Since appearing on chart-topping hits “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” in 2013, Pharrell Williams continues to bask in the spotlight. And with the release of his sophomore album G I R L, it’s safe to say he won’t be fading away anytime soon.
With hand drums, vocal harmonies and an upbeat style reminiscent of 1970s soul, the album’s lead single “Happy”—released on the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack—already introduced listeners to the feel-good sound Williams has fallen in love with. G I R L expands on this retro theme, featuring everything from strings to guitar riffs and brass. These sounds combine in a way that harks back to the days of Earth, Wind & Fire, all while including contemporary electronic soundscapes and Williams’s distinct vocal rhythms. As if his exceptional musicianship and creativity isn’t enough, the album features a strong list of guest artists, including Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus.
Williams’s album is highly listenable not only because of his organic instrumentation and big-name features, but also as a result of its light-hearted lyrics—all of which are, as expected, about girls aside from the previously-released single “Happy.” The ladies’ man sings of his love for women in each song with pickup lines and metaphors of admiration. Despite his sexual and suggestive suggestive lyrics, Williams employs a subtleness and delicate delivery to ensure that the listener is never overwhelmed.
The general creativity Williams brings to each of his songs—be it in his lyrics or instrumentation—make the album very pleasurable. Williams’s unique musical choices begin to reach their full potential on the second track, “Brand New,” featuring Timberlake. The song begins with a catchy vocal melody in the background—classic Williams—then adds guitar and horns before slowly building to a falsetto hook.
Next comes “Hunter.” Williams chooses to use simple instrumental backing, which places more focus on the song’s witty lyrics, such as “Just because it’s the middle of night / that don’t mean I won’t hunt you down” and “This is an animal singin’.” From there, Williams takes a break from the throwback template, returning to his more traditional R&B sound in the album’s most suggestive track “Gush.” This is one of the two breaks from the album’s upbeat tempo. The other takes place in the track “Lost Queen,” on which he sings of a woman who is out of this world, so to speak, and must be a different peoples’ lost queen. The most interesting part of the track comes from the very beginning. Williams seems to have borrowed a vocal sample from Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” slowed it down and put his own spin on it. Here Williams’s unique musicianship is not exemplified through bright instrumentation but simple and unexpected vocal grooves.
Williams recently joined a category shared only with the Beatles when the singer-songwriter appeared on three different singles each selling at least one million copies in the length of a year with “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” and “Happy.” His newly-released album consists of 10 songs and of those 10, nine sound as though they could also be chart-topping singles.
This is an album that would make even Michael Jackson jealous.
4.5 out of 5 stars