Music Reviews

Pharrell Williams G I R L

(Columbia) Rating - 5/10

There’s something about being a collaborator that tends to bring out the best in Pharrell Williams. His vocals in Daft Punk’s 2013 megahit Get Lucky were not only effortlessly cool, they multiplied the song’s joyousness tenfold. Also, a year ago he produced the memorable ode to sexual pursuit Blurred Lines, reinvigorating Robin Thicke’s career and enraging the nation’s feminists in the process. This year, however, would see Pharrell wowing the world as a solo artist, channeling his talents as a producer and musician into his own record, which would hopefully have more impact than his quickly forgotten 2006 debut In My Mind. The final result is G I R L (the title presumably an artsy reference to the Blurred Lines brouhaha), an album that seems so bent on being ‘’festive and urgent’’ (his own words) that it ends up sounding like material better suited to the singles artists and ephemeral chart-toppers for which Pharrell produces.

The first fifty seconds of opening track Marilyn Monroe are deceptive—for a moment there is a glimmer of joy in hearing the crisp string groove, a brand of trite yet bright retro pop hinting at the prospect of a truly fun listening experience. But the song quickly takes a turn for the inane when Pharrell sings: ‘'Dear diary, it’s happening again’’. It’s one thing to be a helpless romantic; it’s another to throw dignity out the window with a line not even a 1999-era Britney Spears could pull off. On the surface, each song sounds original, entertaining and charming the way most soul throwback jams tend to sound, and as an artist Pharrell is savvy to use his quirkiness to his advantage. But at its best, G I R L sounds like another alternative to Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience or CeeLo Green’s The Lady Killer. At its worst it sounds like a collection of Blurred Lines derivatives.

Nevertheless, G I R L is so intent on pleasing that even at low points the production gleams, and the slick, bouncing beats exude feel-good bliss in a manner that will appeal to anyone not concerned with the fact that all this has been done before.There’s not much to complain about Happy, the Oscar-nominated anthem Pharrell penned for Despicable Me 2—it lives up to the title in every way possible. Daft Punk collaboration Gust of Wind becomes interesting once the French duo’s distorted vocals chime in. Lost Queen, though about four minutes too long, is another smooth and sexy paean to an out-of-this-world woman, although by the time it ends it’s clear that so much of the way Pharrell celebrates women and the undeniable goodies they offer serves to underscore his own prowess as a lover. It takes Alicia Keys on pre-closing track Know Who You Are to deliver the closest thing to an empowering line on the album, and even then it sounds perfunctory: ‘’Will do what I need ‘till every woman on the earth is free’’.

For someone who walked the red carpet in tuxedo shorts and spent the past few years behind the mixing board of albums like Channel Orange and Beyoncé’s self-titled release, G I R L sounds like the work of a much less interesting artist. But if Pharrell’s goal was to bring happiness to his listeners and vibrant tunes to the charts, then by all means he’s fulfilled his goal.