After somewhat of a Neptunes dry-spell, Pharrell surprisingly took the industry by storm last year, appearing on three of the year’s biggest hits, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, and “Happy”, from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. The first two placed him front and center back in the spotlight, while “Happy” was like a victory lap, getting a second-wind this year, doubling as the single to his new album, G I R L.
In recent interviews, Pharrell stated that he didn’t have plans to do another solo project, however pressures from the almighty industry suggested he should strike while the iron is hot. Suddenly, G I R L was announced, complete with cover art, tracklist, and street date. Boasting high profile collaborations with Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Timberlake, the question remains; Is this a true return to form for Pharrell, or simply a rush job to cash in on recent successes?
At a concise ten tracks, unfortunately the latter is true, as G I R L comes off pretty lukewarm. While wise to ride the hype train and release a timely new solo album, its done so at the expense of the overall product itself. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great moments here, however. The Daft Punk helmed “Gust Of Wind” is another gorgeous collaboration between Pharrell and The Robots; one even better than Random Access Memories’ “Lose Yourself To Dance”. It’s curious if this was a product of those recording sessions, or if perfection was realized after R.A.M. hit store shelves. In either case, provided label politics don’t get in the way, the three could have another huge hit on their hands with “Gust Of Wind”.
Pharrell does have his moments here, usually when not working with other artists. “Hunter” is a funky Diana-Ross-meets-Talking-Heads-meets-Prince kind of track, that finds him flexing with complete confidence, despite the song’s silly approach. “Gush” is a classic N.E.R.D. sex track, one that might have fit after “Tape You” on In Search Of…
But where G I R L mostly falls flat is in its big name pop collaborations. “Brand New” with Justin Timberlake is hard to take seriously, as the two play smitten to getting “a text in the morning” (?). Miley Cyrus’ appearance on “Come Get It Bae” is mostly relegated to background vocals – which is a good thing – but the song itself is hardly inspiring. Finally, the Alicia Keys featured “Know Who You Are” is overshadowed by Mrs. Keys, and again, simply isn’t that great of a cut to begin with.
For every sub-par moment on G I R L, there’s a great one, making this a largely uneven LP from Skateboard P. Not that it matters, but there’s little rapping – or even rock – on this album, as Pharrell took a very safe, non-aggressive approach to making G I R L. As the title suggests, this album is aimed clearly at the female Target shopper, whom might pick it up on a whim, next to birthday cards and baby diapers. In other words, it’s for your girl.
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