What To Listen To: G I R L by Pharrell Williams

Photo: RCA
Photo: RCA

We have a brand new album for you this week as it was just released this past Monday! G I R L is Pharrell Williams’ second solo-album with a total of 10 deliciously groovy tracks that could make this album the jam of the summer! This has been one of the most promo-heavy and highly anticipated albums in recent months, so let me give you a bit of background to the concept and making of the album. Firstly, it is considered to be a response to the negativity surged through the whole “Blurred Lines” scenario. Allegations were flying through the media about sexism and degradation of women and even whether the song encourages rape!

Understandably, Pharrell wanted to hit back with an album about his true thoughts on women. The title itself is not only praising women, but it is also italicized and spaced to represent the apparent imbalance of society that Williams has noticed, particularly towards things like gender roles. As we will see, it’s also a tribute to the women in his life that are important to him. Ultimately, this album is jam-packed with tracks that will have the ladies (and lads) very excited.

The feminine-themed concept is immediately visible with the first track. “Marilyn Monroe” starts off the album with a gorgeous orchestral string opening that kicks into a very interesting, dark groove decorated with pizzicato strings. Also, we need to mention that Kelly Osbourne’s voice features in this song so that’s really cool. There is some antiphony in the bridge and chorus and a lot of repeating of the word “girl”. A lot of people have said that Pharrell is pushing this “neo-soul” sound. I didn’t understand it exactly at first, but it immediately makes sense after listening to this song.

Next up is one of the duets on the album that I was very excited to hear. “Brand New” ft. Justin Timberlake is another very groovy sound that features some great bass work. There’s all sorts of different percussive sounds too. Pharrell and Justin’s voices come together so well, which is why I was so eager to hear this. I knew it was going to be a superb combination. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song is released as a single. It has great potential in terms of charts especially when you have Justin Timberlake on it. Don’t forget, he had a huge year last year so it could be huge. Also, the beatboxing in the intro is apparently Timbaland!

“Hunter” is next and before I say anything else, I just want to ask where I’ve heard it before. I feel like I’ve definitely heard this exact bass line somewhere! Regardless, we are treated to more of Williams’ fantastic falsetto tones. The only thing that annoys me about this song is that it is kind of like “Blurred Lines” Part 2. I know he’s trying to bury that entire thing forever, but it does repeat some of those things that made ‘Blurred Lines’ what it is. Listen to those lyrics and you’ll know exactly what I mean. It could be just a playful flirty song, but when the intention was to move away from “Blurred Lines”, it really doesn’t help!

“Gush” is an extremely sexually-charged song. Again, the song title is a little on the gross side but there’s a lot of similarities to previous songs on the album, just with lyrics about lighting this girl’s ass on fire and getting dirty. But the string work towards the end is so beautiful that it’s hard to not still like the song.

Okay… next up is THAT song that we couldn’t escape no matter what we did! “Happy” was literally able to promote and sell this album alone without the need to preview any other track. It was (and still is) every where. Every popular social media network is advertising it in some way. It’s on every second music channel all day, every day. It’s even the most used advertisement on YouTube right now so any time you go to watch a video of any sort, this chorus just interupts your entire thought process! Look, I’m gonna try and review this song without the hype surrounding it. The first three or four times you listen to it, it is your absolute jam. After that, you’re completely sick of it. Because it’s so catchy and repetitive, it burns out the quality of the song quite quickly. I think if the song was just one of the verses, a chorus, the breakdown and then one more chorus, I would still be able to listen to it. Then again, the song is about happiness, it’s every where and it’s stuck in everyone’s head. So, maybe that was intentional? Now I’m just mad because I’m supposed to be happy.

“Come Get It Bae” is another sexual and flirtatious song with more repetitive features to up the catchy-factor that Williams is an expert at. The song also features vocals from Miley Cyrus. Again, the promo and the names on this album is getting is crazy.

“Gust of Wind” has a fabulous intro of strings and soul-tastic guitar that continues into the verse. The strings also rejoin the instrumental towards the chorus. The chorus itself is my favourite on the album. Daft Punk robotic vocal effects are always cool. Actually, overall this song is probably my favourite. It’s just a really breezy and simple track that is a bit of an all-rounder.

“Lost Queen” is a fusion of praising women and flirting heavily with them. Pharrell even delves deep into his past of playing women and how he’s now “half-good half-nasty”. A simple a soft percussive pattern with vocals doing most of the work in this song. There is a break half way through this almost-8-minute track, however. There is a realistic crashing waves effect and then the song randomly becomes an entirely different song. It becomes a little more 90s RnB/hip-hop. Apparently it’s a hidden interlude called ‘Freq’ and features vocals from none other than JoJo! A nice little hidden gift in the album to say the least.

A duet with Alicia Keys is next with “Know Who You Are”! I was just as excited to hear this song as the duet with Justin and it works just as well. Syncopated piano and guitar and a mega-groovy bass give it a gorgeous raggae/RnB tinge. Alicia sounds absolutely stunning on this song, but then again, when does she not sound amazing? This song could also be a single and do really well.

Finally, we have “It Girl”. Like most of the other songs, it’s heavy in bass and with vocal harmonies and falsetto. It’s taken a more purer direction towards just praising women and really is the song I would associate the album cover with. The song itself seems to act as a simple enough wrap-up track that just displays a lot of the stuff you heard in the album already. If you’ve read my past reviews, you’ll know that’s never my thing. I love final songs that do that but also give us a taste of possible future ideas or even a song that sounds completely different to the rest that keeps the energy up and leaves us wanting more.

To wrap up this review, however, I must say, for the first time, I am not overwhelmed with the album. I hate being harsh and always try to force myself to focus on the good points and I think I have done that overall. I will say, if you love Pharrell’s style and artists similar to him, you will love this album! It’s short and sweet (kind of like Pharrell). He does keep true to his style and sound throughout, making it a solid “neo-soul” album with obvious RnB influences. Did he achieve in carrying the concept of the album? That’s debatable and something I won’t get in to. G I R L is perfectly crafted to work with his current momentum in the mainstream charts. But, I have a strong feeling it won’t keep everyone happy.

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Sunil Gangarh

Artist/Musician/Writer at 4YE
Artist/human being thing
Sunil Gangarh
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