G I R L: Pharrell-does-feminism
Pharrell Williams, one half of superstar production duo The Neptunes, truly got lucky in 2013 when he found himself featured on two of the biggest hits of the year. G I R L, his first solo album in eight years, is the rushed-release result of a good-old-fashioned cash in.
But this is no ordinary cash in. The hype around G I R L is that Pharrell is repenting for his sins for being an accessory to ‘Blurred Lines’, Robin Thicke’s leery mega-smash that has been banned at scores of universities across the UK. Thus, Pharrell has created a ‘feminist’ album to ‘put the record straight’ on his opinion of women. The Guardian even went as far as to call it ‘an almost-concept album’ on the subject of loving women, which, in itself, is an almost-competent piece of music journalism – have they really never heard an album by a male solo artist that mostly deals with songs about women?
In any case, I don’t see how lyrics like ‘If I can’t have you, nobody can’ and ‘make the pussy just gush’ are going to score points with those hysterical student unions. In fact, the real theme of the album is strained metaphors, with every song transforming Williams’ emotions into everything from a ‘gust of wind’ to a ‘room without a roof’ – let’s hope it’s not raining outside.
The botched lyrics wouldn’t be half as irritating if they made any damn sense. If Pharrell’s lady rides him ‘like a motorcycle’, what does ‘gonna pop a wheelie’ signify? If he feels ‘brand new like the tag’s still on him’, what does ‘jumpin’ round in your bag’ have to do with anything? His repeated cry of ‘my love is kung fu’ on ‘Hunter’ made me want to roundhouse-kick my stereo.
Similarly, the lyrics wouldn’t be as big an issue if the grooves that supported them weren’t so uninspired and underdeveloped. Tragically, the music of this album, created by the architect of such masterful beats as Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’, is shockingly drab.
There are exceptions to the dross: namely the countrified ‘Come Get It Bae’ and the faux Africanisms of ‘Lost Queen’. And Pharrell was smart to shove ‘Happy’ onto the album, the number-one smash he penned for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. Most of the tracks, however, are uniformly tiresome, each starting with some inane retro riff which is repeated ad nauseam until the song’s bitter end.
After his string of 2013 mega hits, the arrival of G I R L was highly anticipated. But don’t believe the hype – this hitmaker’s a hack.
Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.
Watch the music video for ‘Happy’: