G I R L
3 March 2014 (Columbia Records)
By Joe DeBonis
When sitting down to calculate exactly how much of an influence Pharrell Williams has had on what today’s popular music sounds like, even I, a self proclaimed Pharrell disciple, was surprised at the vast amount of material he has had a part in creating. The man has touched everything from Snoop Dogg songs to Britney Spears tracks to anything by artists from Daft Punk to Justin Timberlake. Pharrell just embodies catchy, popular music these days and when G I R L was dropped, he changed little to nothing from his normal formula of just trying to make the deepest, grooviest ear worms.
Famously known as just turning 40 but going on 22, Pharrell has been involved in music for a good while now. Having gained popularity for his work with the rap duo Clipse and producing “Hell Hath No Fury,” he became a staple in the hip-hop producing community. With his name also on songs like “Its Getting Hot In Here,” and “Drop It Like Its Hot,” Pharrell somewhat quietly pushed himself deep into the hip- hop realm and now when you look up a popular rap album these days, chances are Pharrell was on there somewhere. It’s the kind of position that I think warrants the kind of hype he has started to receive, especially after his latest shenanigans on “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines.”
Pharrell is also making kind of a big splash on his latest project with a supposed “feminism concept album” that was meant to show his appreciation for women and their place in the world. That is not only a bold statement, but also an honorable one to even at least try and say. Granted his attempt still didn’t really portray women in the greatest light, the intro to “Gush” is just him repeating the words “let the pussy just gush” and every song after that but “Know Who You Are” (which features Alicia Keys) is really only about sexing women rather than respecting them. In the end though, his attempt goes farther than most rappers and he should be respected at the very least for trying.
That finally leads me to G I R L. A funk influenced, fairly simplistic and catchy project that really epitomized what Pharrell has become to music; it is an album that may never have happened if Columbia Records wasn’t out just trying to make an extra buck. They essentially offered to record an album for him by saying, “Just pick the number of 0’s,” when Pharrell had said he was not interested in releasing a solo album again. The capitalistic and greedy nature that this album was birthed from kind of gives off a bad taste in the mouth. That’s before the intro to “Marilyn Monroe” starts. There are strings carrying the bottom of the track and a “Get Lucky”-like guitar riff all combined with a trap infused drumbeat that frankly can only be listened to on a dance floor. It’s hard to remember all that greed when Pharrell is throwing the most infectious and dance happy beats of the year at your ears. The tracks have that classic disco guitar style that is impossible to ignore more often than not and there are even a few treats in the form of horn licks like on “Brand New” (and a beautiful Justin Timberlake feature to boot). As the album goes on, each track comes with a better and better chorus and more and more of a reason to get down and dance. Then “Happy” starts and what Pharrell really has become to music is finally out in the open.
If “Happy” doesn’t scream absolute cheesy, money making greed I don’t know what does. But God damn it try and listen to that song without it getting stuck in your head after just the first 30 seconds of the song. The track is part disco funk and part pure pop and then by adding Pharrell crooning his heart out over the catchy beat, what could have been a sure fire way to end up never making music again became a pop sensation, being featured not only on “Despicable Me” but also in a performance at the Oscars. Now that does not take away from the fact these are the most cliché lyrics to date in 2014, but because its Pharrell fucking Williams singing them few people care to dig deep and instead just groove along like they are the ones wearing that silly Arby’s hat.
See, and that’s the power that Pharrell now wields. He could literally sing anything he wanted but if he works his magic on the backing track and adds a little sexy rasp to his voice, most of America will bask in the never aging hip-hop titan’s shadow. People who listen to popular music are not looking for something meaningful, preachy or even relevant. They want memorable, fun music and Pharrell not only knows this, but also delivers on the public’s cry like the savior they have always needed. And yes, for every chart topping single he releases that gains mass fame, he can be called a pig hearted capitalist for making music that sells but on the other hand, what if Pharrell loves the place he has created for himself in popular music?
Supposedly he never wanted to make another solo album again and once all those dollar signs were flashing in front of his eyes he forgot that sentiment immediately, but what if this is truly what Pharrell was born to do? Maybe he was born to make the masses feel better about themselves with some guilty pleasure music. Maybe he is the man that the public has always wanted to shamelessly make music with little meaning just to get folks dancing again. He clearly understands what exactly people want and on the off chance he truly just wants to make people happy, what his music is and what he is doing for music is admirable. And even if he doesn’t have some pure hearted motive, it absolutely cannot be denied his music is fun to listen to even if it has little to no depth.
I look at it this way. Would America rather have a capitalistic Pharrell making money and cheesy music simultaneously or would they rather someone with quite the less proven track record in charge of the new pop music movement. Look at Miley Cyrus, she makes cheesy, catchy music too, but no mom wants their daughter to act like Cyrus, while any mother would be honored to have the next Pharrell as their son. He is a class act who makes happy music for a living.
No matter what you think about Pharrell, what you think about this album and what you think about popular music in general, Pharrell has solidified himself in the spotlight and now no matter what he is creating it is going to be analyzed, over analyzed and either adored or hated; he is past that middle ground. It absolutely cannot be denied the man can make the feet tap, whether he is doing that responsibly or not though, is the better question.
Also, if you have ever had the slightest inclination to listen to “Happy” for 24 hours straight, do it at the link below.
Rating: Loved It