This ‘ G I R L’ is not wild
Pharell plays it safe on second album
| Jay Benedict reporter |
Pharrell Williams’ first solo album in eight years is bound to frustrate fans of his previous releases, but will probably leave its mark on mainstream music.
“GIRL” is a departure from his previous releases, which were decidedly more hip-hop, rap, and R&B. His last solo album, “In My Mind,” received mediocre reviews and sales, but he’s coming off one of his most successful years ever as a producer and collaborator.
In the past year, 10 records he was involved with reached the Top 5 on Billboard. Those collaborations include Daft Punk, Robin Thicke, Beyonce’ and Jay-Z. He also spent time with Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and Miley Cyrus.
His work earned him three Grammy awards and four more nominations. Most recently, “Happy,” which is on this album, was nominated for an Oscar and performed by Pharrell, famous hat and all, at the Academy Awards on March 2.
That success spanned several genres, but the most recognizable offerings are of the pop and dance variety. It makes sense that “GIRL” falls into this category as well.
It’s light, fun and safer than “In My Mind,” and will appeal to a broader audience. It doesn’t even come with a “Parental Advisory” notice.
“GIRL” also draws much of its influence from 1970s and ‘80s funk and soul. It’s also full of collaborators. Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne make appearances.
The album is focused on its namesake. Pharrell has stated that he wants to clear up the confusion that arose after the controversy that surrounded the less-than-subtly sexual “Blurred Lines.”
It’s full of songs about girls, but they’re not heartfelt ballads or songs praising feminine strength. If anything, he’s being more up-front about what he wants from them instead of saying he knows what they want. Sometimes, it comes across as creepy.
During the chorus of “Hunter,” he croons “Because it’s the middle of the night, that don’t mean I won’t hunt you down,” and, “If I can’t have you nobody can.”
He even compares his conquests to taxidermied heads on his wall. Strangely, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to listen to. The funk is here too, paired with his smooth vocals, and damn if it isn’t catchy.
“GIRL” is a good album, but not great. If anything, it shows that Pharrell is at his strongest when other creative minds are in the studio working with him.
“Gust of Wind” is the follow-up to the Grammy Record of the Year “Get Lucky,” and with Daft Punk’s help, it’s almost as much of an earworm. Its strings, funk and electronic sounds all blend into something that will have you tapping your feet and humming all day.
“Brand New,” with Timberlake, sounds like young Michael Jackson might join in any minute. “Come Get it Bae” lays down more funk with schoolyard chants and Miley Cyrus in the background.
He teams up with Alicia Keys in the reggae-inspired “Know Who Are.” “Happy” involved the “Despicable Me 2” team going through eight rewrites with him before getting to its final form, and its quality is evident.
Compared to these, most of his truly solo songs are just kind of “Meh.” That isn’t that bad because the album is only 10 tracks and runs just more than 46 minutes.
“GIRL” is Pharrell riding his recent pop collaborative successes to his own solo stardom. It sounds a lot like Timberlake’s 2013 “The 20/20 Experience,” but it’s musically better and lyrically inferior.
It’s not groundbreaking or innovative, which will disappoint some fans. However, this short album will turn out several singles. Listen to it now and be ahead of the game when they hit the radio.