Because everyone and their mama, mama’s mama, babymama, and babymama’s mama, has heard Happy, I’m obliged to bypass it on this review and stick to everything we haven’t heard over the past (almost) year. If you heard Happy, knew it was going to be on this album when it was announced, and still thought that it was going to be a rap album, I’m going to have to tell you that you’re in for a great disappointment. I’m not the biggest Pharrell fan, but of the solo songs he made and even with N*E*R*D, and the countless amount of anthems that he’s had his producing hand in (sometimes with Chad Hugo), I know that he’s capable of making great music. Pharrell’s reign was great and a lot of people saw that, but when he took on composing for both Despicable Me movies, he was on to something. Then he teamed up with Robin Thicke for one of the biggest songs of the summer of 2013 (Blurred Lines – you may not have heard it), and at the same damn time, teamed up with Daft Punk and dropped Get Lucky, which was also a huge hit. It’s as if he had this snowball effect, and then ultimately when the aforementioned, ‘Happy’ came to light, it couldn’t stop people from moving and grooving. The album was simply a bonus, because it was through an interview that he said it was going to be released 2 weeks from the date and it was really like ‘wow, he’s on a roll’, and roll on he did. I went back and listened to In My Mind for the first time, because I know I heard some songs, but never the whole thing. First thing, I can’t believe I had never heard the album in full, because it’s pretty awesome, and second of all, I knew that the Pharrell of new was a married and sophisticated man, so the same stuff he was rhyming about on his first album (essentially 8 years ago) wouldn’t be carried on this album, and to the disappointment of many, you’ve had to have seen this coming to some degree. In the same interview where he announced the album title and date of release, he also explained why the title was what it is, because the emphasis of the album’s theme is the love of women all over; they’re the gatekeepers to everyone in the world. We all came out of a woman, so Pharrell wants to take the time to appreciate all women (or girls – whatever you want). With the tone set, it was time to indulge in one of the year’s more unsuspecting but anticipated releases from one of Hip Hop’s geniuses.
How the album starts off with Marilyn Monroe with the orchestra ensemble reminded me of how Justin Timberlake’s Pusher Love Girl started off The 20/20 Experience Part 1, and when you think about it, the theme of that album and Pharrell’s are pretty synonymous. This track definitely puts you in a groove from the get go and it gives you an idea of just how this album is going to sound for essentially all 10 tracks. It also lets you know that this is for the ones who are happily in love (or in the strong ‘like’ phase) and want that feel good music to accommodate said feelings
“This one goes out to all the lovers
What can we do? We’re helpless romantics
We can not help who we’re attracted to
So let’s all dance, and elevate each other”
Between JT’s 20/20 albums, and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, it’s clear that the funky and soul inspired groove from the era of Motown is coming back to fruition with some artists, because it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Pharrell is making his case from the first song. Given the fact that the song is about a girl, or perhaps a series of girls, Marilyn Monroe is an iconic woman (for both positive and negative reasons, depending on who you speak to) and as P states on the track, he wants a different girl that doesn’t embody that high status glamour and bright spotlight that comes with it (until the Oscars, I didn’t know that Pharrell was married – which would explain why the album is so upbeat and joyous). It makes you want to look at yourself and want to find the right person for you although you don’t even know yourself; it’s just a musical confidence boost.
Speaking of married men with happy, lovey dovey music, Justin Timberlake makes an appearance on Brand New, and the groove didn’t stop as the duet of P and JT was a joint effort in expressing their love to the loves of their lives in making them feel brand new or young again. It was a great man whom once sung to the tune of ‘you make me feel so young’, and although Frank Sinatra wasn’t the first to sing it, he made it the most popular, so I’m going with that. The theme hasn’t left the music in many years, so why not have 2 happy men continue the trend? The song itself sounds like you can salsa in the spot with your lamp; it’s that enjoyable that it makes you dance around for no reason (it’s been the vibe that Pharrell has been on for as long as we’ve known him).
