By Brandon C. Kesselly, Staff Writer
Have you seen “Despicable Me“? How about “Despicable Me 2“? Have you heard the soundtrack from both movies, especially that upbeat song “Happy” from the sequel? How about Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”? Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance”?
Chances are you’ve heard at least one of these songs and have become quite well acquainted with the man on the microphone (or the producer, in the case of “Blurred Lines”), Pharrell Williams.
What you may not know is that Williams has been around producing some of our favorite songs for over a decade. As member of the dynamic production duo The Neptunes, the Virginia native and his longtime collaborator Chad Hugo have produced for many acts in the past, landing numerous Billboard Hot 100 hits. To name a few:
Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” and “Señorita”
Britney Spears’s “I’m a Slave 4 U”
Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”
And that’s just before 2005!
With such a long list of smash hits for others under his belt, one would think that Williams’ Midas touch would translate well into his own music, no? Unfortunately, his first solo LP, “In My Mind” (2006) did not do him justice and he had a very limited fan base. He was not a household name – yet.
After a stellar 2013 in which he won multiple Grammy awards and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, on March 3, 2014 Williams released his sophomore album effort G I R L.
“It might sound crazy what I’m about to say”, but this album is downright funky.
Somewhere between Prince and James Brown, Williams has crafted a unique mixture of modern pop and dance music fully inspired by disco themes as well as modern cinema strings, electronica and hip-hop. G I R L pays interesting attention to detail production-wise, with each instrumental complementing Williams’ vocals as well as those of his collaborators.
Lyrically, G I R L focuses a lot on attraction, love and sex. The opener “Marilyn Monroe” mixes strings with a smooth bass line as Williams croons and grooves over the beat in an homage to beautiful ladies everywhere. “Brand New” finds him in a duet with Justin Timberlake as the two sing over horns and snares about how they feel young again when they are in love.
One of G I R L’s high points, “Hunter”, is told from a female perspective, detailing an amorous woman’s thoughts as she is “up all night to get lucky.” “Come Get It Bae”— featuring Miley Cyrus — is a playful track with a chorus revolving around a motorcycle metaphor and the Daft Punk collaboration “Gust of Wind” is a mid-tempo dance number that sounds like a Random Access Memories bonus track.
The rhythmic chants and African-influenced drums in “Lost Queen” make it a welcome ballad in the mix. Amidst this variety of instruments and synths, “Happy” sits in the center of the track list. Toward the end of G I R L, Williams and Alicia Keys sing a mellow duet in “Know Who You Are”. “It Girl” closes out the album on a high note, with mid-tempo drums, bass guitar and falsetto.
Williams’ ear for sound is incredible and, when combined with his unique singing voice, makes G I R L a fun sonic journey from start to finish. While drastically different from his previous efforts, he has proven quite capable of crafting an enjoyable pop album while remaining a top producer from the realm of urban music.