Why Pharrell is this generation's Smokey Robinson
Fresh off an amazing 2013, filled with production hits like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” along with the Oscar-nominated personal mission statement “Happy,” Pharrell Williams keeps the positive vibes flowing with the more mature solo album G I R L.
Gone is the young man whose songwriting and production was first introduced to us on Wreckx N Effect’s 90’s jam “Rump Shaker.”
Pharrell has grown immensely over the years, reaching mogul status in the entertainment world, but is G I R L what we want to hear from the 40-year-old phenom?
Pharrell Williams is undeniably talented. As half of production duo The Neptunes, member of alternative hip-hop band N*E*R*D, and a solo artist and producer, his career has been running strong for two decades.
Just like Smokey Robinson, he is a soft-spoken man who wears many creative hats and possesses a sweet falsetto voice that has won over the hearts of millions. Over time, Pharrell has built a signature sound with the Neptunes, which has evolved into his more soulful personal style (think his song “Number One” featuring Kanye West).
His debut LP, 2006’s In My Mind was a bit of an experiment, melding both aggressive and chill beats with rapping and singing.
Although many hardcore fans were drawn to it, the public did not receive the album incredibly well. Many were used to the Pharrell that sang on hooks for the likes of Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z, so him rapping was a bit confusing.
In the almost ten years since his debut release, Pharrell has grown musically, but also as a man.
He became a father in 2008, and a husband in 2013. G I R L documents this transitional phase, featuring ten melodic songs that are more mature, reminiscent of 1970s funk and disco, with a very prominent guitar throughout the work. These incredibly melodic tunes, with superb vocal harmonies, are reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’s early solo works and group efforts with The Miracles.
Some critics have called G I R L a “feminist concept album” because it praises women in various ways regarding work ethic (“Know Who You Are”), dedication (“Lost Queen”), physical & sexual attractiveness (“Marilyn Monroe,” “Hunter,” “Gush”), and how they inspire Pharrell to be a better man (“Gust Of Wind”).
What is most important about G I R L aside from the obvious odes to women is the feeling it gives the listener.
In this offering, Pharrell really flexes his melodic chops, making him a front-runner for “King of Feel Good Music.” The album is undeniably bright and dance-worthy, and perfectly in line with the songs he has been offering us as of late. Are “Happy” days here again? We think yes.
Andrea K Castillo is a freelance writer & blogger.