“All my life, when I describe
What I want, I’ve been misunderstood
The more I try, at bein’ satisfied
And didn’t think that I could
But then you came along, and you made me strong
Like God said you would”
If that doesn’t sound like a couple of happy married men making some happily married men music, then I don’t know what is. The Neptunes sound that will sound the most distinctive right off the bat comes on Hunter, as Pharrell takes on the role of the male, which is usually the hunter of the woman (in a non-barbaric way obviously), and it gets a little sexy here, and the women like the little sexy endeavours here and there and the idea of being chased like a hunter going after its prey, so it all works. The different vocal shifts in Pharrell’s voice are still a wonder to listen to because when he speaks it’s a deep voice, but when the pitch kicks in, you’re wondering to yourself ‘where did this come from?’ It happens a couple of times and required me to turn down my volume a little bit out of respect of my eardrums, but the disco vibe keeps coming through, and I think that’s one of the biggest contributors as to why this album is moving in the pace that it is, because the music is groovy.
Continuing with the sexiness, Gush does just that and just so you know, it’s incredibly difficult to write and listen to the song you’re reviewing at the same time when I’m constantly just bopping around to the music and concentration is being broken. I believe I’ve done that more times than I can count already, but that’s just what’s been happening. You can tell that the influences from 80s R&B and other genres have definitely come into play, because how else can you explain the vibe?
“I could be the guy to treat you
To a nice movie, feed you
But I don’t wanna mislead you
Tonight I think I wanna be dirty, girl”
The nice guy finishes last is what a lot of women say because girls want that rough around the edges guy that has some grit on the exterior. Who’s to say that the nice guys don’t have that side of them that brings out the women’s inner freak and makes them lose all innocence? I mean, I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure that there are others that can definitely relate.
Speaking of sexy (or something along the word), Miley Cyrus has definitely caught storm with her raging public sexual exhibits, and her antics are what’s made her popular around the world and her album sales have certainly reflected just how they’ve translated. She’s been viral and you can’t go one day without hearing about what she’s done the recent night whether it was on Twitter or at an awards performance, so why not join forces with another power figure in music? Come Get it Bae is something that I feel was ripped right from Twitter, because that’s the only place I’ve seen and/or heard that word said (although it originated in the South because of their accents). If you’re not familiar with the word ‘bae’, look up ‘Bae caught me slippin’ on Google, and as Kobe Bryant says famously, “HEY! FOUL!”…I mean ‘You’re Welcome.’ I can’t really say that I’ve willingly listened to a Miley Cyrus song, only because I don’t care for her music, no matter how many people say that her album (Bangerz) was good and that everyone and their mother has a YouTube cover of Wrecking Ball. Believe me, I’m not the one to ask for an opinion on Miley’s music, but she didn’t annoy me on this song as much as I thought she would have when I saw that she was going to be featured. The nice guy role that was highlighted on Gush carries forward as Pharrell and Miley push their pursuit to try to convince the other that the temptation is real the resistance to flourish in futile – get what you want and stop ‘frontin’ (you see what I did there).
Well would you look at that? It’s another Pharrell & Daft Punk collaboration. When you’ve contributed to the reigning 2013 Grammy Album of the Year, then why not have them on your album to make the case for a 2014 bid? It’s only right, and the collective acts picked up where they left off with Get Lucky and managed to keep the groove in full swing. A lot of the songs are metaphors or phrases that one uses when they’re in love. Gust of Wind would be saying that someone blew you away, and the references in the song contribute to that notion.
“Like a gust of wind
You head me off sometimes
Like a gust of wind
You push me back every once in a while
Like a gust of wind
You remind me there’s someone up there
Who whooshes in
The air I need to power my sail”
One thing that is to be mentioned throughout this album is that there’s some great writing happening, because these aren’t just songs to enjoy for the moment; I can actually see myself hearing these songs for the next 10-15 years because they’re not time specific – they’re enjoyable songs over a simple topic and great hooks that latch onto you, and the beats that come with them give them distinction. That’s how so many songs have stood the test of time for so long, because the melodies have been able to push through the digital world and still hold relevance. Pharrell is onto something here, ladies and gentlemen.
