It seems scarcely credible that G I R L is only Pharrell Williams’ second full-length album. For more than 15 years, on his own and as half of the production duo The Neptunes, the multitasking artist has been a major force in hip hop, pop and R&B. In 2013 alone, he contributed to three of the year’s most high-profile albums, by Daft Punk, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus
Still, it wasn’t a given that a man who’s collaborated so fortuitously and gracefully with a wide variety of artists would reclaim the spotlight as handily, and with as much sheer joy, as Williams does on G I R L
The scrumptious opening track, ‘Marilyn Monroe’, kicks off with a romantic rush of strings. “This one goes out to all the lovers,” Williams sings, once the lithe groove kicks in; then he pleads, “Let’s all dance and elevate each other.” The following 10 tracks (including the hidden interlude ‘Freq’) encourage the same, as the singer/songwriter/producer/arranger cranks out tunes that are as giddily accessible as they are texturally sophisticated
‘Brand New’ featuring Justin Timberlake is a platform for Williams and Timberlake’s dueling falsettos. The duet is buoyed by a conga rhythm and machine-gun horn blasts, with Nile Rodgers-lite guitar strums thrown in for good measure. On the hook, Williams and Timberlake sing of the rejuvenating power of love. “You’ve got me feelin’ brand new / like the tag’s still on me”
Next Up is the 70s influenced ode to Debbie Harry ‘Hunter’. A nice little falsetto chorus adds to the head nodding nature of the track. The cool bubble continues with next track ‘Gush’ which does see a little of the ‘Frontin’ Pharrell re-emerge. Even though he sings about wanting to “light that ass on fire”, he’s at least polite enough to make his intentions explicitly clear from the off
Originally released last summer on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, ‘Happy’ got a boost late last year thanks to a viral music video and Academy Award nomination. Contagiously peppy and brilliantly simple, it seems likely to dominate radio for weeks to come
‘Lost Queen’ nods to the hip-hop minimalism of his early productions before veering towards a slinky if not slightly meandering finale.
Unsurprisingly, he’s lined up the best of his many, many contacts for collaborations, including Miley Cyrus on ‘Come Get It Bae‘, where she provides backing vocals over a mashup of country-flecked guitars and schoolyard handclap chants. Daft Punk make a typically understated appearance on the gloriously uplifting and futuristic ‘Gust Of Wind’, while Alicia Keys’s generous contribution on the reggae-tinged ‘I Know Who You Are’ is a welcome curveball. Such big names never manage to overshadow the presence of Pharrell, whose radiating passion and positivity is the real star of the show
There are things to like in every song on G I R L. And Pharrell sells every song with the same joyous dork-out fervor that’s turned him, once again, into a star. G I R L isn’t some moment-defining masterpiece, and it has no ambitions at being one. Instead, it’s an album that’ll make our spring, and maybe yours, just a bit more pleasant. That’s good enough for us!
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