Cover art for Pharrell's new album 'Girl'

Cover art for Pharrell's new album 'Girl' (March 4, 2014)

Album review

“G I R L”

Pharrell Williams

3 stars

 

Holy cow, do I ever want Pharrell to collaborate with Janelle Monae! His just-released album, the funktaculicious “G I R L,” had me doing a mental shuffle-step-spin so hard, I felt like I was back in her 2013 album “The Electric Lady.” Actually, now I’m daydreaming about a mashup between his “Gust of Wind” (“With your love I can board the skies/Running away that electrifies/Mothership Other, can I stow away?”) and her “Electric Lady” title track (“Ooh, shock it, break it, baby/Electric Lady, Electric Lady”).

 

Returning from fantasy land: “G I R L,” the mega-successful producer’s first solo record since 2006’s “In My Mind,” is a fine album whose loud wave sounds in the middle of “Lost Queen” kind of made me need to pee. Obviously, that’s not their purpose; the waves provide a clever transition between different sections of the song—the first steeped in chants and African/Caribbean beats, and the second sloooowed down to a cool groove. It’s a nifty study in how context can change a lyric—”I think you are a lost queen/Let me serve you, serve you” sounds much more seductive when backed by breathy gasps, violins and xylophones. Yes, sexy xylophones.

 

It’s too bad the rest of the transitions on “G I R L” couldn’t have been this smooth. I was often jarred by tonal jumps from disco to drum-propelled funk, and the inclusion of “Happy,” Pharrell’s Oscar-nominated contribution to the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack, was entirely unnecessary. Ninety percent of songs written for movies about semi-evil geniuses with fat bodies and toothpick legs are supremely annoying, and “Happy” definitely follows that trend.

 

Overall, though, “G I R L” is a light, fun ride through Pharrell’s playful side. “Come Get It Bae” smacks of Missy Elliott and Timbaland’s “Get Ur Freak On” and is nearly as good. There’s only one way to settle this: a dance-off. That I’d pay to see.

 

damoran@tribune.com