All “Girl”, no substance on Pharrell Williams’ latest

Courtesy of I am Other and Columbia
Courtesy of I am Other and Columbia

Pharrell Williams has quietly dominated the music industry for quite some time by helping produce some of the biggest albums for today’s hottest stars, including Miley Cyrus, Usher and Jay-Z. However, in 2013 he took a step out from behind the scenes and was featured in some of the year’s biggest hits: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Now in 2014, he graces us with his second full-length album, “Girl.” Filled with infectious dance hits, “Girl” does not disappoint. There are definitely more than a few crowd-pleasers on Williams’ latest effort. Each song has a full and clean sound that only a top-notch producer could create, as well as a unique and diverse style in terms of beats and samples.

“Girl” includes Pharrell’s biggest hit of the year, “Happy” from the animated movie “Despicable Me 2.” This song sets the tone for the entire album by introducing a throwback sound joined by light and carefree lyrics. Most of the songs infuse funk, pop strings and old-school beats, and the album’s disco sound is almost reminiscent of a time that saw the masses in neon clothing grooving down roller-skating rinks. However, no matter how old-school the flavor, Pharrell manages to simultaneously master the futuristic sound that has dominated modern pop music: smooth vocals, crisp hooks and repetitive catch phrases.

The album’s opener, “Marilyn Monroe,” consists of cheery strings and Williams introducing the subject matter that is present in every song on the album: girls, girls and more girls. Staying true to the title, Williams saw fit not to include songs on the album about anything else — or to be terribly creative with the lyrics. He croons, “We’re so hard / I was so hard that they can’t chew / Then my lucky star / I guess you came from behind the moon.” Honestly, it’s hard to even guess what he is trying to say with this.

However, this isn’t to say that there is a lack of diversity to be found in other aspects of the album. Pharrell invited a variety of artists hailing from different genres to lend their talents to the album. He is joined by Justin Timberlake on “Brand New,” which features both artists displaying a breezy falsetto. One of the most notable collaborations on “Girl” is his track with Daft Punk, “Gust of Wind.” But with lyrics like “When I open the window / I wanna hug you / ‘Cuz you remind me of the air / I said yeah,” the song needed its soulful guitar melody and retro patterns to get the listener focused on dancing — instead of wondering why Pharrell is talking like a 5-year-old.

All in all, “Girl” is about fun. Lyrically, these songs lack depth and prove that this album is to be enjoyed during times of blind glee — perhaps cruising down the coast with friends, sweating on the dance floor or simply choosing the soundtrack to a happy day. If you’re looking for a song to put you on the verge of tears or encourage you to ponder the reasons of our existence, don’t go looking for it on “Girl.” Pharrell doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but what he lacks in vocal ability he makes up with perfectly crafted songs that are hard not to enjoy.

Rating: 4 stars

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