Plenty of Prince albums will always sell at a decent clip -- Purple Rain and 1999 among them -- but it's a sign o' the times that the three-disc Lotusflow3r is getting pulled from shelves.
Two years and seven months after its physical release, available exclusively at Target stores, the backstock of piles and piles of unsold copies is finally exiting the music department, according to Kelvin Mitchell, who works at the store in Miami's Tropicaire Shopping Center.
Earlier today, Mitchell (who also plays bass for area darkwave outfit Möthersky) posted a photo of the boxes of unsold copies of Lotusflow3r set to make their journey out of Target stores as part of the store's quarterly inventory scan. "It's been a
long-running joke with all of the employees here," he says. "There would always be new release inventory to send back, but the Prince album was
always a mainstay. Today we scanned it, and finally it told us to send
them all back."
Almost three years ago, the lead-up to this version of the Target-only album -- which features the Lotusflow3r album, his MPLSound disc, and protégé Bria Valente's Elixir -- was deafening. The ordinarily private mastermind filmed a TV commercial (below), appeared on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno three straight evenings, and performed three shows in one night with three different bands at Los Angeles' LA Live Nokia Center.
He also welcomed Los Angeles Times' Ann Powers into his home to listen to the album after a heavy vetting process that apparently involved researching her physical appearance. She writes: "'You're blond,' he said when we met. 'I thought you
were a redhead.'" The tour of his home (and car) to hear the new music is an inspiring read.
By 2009, too many of us -- even the Prince die-hards -- had abandoned brick-and-mortar music purchases for the glut of easier online options. This effort was not as punchline-worthy as the dying industry synergy of his "newspaper release" of Planet Earth in 2007, but Lotusflow3r's legacy as a $4.99 joke that you'll soon find only at Target.com is hardly a shock.
Earlier this year, Mitchell began noticing that the album was severely taking over the music section's inventory.
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The collection was only $11.98 to begin with, which helped propel the album to a number-two debut on the Billboard 200 with 168,000 units sold. Not bad until you divide that number by three, because Billboard counts every disc in a collection as a single unit moved. And then in September:
The mercy kill came just a few weeks later, and this partnership between two Minnesota-bred cultural cornerstones seems to be kaput. Mitchell notes that all back stock was eliminated, but the remaining
copies of the album will be on the showroom floor until next week. So it's not too late to run
out and grab a copy if you still dare.
"It's a little sad," Mitchell admits, noting that he has tried to listen to the album online to determine if it would be a worthy buy but has been thwarted by the Purple One's conservative internet approach. "I do respect Prince a lot in terms of his output.
It's his 26th album. But it's gotten to the point where no one gives his
recent work a chance. We do sell the Ultimate Prince, which is the
singles and the greatest hits, and that one sells quite well. But nobody
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dares touch Lotusflow3r."