Pharrell Williams is on fire. The N.E.R.D. front man, and half of production team the Neptunes, is experiencing an incredible career resurgence. In 2013, music audiences became reacquainted with the popular hitmaker through monumental collaborations with Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”) and Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”). Lately, the 40-years-young musician has stimulated music lovers around the world with “Happy,” the infectious ditty from the “Despicable Me 2’ Soundtrack. Considering the enormous latitude of his recent success, some may wonder if any magic remains in Williams’ bag of hits. Fortunately, that answer is easily attainable.
On March 3rd, Star Trak/Interscope Records released G I R L, the follow-up to Williams’ solo debut, 2006s ‘In My Mind.” The new album-- a collection of party jams sprinkled with messages of love and inspiration-- is contemporary and classic at once. Its blend of musical genres and eras is impressive, and should appeal to new fans while maintaining allegiance to those who are more established. Additionally, G I R L is aided by a cast of costars-- including Alicia Keys, Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, and Leah Labelle-- who help to take things a notch higher.
Overall, G I R L is a fantastic album that will solidify Williams’ reputation for being a leading musical force. His fun brand of pop and soulful music is also refreshing, and the perfect backdrop for mild-weather celebrations of all varieties. Fans of Williams will be satisfied to know that G I R L is ripe with offerings eager to resume where “Happy” left off.
1. “Marilyn Monroe”
Dramatic strings are the prelude to Williams’ rhythmic and melodic quest for a partner of extraordinary standards. On this track, he speaks on behalf of helpless romantics with hopes of finding a dream girl that exceeds all others-- including Marilyn Monroe. Excellent start to the album.
2. "Brand New" (featuring Justin Timberlake)
Williams and Timberlake pay homage to the faithful, unwavering, and supportive lover. While the song doesn’t provide quite the spark one might expect from this powerful duo, its salsa-inspired groove and sing-along chorus are redemptive.
Ultra-fun and danceable track from the perspective of a lusty gent on the prowl. Williams’ wild and aggressive vocals match well against the track’s theme and lively guitar riffs. His Deborah Harry/Rapture-like singing and rapping are very effective and his Cupid and Duck Dynasty references are excellent. The quintessential party starter-- spirited, powerful, and animal-instinctive!
With its playful sexual references and guitar-driven sound, this jam -- reminiscent of Williams’ alternative hip hop/rock band N.E.R.D.-- is a sonic delight. It's so strong that a release at any time within the last 15 years would not have compromised its charm. The only thing missing is Chad Hugo and Shay Halley ... or are they?
The worldwide smash that has reached the pole position in a multitude of countries. No further description necessary.
6. "Come Get It Bae"(featuring Miley Cyrus)
Electric, playful and full of adult hand-patting exuberance. Cyrus and Williams join forces to make a hot, sexually-metaphoric tune that will keep the party going. The song is currently featured in the sports action-heavy World of Red Bull commercial.
7. "Gust of Wind" (featuring Daft Punk)
An absolute gem among gems. This one shines so brightly it can be seen from light years away. One of Williams’ best performances yet. It’s the complete package: lyrics, melody, orchestration, and a hook and chorus that are unforgettable. Daft Punk joins in to add fire to fire. Is that even possible? Obviously so. This song is very special.
8. "Lost Queen”
A magnificent tribute to the woman who make a man's life easier, and who deserves equal respect from him. Williams multi-tasks, rapping and singing alongside a slinky track that coexists with tribal beats and African chants.
*** Freq (featuring JoJo and Lea Labelle)
The album’s hidden song, conveniently nestled between tracks 8 and 9 (around 4:22), is calming and inspirational-- and subliminal. Its cool vocals and soothing harmonies pacify while its underlying message of empowerment, “You’ve got to go inward to experience the outer space that was built for you” repeats. The purpose behind this refrain isn’t clear, but is welcome-- even if it slows the party down for 3 ½ minutes.
9. "Know Who You Are" (featuring Alicia Keys)
Midtempo duets don’t get much better than this! A pairing of this type may be new to Williams' audience, but has certainly been worth waiting for. He and Keys deliver musical magic and showcase a vocal bond that is undeniable. This sun-kissed island-styled jam sets the mood for the perfect evening. Yet another song from this sharp collection with the potential to dominate radio airwaves worldwide.
10. "It Girl"
On the album’s closing cut, Williams again alludes to his admiration for the female species (which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the album’s title). His familiar Curtis Mayfield-inspired vocal fits like a glove over the 90’s-styled dance beat, and brings a great party to an end... well, at least until you press play again.