I Spent Yesterday Afternoon with Pharrell and He Played me his New Album
It features Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys and it is beautiful!
“Imagine if all of the talk show hosts in the world were women, all of the presidents were women, this is my gift to them". I'm in Sony Music's Kensington office for the playback of Pharrell's second solo record, and first playback of his entire career. I close my eyes and see Hillary Clinton kicking back with Amy Poehler. "This album is dedicated to woman across the world," says Pharrell, before he presses play on G I R L.
He sits at the front, decked out in white Adidas emblazoned with the word “inside”, a white t-shirt, a luge of chains, and yes, the hat. Today, he’s happy, on form, and spicing up the audience with an extended introduction to his record.
After releasing “Get Lucky”, the label told him that they knew he wasn’t keen to put out another solo album, but wanted to change his mind. “I was so honoured and overcome with shock that after years of being a producer, someone still wanted to hear what I had to say”, he tells us, modestly brushing aside the fact that at one point at least 43% of the songs in the charts featured production from The Neptunes.
We’re handed beers, mini-burgers, canapés, literally everything that my stomach has spent all day speaking Swahili for. And then, he presses play. This is what happened.
Track 1 – “Marilyn Monroe”
“This is the first time I’ve ever played this for anyone in the world”, says Pharrell, as a glittering orchestration welcomes us into the album, Skateboard P production aurally spelling out the letters L-O-V-E. The chorus features the lyric - “There are no adjectives for this girl” – which makes me want to slide into a bathtub and pour champagne into my future wifey’s flute. The track is called “Marilyn Monroe”, Pharrell says, because he “wants a different kind of girl”, you don’t need to be a statuesque beauty to be special. Does that make sense? Let’s just say it does.
Track 2 – “Brand New” (Feat Justin Timberlake)
Justin bounds straight in, singing a hook that’s reminiscent of the duo’s earlier work on Justified. However, I’m finding it really hard to concentrate because Pharrell is sat opposite, singing along, and waving his hands.
Track 3 – “Hunter”
The third track is called “Hunter” because it’s from the perspective of the girl, to Pharrell, he explains. It’s got strong disco vibes, with Pharrell’s falsetto hopping octaves. The refrain of “I’m a hunter, I’m a hunter” made me think of In Search Of’s “Provider”, which is totally not a bad thing at all.
Track 4 – “Gush”
Gush by name, gush by nature. And tickle me Tuesday if this track isn’t the best thing I’ve heard in absolutely forever. Pharrell tells us that, although the album is dedicated to girls, he’s still allowed to get cute. In my mind, this song sounds like the moment when you’re half watching a movie, half riding through a prerequisite of sexual tension before making a move for the first time. “I think I want to be dirty, girl”, Pharrell coos, over the sort of “Inside of Clouds” chords that Tyler, The Creator has beautified his career upon. Someone in the audience asks if we can take the chairs out and just dance. Pharrell is thankful for this comment.
Track 5 – “Happy”
“You’ve probably already heard the next track… It’s called “Happy”. Do you guys want to hear it again?”
Track 6 – “Come Get It” (Feat Miley Cyrus)
The sixth track on the album features Miley Cyrus and had instrumentation on it that sort of reminded me of Robin Thicke. The song is quite nice, but feels like it cuts short slightly too early. Like most of the tracks on this record, it’s a tease, almost culminating in an orgasmic breakdown before fading out, letting you continue to reach for the next hit.
Track 7 – “Gust of Wind” (Feat Daft Punk)
This track is special, Pharrell says, because it’s the seventh track on the album. And it’s also special because it features the robots, which feels more than special, it’s like a dream. To me, it sounds like a prelude to “Get Lucky” but I’m probably just being lazy. “Wanna open the window, hug you, feel the air”, sings Pharrell, before literally stopping the track and allowing a moment of silence to call out – “You’re not mad at me, right?” – before rewinding. No one seems particularly mad.
Seventeen year-old Francesco Yates plays guitar on the track. He’s the Nile Rodgers of people who can’t drink yet.
Track 8 – “Lost Queen”
“What planet are you from girl?”
According to my notes, Pharrell says that Mike Wazowsky mixed G I R L. Yes, I know that’s the bug-eyed green one from Monsters Inc but at this point I’m willing to believe anything. Upon further investigation AKA Google, he’s actually referring to Mick Guzawski, the guy who mixed Random Access Memories.
Track 9 – “Freq”
“You’ve got to go inwards to experience the outer space that was in you”, the lyrics say. But I’m too busy being enthralled by the long outward breathing sound of females that are currently love-making with the instrumentation.
Track 10 – “I Know Who You Are” (Feat Alicia Keys)
This could be a Neptunes produced Alicia Keys single from the mid 2000s. By this point, I have drunk three beers, a bottle of water, a coke and I really need a wee. Do you think Pharrell would be mad if I walked out to have a piss? Shall I ask him? Like a teacher?
Track 11 – “It Girl”
Pharrell prefaces this track with his love for Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest. He says that he wants his music to do to you, what Tip’s music did to him. He wants people to zone out. The song sounds like bubblegum, an ode to a girl that is the “It Girl”, and features an interlude of heavenly proportions. It’s really great, but just to say, we didn’t need this song to validate our love for his music. If you’ve been born at any point in the early 90s, chances are that the majority of your formative years were spent listening to the sound of The Neptunes. They’ve produced everyone from Britney Spears to Clipse to Madonna to JAY Z to Justin Timberlake. Something for everyone. G I R L is another exciting chapter in a career full of both commercial and critically lauded smashes.
Aaaaaaaaaand, it’s time for me to leave. I’m finally on my way to have a fucking wee.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil