I have a bit of a soft-spot for Pharrell. He’s got groove and creates tracks that bounce off the page. He remains evolutionary, pushing the envelope and continually collaborating with anyone and everyone whilst maintaining his own stylistic fingerprint.
Taking a cue from Daft Punk, the album opens with soaring strings reminiscent of Random Access Memories’ ‘Beyond’, that are arranged by none other than composer Hans Zimmer. His first word, ‘different’, is isolated in the texture, although perhaps slightly ironic with the title of the track ‘Marilyn Monroe’ not being a particularly original subject choice. Here though, Pharrell continues the disco renaissance Daft Punk set out last year with masterful production, some sick bass and hooks enough to challenge Michael Jackson.
The unstructured and free-flowing nature of tracks such as ‘Brand New’ (feat. Justin Timberlake) perhaps point to the hip-hop influences of Williams’ production career, with the lyrics almost falling into free styling rather than standardised bubble-gum pop. The climbing bass line, accompanied by MIDI brass, backing vocals and Nile Rodgers-esque guitar of the chorus of this track is, without a doubt, the highlight of the whole album, truly showcasing Pharrell’s songwriting, production and commercial prowess.
Elsewhere, the album features ‘Happy’, a laid-back Daft Punk track which definitely isn’t a leftover and features some Funky Fender Rhodes work and soaring string arrangements; as well as other collaborations with Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus. G I R L remains a Pharrell production though, remarkably coherent when these outsider influences are taken into consideration and once again pointing towards the talents he has developed throughout his fruitful production career. It says as much that, at the age of 40, Pharrell is perhaps the most ‘current’ and forward-thinking mainstream pop-act today showing us youngsters exactly how it’s done.
Following the ‘Blurred Lines’ backlash Oxford should take this album seriously, with the artist stating clearly in interviews that this is an opportunity to eliminate what he sees as an understandable degree of uncertainty over what his attitude to women actually is. Over the double spacing of the title G I R L he goes onto say that “because when you look at it, it looks a little weird […] because society is a little unbalanced.” So for those who might reject this album instantly out of principle, give the man a break – he’s trying, and the music is bloody great.