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Street Sounds: Pharrell brings the good times
Although Girl is only his second solo album, nobody could doubt that musician/producer Pharrell Williams doesn’t have a strong work ethic. The musician is also a singer/songwriter whose collaborators are too exhaustive to list here. But let’s try a few: Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, etc.
Williams is on a career high this past year, as he and Daft Punk hooked up for the best moments of Random Access Memories. As Williams has always been an astro-minded songwriter, the end result of that collaboration tipped Williams further along in his exploration of electronica, pop and funk as heard here on Girl.
He and his musos have the Midas touch on this album, but some tracks are exhausted by silly lyrics (Lost Queen). Those are forgotten quickly. The mood on this record is relentlessly sunny, and the songs are beaty and bouncy with no other object than elevation. If Williams has fun while laying down the taut grooves, we can believe it. It’s a wide enough dance floor to welcome in Disney- friendly hits like Happy, an exercise in hooks and imagination.
The bubbly radio-grabbing buzz of Happy doesn’t obscure the Atlantis-deep grooves on the album. The funky songs are streamlined and run on snappy guitar lines and lavish string sections (via Hans Zimmer) that whip up a whirlwind of disco-funk levity. The yin-yang of the dead-serious string section and bubbly pulse is ensnaring. This direction follows a similar path to Williams’ past and present collaborator, Justin Timberlake. The duo kicks out a shot of compressed funk (Brand New) that’s a slick study in minimalism. Hunter stays this course, and emerges as one of the most understated pure funk tracks since Prince’s heyday. The syncopation is nearly mechanical, but the song is down and solid. Come Get it Bae takes this a step further with its trippy robot voice and big-ass groove.
There are other funky gems here (Gush, Gust of Wind) and they bring on the good times that are Williams’ prime directive. The lyrical work isn’t reaching any stratospheric heights on Girl, but the exuberance and rhythmic smackdown replace it – the songs move.