The rapey undertones of Robin Thicke’s“Blurred Lines” placed Pharrell Williams in a compromising position at the middle-mark of 2013. It was damn near synchronized with the timing of Daft Punk’s electro-funk revival on “Get Lucky” with Nile Rodgers, which had the universal adoration of anyone with ears. Pharrell had his hands deeply embedded in both projects. There’s no church in the wild, so it’s obvious Skateboard P had to repent for one-half of his 2013 with his follow-up solo album G I R L (out today, ). The project sonically melds his musical mindset from both aforementioned projects, but in true Pharrell fashion, he kicks it up three notches and makes us all remember why he’s the master of the hit single.
In 2006, Pharrell’s solo debut album In My Mind was met with mixed reviews because it straddled the line between hip hop and pop in a way that didn’t quite captivate either audience effectively. While it boasted big names in rap like Jay Z, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg, it was more a testament to P’s rolodex during a last-ditch attempt at preserving his rap alliance. He was 33 back then and still acknowledging that lane as a suitable trajectory for him. Upon turning 40 last year, Pharrell publicly alluded that his rapping days are done (at least for now), and he was right. G I R L is all singing, and ultimately smooth-sailing because of it, since he feels way more at home when he’s flexing his chops. He has a knack for collaborating with whomever is currently sitting at his lunch table, which explains the cameos on this project.The recently ordained fashion maven Kelly Osbourne pops in on the opener “Marilyn Monroe,” a track that begins like a symphony before erupting into a signature Neptunes vibe. “Brand New” follows suit, as Justin Timberlake returns to his Justified roots to volley vocals with P. Most of the collaborations feel pleasantly understated. Even Miley Cyrus dims her light enough on “Come Get It Bae” to flirt with the beat in more of an ad libbed fashion. The heavy handed claps ultimately mimic the applause this one will get as the next single (predictions, predictions). Alicia Keys, who has fallen victim to over-singing as of late, strikes a balance as the guest on the breezy “I Know Who You Are.” Our favorite robots, Daft Punk, add their je ne sais quoi to “Gust Of Wind,” yet it arguably feels like a bonus track off Random Access Memories.When he stands alone, Pharrell really shines, evidenced by the colossal torch single “Happy” and all of its early timelessness plus “Hunter,” which is quintessential Pharrell and every side project he’s touched prior to 2011. The premise of G I R L, though, is to honor women (hence titling it as such), and that honoring tends to get lost in translation on cuts like “Gush,” where moans make way to P gushing, “Light that ass on fire.” Moments like that and many others feel less like an homage and more like a menage. Take “Lost Queen,” where instrumental hums and jungle rhythms harbor sensual metaphors for orgasms that Pharrell delivers with devilish naivete. The paradox is alluring, even once it blends into the “hidden” interlude “Freq,” where JoJo brings more of her “I’m obviously not a virgin” charisma. Regardless of the intent, the album truly is a celebration of women, right down to the closing title track, that rides out gracefully with a swanky instrumental.
At 10 tight tracks, Pharrell Williams’ G I R L is just enough jamming to not feel overdone or overly diversified. Pharrell has entered a new phase in his career and will ride it until he’s done with it. Here’s a man who once told Interview, “I want to express myself, but I never really want to express myself in the same way over and over again.” So assumedly this too shall pass. We’ll certainly enjoy it while it’s here though.
Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: Pharrell’s version of “Blurred Lines,” cleverly titled “Come Get It Bae.” With Miley Cyrus playing backup, the song is funky, dirty, and everything else that defines an evening of uncompromising bliss.
Best Listened To: The moment you strut into a room after having left your inhibitions at the door…preferably with a drink in hand. Make sure you’re of age #PublicServiceAnnouncement.
— Kathy Iandoli
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