So far, the 21st century hasn't seen much of his Purple Highness. His echoes fill the radio waves--just listen to Andre 3000's Speakerboxxx. But while his esteemed '80s peers stumbled into the new century--Madonna and her children's stories, stories of Michael Jackson and his children--Prince stayed well shrouded. His last album, 1999's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, was a critical and commercial misfire, and after a prolific 20-year career that included dozens of hits and such eccentricities as naming himself a symbol and a somewhat inconsistent policy of shielding his personal life while eagerly baring his ass, it might have been safe to assume we'd seen the last of Prince. But baby, that's much too fast.

Prince is back. Wasn't that Prince scorching up the stage with Beyonce in the opening number for the Grammys? Didn't Prince just appear on--of all things!--The Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month? He's even on tour for the first time in seven years, and last Monday, in a PR stunt last attempted by David Bowie, Prince broadcast his Los Angeles concert live to 32 movie theaters across the country, giving attendants a copy of his new album Musicology. Earlier that day, he announced the kick-off of his own music downloading store,, from which he will sell several of his songs and albums and offer exclusives to fans who pay the $25 membership fee. This Monday, he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's like the little man stored up a decade of work just to blow it in a month. Whatever the reason, it's a welcome return. This Friday, it's time to pay the man back: Start shakin' that ass, shakin' that ass.

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Sarah Hepola