Digesting Pharrell’s new solo album G I R L in one sitting is overwhelming. Musically, it’s layered and bloated with rich instrumentation. True to its title, G I R L is dedicated to the double-chromosome crew, its conceptual feminist leanings most apparent when Pharrell sings “Will do what I need till every woman on this earth is free” on the awesome Alicia Keys duet “Know Who You Are.” Pharrell’s second solo album—his first since dropping In My Mind in 2006—is not like most modern albums, which is fitting because Pharrell isn’t like most modern producers/singers/artists/musical geniuses. Here are five things VIBE walked away from that Columbia Records conference room listening session.
1. Justin Timberlake and Pharrell need to get back in the studio
J.T. and Pharrell’s voices seemingly melt into each other on their duet “Brand New.” Over vibrant, scattered percussion and strings, the two musical masterminds bask in how the feeling of love can renew your zest for life. “You got me feeling brand new/Like a text in the morning,” Pharrell similes. Elsewhere, there are some productions that sound definitely tailor-made for Justin (“Gush,” “It Girl,” “Marilyn Monroe”). Can they revive some more of their magic from the Justified days?
2. Pharrell is a freak
On the album standout “Gush,” he makes his dirty downstairs thoughts perfectly clear: “I could be the guy who treats you… Tonight I think I want to be dirty, girl.” Sex is a recurring topic on G I R L, for better (the funky “Hunter,” told from a woman’s perspective) or worse (“You want to ride my motorcycle?” Pharrell offers, on the Miley Cyrus-assisted “Come Get It Bae”*).
3. There’s a hidden gem
While the tracklist that surfaced on the Internet last week reveals 10 songs, the one unlisted record is most memorable. The interlude “Freq” is gorgeous, with its soft string plucks and violins. “You gotta go inward to experience the outer space that was built for you,” Pharrell sings, which brings us to…
4. Pharrell has an extraterrestrial obsession
And it goes beyond The Neptunes. On the slightly reggae-tinged “Lost Queen,” Pharrell basks in alien infatuation, asking, “What planet are you from girl? And are there others like you there?” Then over the deep bass strings of “Gust of Wind” (featuring Daft Punk!), he croons about “love from above.”
5. There are no Skateboard P appearances
And as surprisingly nice as Pharrell is when he lays down a rap—replay his verse on Future’s “Move That Dope”—it’s probably better off that he sticks to his falsetto. This album is a bright, musical project made for singing, not raps (although Nicki Minaj would completely annihilate the aforementioned “Lost Queen”). Like, I’m purposely cluttering my apartment ’til this drops, so I have Sunday cleaning music in time for its March 3 release. —John Kennedy
*Although the tracklist that hit the web refers to Miley Cyrus collaboration as “Come Get It,” the label-printed album run-down adds the word “Bae,” which we pray isn’t a typo.