After a wildly successful year of blurring lines and getting lucky, Pharrell Williams needs no introduction. It is only natural for the 40-year-old, oversized fedora-wearing singer/producer/mastermind to put out a new solo release. “G I R L,” although a decent collection of neo-soul pop, ends up going nowhere in its lengthy running time.
To Pharrell’s credit, he is not only a talented singer and performer, but a skilled and cognitive producer. Every track on “G I R L” is meticulously recorded and presented. Many other pop producers overdo pop tracks until they’re hollowed out, auto-tuned machines of performances, but every track on this album feels uniquely live.
However, the songs on “G I R L” are just not that catchy. Opener “Marilyn Monroe,” with a maudlin string arrangement by Hans Zimmer, introduces the album with the titular “girl” hook repeating for way too long. “Happy,” the feel-good first single off the record, is about as memorable as the album gets. It sounded great in “Despicable Me 2” and would sound even better in a Pepsi ad. Every song is weaker except for “Lost Queen,” a pleasant, down-tempo track with inviting percussion that gives “G I R L” some fresh air. But a track like “Come Get It Babe” (with “it girl” Miley Cyrus shouting over the entire track for some reason) falters as too similar to “Blurred Lines” (Pharrell’s collaboration with Robin Thicke last year). The album’s lyrical themes of bold, assertive women want to be empowering, but he ends up sounding just as sex-obsessed and boneheaded as any of his compatriots.
Pharrell’s appreciation for funk and soul is admirable but misses its mark. Every song sounds the same, and his vocal delivery is painfully tired. It’s as if one day Pharrell decided to sing falsetto no matter how winded or out of breath he sounded. The songs, despite production that flourishes, sound rote and familiar. Pharrell wanted to create his own “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” before realizing it had already been done.
Favorite track: “Lost Queen”