Pharrell Williams pulled off two of the biggest songs of 2013, first by lending backing vocals to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and then by singing lead on Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, without releasing an album of his own. Even the emergence earlier this year of his own song Happy came with the caveat that it was part of a movie soundtrack. But the producer, collaborator and Neptunes co-founder has finally gotten around to releasing G I R L this week, a ten song album which consists mostly of just him playing to his own strengths.
His penchant for throwback notions is immediately clear on opening track Marilyn Monroe, both in its name and in its new-Motown-esque vibe. Hunter sounds straight out of seventies funk, suggesting his recent work with Nile Rodgers of Chic has rubbed off accordingly.
Midway through the album is Happy, appearing here for the second time after having arrived earlier on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, with the two having been released closely enough that the song effectively serves as the lead single for both albums. But the track following it, Come Get It Bae, is the one song that feels more guilty of being re-used. The song borrows so heavily from Blurred Lines that one has to figure Thicke is in on it somehow. But while the next track Gust Of Wind does in fact include an appearance by Daft Punk, the lumbering song stands apart stylistically from Get Lucky and holds its own.
G I R L does have a pair of noteworthy collaborations. Brand New sees Pharrell paired with Justin Timberlake for an up tempo throwback track. And the mid-tempo ninth track Know Who You Are sees him getting sultry with Alicia Keys. But by the time G I R L closes out with its quasi-title track It Girl, the focus is squarely on him and his ever-running recipe: the song sounds vaguely familiar and partially from another era, while offering just enough of a present day sound to make clear that it is in fact a new tune, all while growing on you with each listen. And whether guesting on other people’s albums or putting himself front and center, that’s the recipe that keeps coming through for him.
The bottom line is that if you’ve enjoyed Pharrell’s high profile collaborations over the past year, you’ll likely find plenty to sink your teeth into on G I R L as well.