Pharrell Willliams is the man of the moment, having been Oscar-nominated for his ‘Happy’ contribution to the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, and the unforgettable summer collaborations with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke. But, G I R L, his first solo album since 2006’s In My Mind, looks set to remind us why the man beneath the ridiculously big hat is a musical genius in his own right.
The record is a celebration of the female, and Pharrell does it well. Album opener, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ makes sublime use of strings to create an introduction that wouldn’t be out of place in a movie (I did find that it resembled parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack…), and this is sustained throughout – whether through punchy pizzicato or a graceful accompaniment. The balance of the song shows why Pharrell is the go-to producer for many artists.
Naturally, this sleek production is carried on throughout G I R L, and we most definitely aren’t deprived of his trademark falsetto. Tracks like ‘Hunter’ show that it can be a bit piercing, and some even highlight that his vocals can fall a bit flat (literally); but this doesn’t matter, because G I R L is not just an album, it’s a musical statement.
Let’s get the negativity out of the way. G I R L is not perfect. It is let down occasionally by Pharrell trying to do too much, indulging in unnecessary orgasmic sounds, and some weak lyrical content (“When I open the window, I wanna hug ya / ’cause you remind me of the air, yeah!” – Make of that what you will…). However, it is little gifts like ‘Lost Queen’ and its almost tribal influences which provide some of the biggest surprises on this release, and also its hidden track, ‘Freq’. We not only find out that Pharrell thinks every woman deserves “hot sex and gold shiny things” alongside a perpetual servant, but also where JoJo’s been hiding for all these years!
It’s impossible to miss the feel-good 70s funk vibes which permeate the album, and the nods back to his N*E*R*D* days, and G I R L would be a completely different album without them. It is this nostalgia, as well as Latin dance and ska style duets with Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys respectively which really highlight the amount of thought which has gone into Pharrell’s pro-female concept album. The easy listening platform makes the songs far more accessible, and his “women are wonderful” message far easier to slip into the mainstream.
G I R L is a brilliant return for Pharrell, and proves itself to be the pick-me-up the musical world has been waiting for.
GIRL is available to download now via Colombia Records.