Review: N.E.R.D & Rihanna – ‘Lemon’

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80%
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Pulsating

N.E.R.D return after 7 years with a track which fizzes with energy whilst Rihanna steals the show with a fiery guest vocal.

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The surprise comeback single from N.E.R.D, the funk-rock band led by Neptunes producer duo Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, perfectly whets the appetite for their forthcoming fifth studio album.

What first hits you about ‘Lemon’ is the thumping, minimalistic bassline which has become Pharrell’s trademark as a producer. The song pulses with synths, throbbing drum machine kicks and glitchy samples, all designed to grab the listener from the beginning. The first minute is dominated by the vibrant vocals of Pharrell, who practically dances around the beat, with one line of the hook (“Bouncin’ around, Bouncin’ around / Bouncin’”) matching his contribution.

Halfway through, the beat slows down and the background noise fades down as the song reaches its high point. The song’s guest rapper, Rihanna, proceeds to make the song her own, spitting her hook better than Pharrell and proving that her feature on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘LOYALTY’ was no fluke. Exuding swagger and flair whilst sounding like she’s barely exerting any effort, Rihanna’s cocky vocals elevate ‘Lemon’ to another level. This is shown by the alternate version of the track sans Rihanna, in which Pharrell delivers a verse near-identical to hers and yet cannot raise it to a similar level. This may be N.E.R.D’s comeback, but it’s Rihanna’s show.

Whilst ‘Lemon’ is not quite a modern classic, the combination of crisp production and an inspired guest vocalist suggest that N.E.R.D’s upcoming album could once again return the band to chart success.

‘Lemon’ is out now via Columbia Records

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