By Bradley Leuchte
This 40-year-old producer refuses to slow or settle down. Pharrell Williams already changed the world of hip-hop and pop in the late ‘90s to early 2000s with his collaborations with Snoop Dogg and Chad Hugo.
More recently, his collaboration with Daft Punk on their latest LP “Random Access Memories” featured him singing in “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky.” One cannot go without mentioning the ingenious but tasteless collaborations with Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus, as well as co-composing the soundtracks to the “Despicable Me” Olms. This repertoire demands attention.
Now, his latest album, “G I R L,” released on Monday, features collaborations with Justin Timberlake (who else would you expect?) and Alicia Keys.
“Brand New” has a jumpy rhythm with a repetitive disco-style, Nile Rodgers-esque guitar groove as the pad. The horns sound like the soulful vintage sound of Earth, Wind & Fire. The song is bookended with groovy beatboxing and jazz scat by Timberlake and Williams.
If Bootsy Collins played a “Blurred Lines”-like bass line, it would sound like “Hunter,” a song that confuses the hell out of me. Listen closely to the lyrics: “Duck Dynasty’s cool and all / But they got nothin’ on a female star / I’m a hunter.” Not exactly an instant classic.
It is humorous that two songs later comes the theme to “Despicable Me 2” – “Happy.” This single has so much potential to be the song of the year, but the scratchy drums, the Disney-like backing vocals and the bland pop lyrics ruin the magic, so to speak. He keeps asking me to clap along with him, but I’ll have to pass.
I don’t want to come od as a terrible person or waste ink, so I’ll limit my commentary on “Come Get It Bae” to two succinct words: “twerk” and “cheap.”
Finally, we hear some vocoding and synthesizer work by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk. The warm, soothing chorus alone redeems the cheap, soulless canned pop songs on the first part of the album. Daft Punk always brings the soul to electronic music. They are human, after all...
The second-to-last track with Alicia Keys, “Know Who You Are,” features a repetitive reggae groove with boring piano chords on the off-beats and Keys singing a call and response with Williams.
There are a few catchy songs on this album, but most of it is easily forgettable. I really want this to be a classic and full of summer singles, but unfortunately, the only work I enjoyed on this album was that of Daft Punk, and I can get that elsewhere.