It has been a long time since Pharrell Williams released a solo album due to his increasingly successful music production duo The Neptunes, but he has returned to the scene recently with great aplomb, collaborating with Daft Punk on the hit song ‘Get Lucky’, releasing chart topper ‘Happy’, and now finally his new album.
G I R L features a distinctly new feel to it than previous works that Pharrell has done. Pharrell’s first album In My Mind has a multitude of variation that is unusual for an R&B album, with some clear cut hip-hop infused with his own style of rap. G I R L differs from this quite drastically, and as a whole combines his standard R&B vibe and more funk-oriented basslines and melodies with a hint of new-school charts pop, which one can only assume is to give his album a much wider appeal now that he has become a household name. The album seems more laid-back and upbeat than typical releases floating around in the charts presently.
The track ‘Happy’ had an incredibly large viral marketing campaign smothered all over YouTube, launched due to its inclusion in the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, and has garnered a lot of success in the chart. It is without a doubt the standout song on the album, carrying a feel-good vibe to it that will have you clapping along. Other tracks such as ‘Hunter’ (which is a personal favourite of mine) layers Pharrell’s brilliant falsetto over a catchy repeated beat. The song ‘Lost Queen’ includes a long musical interlude which should really feel out of place in the album, but with the relaxed aura that emanates from the preluding songs, strangely doesn’t. Collaborations with Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys on the songs ‘Brand New’ and ‘Know Who You Are’ respectively complement each artists styles well, especially the latter which is a strong enough song for Alicia Keys to carry a large amount of the vocals, and could easily be mistaken as her own single.
It does become clear after a few songs that they each carry the same style, and the only very slight changes in the vocals between songs make it seem like there’s no progression or change throughout the album. This highlights the major problem with the album: it is repetitive. For a music maestro who has created absolute gold in the past for other artists, it is disappointing that his own album seems to suffer from a lack of creativity. Even the standout songs previously mentioned fall victim to this, and end up getting lost in what just seems like one 40 minute song.
The album is bereft of any of the rapping that Pharrell became famed for in N*E*R*D, but still holds the rap flow that marked his early releases. Fans of the old Pharrell Williams would do better to look at the new album as a completely different entity to anything he has done before. That aside, the album is very strong and has a number of very catchy songs that show a maturing of Pharrell’s typical R&B and funk influences that haven’t been seen brought to the fore for a number of years. Whilst it’s not a perfect album, G I R L is a very good listen for those who prefer a more chilled and mellow atmosphere, and just want to kick back and relax.
Ryan James Barley