After a small period out of the spotlight the talented producer, singer, rapper, songwriter, fashion designer, drummer and ice cream mogul * gasps for breath * roared back into relevancy with a string of hugely successful singles that dominated the charts and radio airwaves all year. What’s more he achieved all of these feats whilst looking not a day older than he did when he first appeared in the spotlight decked out like a 90s skater in N.E.R.D’s video for Rockstar.
First there was the Marvin Gaye inspired, percussion laden ‘Blurred Lines’ which has made Robin Thicke so much money that he can comfortably re-enact another beautiful moment from 20 13, conveniently displayed by Huell below.
Not satisfied with making Thicke and TI more relevant than they’d been in years, for Pharrell’s next trick the ankle bearing star would appear alongside the masked giants of electronic music Daft Punk and the majestically talented disco legend Nile Rodgers. Get Lucky was an intoxicating mix of Rodgers’ evocative summer disco and Daft Punk’s brand of electronic dance music, with Pharrell adding a final gloss of falsetto and cool.
Winter descended and as the final remnants of Blurred Lines and Get Lucky left the airwaves another dormant smash hit reared it’s Buffalo hat wearing head, as Pharrell released ‘Happy’, a song originally recorded for Despicable Me 2’s OST.
As catchy as Happy undoubtedly is, it’s a neo soul song written for a children’s film that could easily have been written and performed by Kermit himself. Nevertheless, in spite of its simplistic and repetitive nature the song has once again captured a huge audience all-willing to buy into its cheery brand of optimism.
Following such a successful year, with records that have sold a combined total of 14 million copies in just 12 months it makes perfect sense for Pharrell to capitalize on an all time high in popularity, with the release of his second solo album, G I R L. But what should we expect from Pharrell this time round?
Following an array of listening parties and the reveal of G I R L ‘s tracklisting we can start to construct a picture of an ambitious artist eager to express his views on the future whilst his music pays tribute to the past.
Speaking publicly about the album Pharrell remarked that G I R L was aptly named because he wanted to use the record as a tribute to women and aimed to highlight societies gender imbalance. Seeking to respond to the controversy and misogynist accusations around Blurred Lines, which Williams produced and co- wrote, G I R L is said to resemble a concept album with a varied musical composition.
Before delving into what the album may sound like however, I’ve got a confession to make. I don’t really care what Pharrell Williams has to say about women. Whilst his heart may be in the right place, he, like so many others before him, don’t seem to have done the required reading to comment on such sensitive matters with any real degree of authority. Speaking in a recent interview Williams stated that everything he has has come from women, and whilst he likes to admire them on the surface and appreciate them in “dirty ways”, he actually harbours a deeper appreciation for the fairer sex.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong about admiring the female form and alluding to the beauty of classical sculptures (as he did in a recent defence of the BL video), Williams is in danger of coming across as a hypocrite. His failure to acknowledge the sexist connotations (however unintentional) of a great deal of work he’s been involved with, most recently Blurred Lines, will only prevent him from truly understanding feminism. The fact that he wants to is fantastic, but before he deems himself worthy to convey statements about gender inequality, he needs to prove to us that he means it. Right, back to the music.
G I R L boasts a whole host of collaborators with Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus all eagerly reuniting to work with Williams again, however, the most intriguing feature is that of Hans Zimmer who has allegedly covered string arrangements for a number of songs. Working with such a legendary film composer illustrates how serious Pharrell was when stating his desire to showcase an expansive sound on his new album; one that will surely help to emphasise the social commentary he hopes to convey.
The first half of the album is said to be composed of solid commercial output, with many journalists remarking that the first four songs could all easily become best selling singles (not like he’s been struggling for those.). However, if the first half is said to reflect the commercial, the second half is said to showcase the experimental, with Williams returning to a minimalist style of production like that which proved so successful on songs like ‘Drop it Like It’s Hot’.
With hints of reggae, elements of classical, an instrumental interlude and looped samples of indigenous chanting you can’t fault Williams’ undeniable ambition; and given his track record as a producer, if anyone can pull off such an eclectic mix of genres it’s Pharrell.