I waited two years for Pharrell Williams to release Girl. I ran to Waterloo Records and picked up a copy the day it dropped and have been listening to it nonstop in my car ever since. After giving it a listen between 100 and 200 times, I’m finally ready to talk about it. Let’s do this.
I’ve been with Pharrell through every N.E.R.D. album. I saw them when they played in Austin in 2010. I’ve been obsessed with everything The Neptunes touched and have read just about every interview. So, yeah. I’m a huge fan. (No disrespect to those of you who are just getting on board with Happy. Now go buy some old stuff.)
I should quickly note that this is a pop album, not hip-hop. So fans looking for that N.E.R.D. edge will have to look elsewhere.
The album opens with the infectious Marilyn Monroe. The initial strains are reminiscent of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills theme song. I don’t hate it. Mr. Betty says sounds like Pharrell is saying, “The diarrhea is happening yeaaaaaah!” It’s true. Anyway, it’s got a video so here you go.
The collaborative songs on the album are all strong. The chemistry between Pharrell and Justin Timberlake is great and Brand New is a likely contender for a single. (Every song on the album is radio friendly, actually.) Duet Know Who You Are with Alicia Keys is a personal favorite. The laid back vocals and upbeat soul are perfect to showcase both their voices. Gust of Wind proves that creative lightning indeed can strike twice. Like Lose Yourself to Dance or Get Lucky, his partnership with Daft Punk results in pure magic. It’s my favorite song on the album, hands down. It’s groovy, funky, and reminiscent of Jamiroquai…but with French robots. And violins.
Genre exploration is the Girls bedrock and Hunter is solidly in the 80s. It’s another one of my favorites. Less successful is Lost Queen which is overly simplistic in its South African folk inspiration. Although there’s another song hidden on the track (Freq) and it’s worth the wait. It Girl closes out the album and feels the most like N.E.R.D. than any other song. Fantastic.
I’m just crazy about Girl as a body of work. A great listen in its entirety, which is rare. (For me at least. I’m a track skipper.) Not to say Pharrell doesn’t have his weak points. First…let’s get rid of that fucking hat already. The park ranger look is so over. He used to wear normal hats:
Secondly, lyrics have never been his strength and he hasn’t improved over time. As huge as Happy is, I think the lyrics could be better. What the hell is a room without a roof?
Here’s an example from Gust of Wind: When I open the window/I want to hug your/Cause you remind me of the air/yeah.
I mean, one can hug almost anything. But not air. Anyway, the lyrics aren’t ruining the songs, but they could be better.
Discopop recently alleged that Pharrell can’t write an intro and relies on the same looping technique to open each song. They even put together a playlist of intros, so you can check it out for yourself.
When I listen to this I’m just reminded of how much I love so many of his songs. I’ll leave you with one more video. Some classic N.E.R.D.