the album. He even seems to have come to terms with hip hop, thankfully leaving mic duty to the professionals (Eve, Chuck D) rather than flexing his own non-existent skills or granting exposure to the T.C. Ellises of tomorrow. Mixing pretty ballads ("I Love U, But I Don't Trust U," "Tangerine," "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold") with savvy pop ("So Far, So Pleased," a duet with Gwen Stefani that's a surefire radio single) and the obligatory inexplicable cover ("Every Day Is A Winding Road"), Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic is more Diamonds And Pearls good than Sign O' The Times great. Prince's lyrics remain as dippy as ever, and moments of self-indulgence abound, but it works as a goofy, lightweight pop record.