Andre 3000 & Justin Timberlake (the first two names to come to mind) have this thing where they often have spatial references in their songs and the love stories lose all gravity and then become inter-galactic. I say this here, because on the first few seconds of Lost Queen, there’s that reference of the girl he’s talking about being from another planet because she’s so ‘out of this world.’ How many times have you heard that said about a woman in your life? Quite a bit, I’d think. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t like this song as much as the other ones. Where the other songs had dynamics and you could really get into it, this one felt flat, but it’s a tribute to the women reminding them that they’re queens (I mean, the ones who at least carry themselves as such). Just when I thought the song was finished, there was another song that came on, and it’s called Freq. If I could (and I probably will) change my iTunes so that it automatically starts at Freq, I think I’ll do just that. This song reminded me of something that I would have heard on 20/20 Part 1 (Spaceship Coupe perhaps) because it just had that vibe and it was the only reason to listen through Lost Queen, for me. The space reference continues, so having it snuck in like this fit perfectly, and although it’s essentially a repetition of the bridge and chorus, it’s just beautiful how it was all laid out.
“You see I’d rather be a freq than not be unique
Individuality makes life better”
Another feature I didn’t see coming was Alicia Keys on Know Who You Are, and this song had a smooth and mellow reggae setting behind it, and it’s personally one of my favourites on the album because of it (I don’t care, Jamaican bias will almost always win). The emphasis on this song makes sense for Alicia Keys to be on this song, because it’s an uplifting song for women to recognize who they are and to walk with their heads high and not to let the world bring them down, although people think less of them than others. Like reggae, it has that ‘conscious’ vibe around it, so it works in that way. Alicia Keys is also married, so she knows a thing or two about love and stuff along those lines, and being a woman who repetitively speaks on empowering and uplifting (specifically Black) women, her contribution to the song seemed to fit like a glove. For the women who have it going rough, Alicia & Pharrell put themselves in an empathetic state to relate to them and thus the message carries forward of what I’ve stated before (hold your head high and don’t let others bring you down, yadda yadda yadda).
It Girl is the last of the 10 song album to come about, and it culminates all the girls he speaks about and the main source of inspiration is the girl that matters to him the most, and that woman, I assume, would be his wife, and although the instrumental takes over the song to bring the album to a peaceful end, it’s still a great song to round out what was an enjoyable album that can be placed on repeat for a long time. It’s one of those albums that if it had come out in the 70s or 80s, it would be on the record player during Saturday afternoons while you and your parents listened to, or the type of music played during the summer time. I can’t fully appreciate the atmosphere of it during the dreary weather, but best believe that the Maxi dresses and sun hats will be in full flourish mode as this album serves the background on warm days.
There’s only one thing that I didn’t understand about this album, and it has nothing to do with any song; it’s the album cover and the ‘controversy’ that came with it. Black women were the only people who had a real issue with this because no Black women were featured on the cover, where they saw that it would have been required to have one or multiple on the cover. Pharrell has had a lot of black women in videos, and they’ve been portrayed in positive light all the time. The one time, one time, he doesn’t have women of colour (or not enough colour) on the cover, it’s a problem? I don’t understand. Had a Black woman of any colour had been on the cover, there would have been a problem somewhere, so everyone just needs to calm down. It’s not like the women on the cover have their breasts out or are posing in a provocative way. Pharrell is honouring the human beings who are responsible for bringing us into this world, and I think that’s enough respect to give to the man by that very gesture. In a world where Social media has shed light to objectifying women worse than movies or television has, Pharrell has taken the time out to understand that women are precious beings and that they should be treated as such. It’s a great album with a great theme laid underneath, so it should be looked at it in that light. People often say that once an artist gets married, the quality of music goes south because they can relate more to misery than happiness. Well, you can be happy and make great music. This is yet another example, and where Hip Hop fans will be disappointed, music fans will praise Pharrell for revitalizing the groove into music – it’s something that we all need and what people have seemed to forget. Check out the album, and definitely enjoy for the time being and the time going forward. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX