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The Unreleased Songs in Prince’s Vaults May Finally See the Light of Day

Prince kept his vaults tightly shut. His estate seems inclined to open them.

Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Prince’s classic Warner Bros. catalog will finally make its debut on non-Tidal streaming services during Sunday’s Grammys, but there’s even bigger news in the works. The New York Times reports that the artist’s estate has signed a deal with Universal Music Group that covers not only the 25 albums released after the end of his Warner Bros. contract but the contents of his vaults, which could potentially include hundreds of unreleased songs. Prince’s unreleased recordings, housed in two literal vaults in his Paisley Park complex, have been the source of intense speculation for decades, although the announcement the deal said only that future releases might include “outtakes as well as live and demo recordings.”

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Due in large part to ongoing disputes about the control of his back catalogue, Prince’s oeuvre has been uniquely ill-served in the expanded reissue era: His Warner Bros. albums suffer from the tinny mastering common to early CD releases, and while 1993’s The B-Sides and 1998’s Crystal Ball put a few cracks in the dam, there’s a lot more where they came from. Last fall’s 40-track Prince 4Ever collection included a grand total of one new song—albeit a corker: 1982’s “Moonbeam Levels”—leaving only untold hundreds more to go. At what speed and in what form they’ll be released is still very much up in the air, but given that Prince’s estate seems a whole lot less picky about how his songs enter the world than he was,  chances seem good we’ll be seeing more soon.

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