Singles can’t carry album
If you watched this year’s Grammy Awards you’ll remember Pharrell Williams as the guy in the ridiculous hat next to the two robots (Daft Punk). They took home the award for best pop duo/group performance and record of the year for “Get Lucky.” Pharrell was awarded two other Grammys this year: one for his work on Daft Punk’s album of the year, “Random Access Memories,” and another for producer of the year. He’s no stranger to the latter of these awards, having won it back in 2003 with his group The Neptunes. While he’s found success in his prolific collaborations, this year’s “Girl” is only his second solo venture, the follow up to his 2006 debut “In My Mind.”
If there is one thing Pharrell has gained from his vast production experience, it is a group of very talented contacts and friends. “Girl” features guest performances from Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus and string arrangements by in demand movie composer Hans Zimmer. The songs all seem tailored for each singer’s voice and these performances are distributed evenly throughout the album, giving the listener a welcome dose of variety when needed.
The only one of these guest tracks that falls short is “Come Get it Bae” featuring Miley Cyrus. While it’s not really Miley’s fault, the song is demonstrative of many of the flaws on “Girl.” Opening with a funky guitar, handclaps and some “hey’s,” the groove is upbeat and exciting. Unfortunately, this remains constant throughout the track’s three and a half minutes, with no change in dynamics and no respite from the “hey’s” that occur in two-second intervals. Couple that with poor lyrics containing poorer innuendo, and you have a pretty good representation of the majority of “Girl.”
Following “Come Get it Bae” is “Gust of Wind,” a track that shows Pharrell at his best. With an acrobatic string introduction arranged by Zimmer, and an incredibly catchy chorus featuring Daft Punk, the track highlights the unrealized potential throughout the rest of “Girl.” Pharrell’s voice fits the funky rhythm and blues style of this track and his lyrics here are the most tasteful on the album.
Other standout tracks are “Happy” from the movie “Despicable Me 2”; “Brand New” featuring Justin Timberlake; and “Know Who You Are” featuring Alicia Keys. Unfortunately for Pharrell, this only accounts for half of the album. Most of the tracks that find him solo are plagued by repetition and/or bad lyrics. “Marilyn Monroe” is a decent song that Pharrell tries to milk for two minutes too long, “Gush” has abysmal lyrics and “Hunter” relies on a single guitar part for its entirety that becomes annoying almost immediately. This turns “Girl” into an album focused on the strength of its singles instead of an entire experience, resulting in an underwhelming record from our “producer of the year.”
2 1/2 stars out of 5.
DOWNLOAD NOW: “Gust of Wind”