ALBUM REVIEW: Pharrell saves some greatness for his ‘G I R L’

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First Posted: 3/25/2014

Pharrell Williams has made an incredibly successful career out of helping others achieve greatness.

Sorry, Robin Thicke, but “Blurred Lines” was a mega-hit thanks in full to Pharrell’s money cameo on the summer single of 2013. And as for Daft Punk and their best year ever, Mr. Williams definitely earned a permanent placement on the French robots’ Christmas card list for his role in “Get Lucky,” a song so infectious it inspired everyone from Wilco to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs to cover it.

However, he’s had a much harder time trying to catapult his own self into the stratosphere of singular pop stardom. That is, until now. With the momentum built up stronger than it ever has since he first stepped out from behind the mixing board in 2001, Pharrell gives us his “Thriller” with the ambitious “G I R L.” The album, his second effort on his own following 2006’s underappreciated “In My Mind,” already comes equipped with a worldwide No. 1 single with “Happy,” initially featured on the soundtrack for “Despicable Me 2.”

But that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as the rest of “G I R L” ranks up there with Clipse’s “Lord Willin’” and N.E.R.D.’s “In Search Of…” amongst the absolute apex of Williams’ catalog. Sonically, it moves like vintage Prince. “Parade,” in particular, as Hans Zimmer-assisted songs like “Marilyn Monroe” and “Gush” mirror the Purple One’s classic synthesis of orchestral R&B and crisp, tight funk. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus pops in to sing backups on “Come Get It Bae,” Mr. Timberlake takes a co-leading role on “Brand New,” and Alicia Keys helps bring things home in her role on the penultimate number “Know Who You Are.”

Critics chiding “G I R L” for its lack of focus are missing the point entirely. This is a work of pure genius and joy, a grand time for the simple sake of having it.

Pharrell Williams ‘G I R L’ Rating: W W W W V