Pharrell | ARTIST
G I R L | ALBUM
Black Lot / Columbia | LABEL
4 March 2014 | RELEASE DATE
4.5 | 10
To paraphrase Will Ferrell’s character in Zoolander, Pharrell is so hot right now. For an artist who last made a commercial splash with Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” the ten years between “Hot” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” found the successful producer designated to the outskirts of the mainstream. Left for dead at the turn of the decade, Pharrell’s neo-soul sound was practically eradicated from airwaves in favor of electro-pop spearheaded by the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga. After last year’s blue-eyed soul revival however, due heavily to Skateboard P’s cultural resurgence, the sometime N.E.R.D. member’s new album could not arrive at a more convenient time. It capitalizes on his enormous 2013, doubling down on the musical aesthetic he pushed into the mainstream last year.
The most distressing aspect (and there are several to choose from) of G I R L is that it is rarely an interesting listen. Each song features a shockingly familiar tone, which in some instances, could create a cohesive, fleshed out album. But here, it only serves to showcase the album’s limitations and short-sighted goals. Pharrell’s sleeper hit “Happy” is the best thing here, but sticks out like a sore thumb in the context of G I R L. Everything else follows a formula mastered on his two infectious 2013 collaborations, as well as Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (part one). So when the two team up on “Brand New,” there is nothing thrilling or exciting about the collaboration. They’ve done this before, and done it much, much better.
And when Pharrell does arrive at a golden melody, he wears it out to unfortunate degrees. “Marilyn Monroe,” for example, is one of the more solid pop songs on the record, yet its self-indulgent runtime (northwards of five minutes), where nothing changes throughout the duration of the track, takes a toll on the audience. That’s the central takeaway from G I R L; an artist with enormous talent relegated to half-baked, cash-infused pop songs, all for the hope of banking-in on a ridiculously successful string of singles. It doesn’t help that G I R L purports to be an ode to the significant impact of women on our culture but is consistently only interested in examining the superficial. When Alicia Keys shows up on “Know Who You Are,” there’s a collective feeling of finally; as in, finally there’s a woman’s voice on an album called G I R L.
Pharrell is currently at the pinnacle of the culture’s musical zeitgeist. G I R L is unlikely to change that. But instead of adding to his incredible run, it will ultimately serve as an asterisk, a red herring for flying too close to the sun when you’re already amongst the stars.