Before even listening to the album, you can tell that super-producer extraordinaire Pharrell Williams is in a much different mindset than he was when creating his previous 2006 solo album In My Mind. Although Pharrell’s physical appearance may not have changed much, we see someone who has realized that to create music, first and foremost the goal should be to have fun (a little Vic Mensa shoutout there). Williams is someone who goes through synesthesia while creating music. With that being said, it is apparent that when creating this album, he was seeing the color yellow through his sounds. The tone of the album is very energetic, lively, and “happy” (not even trying to go for a pun here) and that is shown right at the start with the beautiful Hans Zimmer string arrangement on “Marilyn Monroe”.
Going into G I R L assuming that Pharrell is delving into new territory musically would be a wrong approach to take. The album may even seem underwhelming if the expectation was something more conceptual and different such as N.E.R.D.’s 2010 album Nothing. There is clearly a concept to G I R L, but it isn’t something that is extremely apparent flowing from song to song in a sonic manner. Long term fans of The Neptunes and Star Trak should feel right at home though, as Williams brings that funky production, (think early N.E.R.D., Kelis, etc.) but with a lot denser instrumentation added to it (thanks to Hans Zimmer & even Daft Punk on one song). The album is very refreshing in the sense that no one currently is doing pop like Pharrell. His music is catchy enough to be radio ready, yet it isn’t an ‘annoying sort of catchy’ which comes from the label telling an artist to “make a song for the radio”. Williams can do this effortlessly because it is doubtful he even has radio play in mind—it just happens.
For those that are avid N.E.R.D. fans, the tracklist may appear rather scary in a sense. You see features like “Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys” and while at least two of those may not seem incredibly bad, you have to wonder if this album was just pushed out to ride the hype that Pharrell had in 2013 (realized through these huge features). Have no fear though. Just how Kanye West handles features, Pharrell does the same thing. Meaning, these artists aren’t featured so that the song will become more likeable to the masses. The musicians instead, are utilized to Williams’ liking in the framework that he has set on G I R L, creating nice additions on each song. Even the Miley Cyrus collaboration which surely many were dreading, works extremely well within the confines of the song “Come Get It Bae”.
The concept of the album is not on the level of a “Good Kid m.A.A.d City” or even a “Channel Orange” but it certainly has one. Despite the Pharrell produced smash hit “Blurred Lines”, there was much controversy over the possible “date rape” lyrics and misogyny that the song contained. Skateboard P’s most recent album is an ode to all women out there and how he sees how importance of them in the structure of society. It is also made to clear up the possible perceived attitudes Williams may have about women (because of Blurred Lines perhaps?). Overall, it is an album that is oozing with general positivity that oftentimes can’t be found in a primal sense with most records today.
After several listens, it is hard to have a strong opinion against G I R L. It’s very likeable straight from the jump. It doesn’t do anything extraordinary, but then again, it’s not trying to be adventurous. Whether you like it or not, you will probably hear at least a couple of these songs on several occasions in commercials or movie trailers throughout this year. With a steady formula Pharrell has been following since the mid-90s, it is hard to see him stopping now. Pharrell’s trajectory in music at this point can only go up and that prediction is re-established through this album.