Pharrell Williams is used to sharing the spotlight with artists as a collaborator and producer, most recently featured on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”
But now the spotlight is directly on him as he releases his sophomore solo album, “G I R L,” eight years after his first release.
Fans of his first solo release “In My Mind,” will not find the “Skateboard P” persona on the latest album. The Williams who wore an iced-out chain resembling linked soda can tabs and used artificial sounds to convey his ego about accumulating wealth and having endless determination for success is gone.
His musical ventures also changed from rapping to studio time with Heitor Pereira for the “Despicable Me” movie franchise.
Now at the age of 40, Williams’ sound and style on “G I R L” displays the maturity that is seemingly reflective of his recent life events, such as getting married and becoming a father. The experience of becoming a father that combines the duality of a mature sound make the youthful spirit and energy on this album.
The album opens with a 30-piece string orchestra section in “Marilyn Monroe.” Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer is credited with strings on this album, and Williams rearranges them to house a funky coexistence with drum machines and handclaps, setting the neo-soul and funk scene for this album.
Tracks such as “Marilyn Monroe,” which confronts beauty standards, joins “Know Who You Are” in discussing the challenges females face, but the album mostly spreads around the various types of romantic admirations he has for women.
“It Girl” and “Come Get It Bae” have an erotic theme, while others such as “Brand New” and “Gust of Wind” provide romantic affection. “Gush” and “Lost Queen” meet both ends right in the middle, providing both sensuality and adoration.
Because Williams is well known for collaborating with a plethora of artists from many genres, it comes as no surprise that the album is filled with artists returning the favor. Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Kelly Osborne and Miley Cyrus can all be heard in the the mixed bag of collaborators on the album and bring their unique sound.
Though “Happy” tops the charts and was even nominated for an Academy Award, the overly upbeat song stands out and doesn’t seem to find a comfortable fit within the album.
The overall maturity provides depth to his production and brings out the truth in Williams’ extended metaphors sung with his silky smooth falsetto. While using these metaphors in his lyrics, his songs are catchy and easy to digest.
Though he uses influences from other genres such as country and tribal to freshen up the sound, his heavy pop style of production instantly satisfies a handful of songs on the album.
The structures of the songs are at times repetitively simple and some of his usual elements – like repeated bar intros – are found throughout the album. This, combined with a steadily repeated sound, has half the freshness departing from the album once it’s played through.
Despite the name, this album was not just made for women. With positivity provided in every song, anyone from those in love to the hopeless romantic have a reason to sing
and dance with the soundtrack of admiration.