We live in a world where the next big thing rapidly becomes yesterday’s news. In his days with The Neptunes and N.E.R.D, Pharrell’s funk hip-hop music was incredibly cool and forward-thinking. Last year his funk soul style reached the peak of fashion. Now, after the success of Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke, this new album just feels dated.
The major question with ‘GIRL’ is, after being partly responsible for two of last year’s biggest hits (Blurred Lines and Get Lucky), how is his solo album so damn forgettable? There’s nothing as catchy as those two tracks, or even the likes of Frontin’, or pretty much any of his work with N.E.R.D. The only track that truly stands out is Happy, and that’s predominantly due to its ubiquity following its use in Despicable Me 2 – it is literally and annoyingly inescapable on mainstream radio. The rest of the album is distinctly lacking in hit songs, the overall tone so forcefully cool and laidback that Pharrell practically falls backwards on his ass.
The main issue with his production style is that each song is constructed from a single short phrase or riff that is then endlessly repeated for the remains of the track, boredom setting in quickly. It’s as if Pharrell came up with a good idea but then didn’t know what to do with it, or how to develop it in any way. It was the same with Blurred Lines (and that controversial Otis Redding “inspired” bass line) and it’s the same on much of ‘GIRL’. Hunter, for example, is essentially Blurred Lines part two with its four note introduction (“everybody get up!”) and same two bar guitar riff repeated ad infinitum. Brand New, featuring Justin Timberlake, does at least include a chorus…it’s just a shame it sounds exactly the same as the verses.
Judging by the title, it’s not hard to guess what the subject matter of the album is. There’s no blurred lines here, though at least on Gush he’s polite about it - “I could be the guy to treat you…but I don’t wanna mislead you, tonight I think I wanna be dirty, girl” – though that’s after he’s claims he can “make the p*ssy just gush”. For the most part, though, Pharrell has shied away from controversy. You certainly won’t find anything like N.E.R.D’s Lapdance here, just another example of how bland he’s become.
At the very least, Marilyn Monroe does offer an intoxicating bassline – no wonder it’s lined up as the next single. Not even another collaboration with Daft Punk on Gust Of Wind can save things with its dizzying strings and robotic vocals; instead it just sounds like an offcut from ‘Random Access Memories’.
It’s only fair to say, Pharrell you’ve lost your touch.
* Marilyn Monroe
* Marilyn Monroe
* Brand New
* Gust Of Wind
Listen: ‘GIRL’ is available now.