If 2014 did not start out great and optimistic for you, then there is one song that can definitely boost your mood. The simplistic, yet catchy funk tune “Happy” by Pharrell Williams is one of the most cheerful and positive tunes that has gotten air play in a while on both pop and urban radio stations. But if anybody could pull this off, it’s the music mogul Skateboard P. The boyishly handsome writer/producer/artist, who is 40 by the way, has been in the game for over 20 years, and, along with his production team The Neptunes, has produced magnum hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Nelly, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and Beyonce, just to name a few.
And as an artist, he hasn’t done bad either. His introduction as an artist came in 2001 when his band N.E.R.D. released their eclectic album In Search of… His nonchalant, falsetto has also appeared on tons of hits by hip hop royalty like Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg, and he released his his debut project In My Mind in 2006, which found him switching between rapping and crooning to the ladies.
Although he may have seemed to drop off the musical radar the last few years in terms of singing, he more than made up for his absence by producing and being featured on two of the biggest records of 2013: Robin Thicke’s controversial, sexcapade “Blurred Lines” and the techno club banger “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.
He took home multiple Grammy’s for “Get Lucky” in January and was also nominated for an Academy Award for “Happy” which was featured in the animated film Despicable Me 2. (check out his stunning performance of the song at the Oscars here)
So, if this is how Williams bounces back onto the scene, then everyone needs to jump on the bandwagon and follow his lead.
And today, his new album GIRL hits stores.
The album title is pretty self explanatory, to say the least. The title isn’t an acronym for something that has nothing to do with females and is code for something remotely sexual or disturbing. Williams simply wanted to show his appreciation for all women and give them a record for the ages.
During a listening party for the new album, Williams said that “Women are a phenomenal force in my life and in my career and are the cornerstone of existence.”
GIRL is a sultry, R&B, disco driven, lush experience that encompasses Williams’ boyish fantasies about the opposite sex and his overall love for the ladies as well as his serene views on life.
There are a few guest appearances on the album, mainly artists that Williams has worked with, but an unlikely collaborator is Oscar winning film composer Hans Zimmer, who scores the orchestration for the first track “Marilyn Monroe.” The intro is composed of strings and futuristic beats as Williams sings about his longing for a different girl that stunning beauties like Marilyn Monroe or Joan of Arc can’t compare to.
Going through the album is like time-traveling back to the hippy era when just about everything was about the great feeling of being in love and how life is supposed to be filled with roses and lilies in the valley. The Woodstock vibe especially kicks into gear when Williams sings lines like “Life to me is easy/People make it complicated/When love is the tool/No reason we can’t make it” on the Jackson 5-ish feel good record “Brand New” featuring Justin Timberlake.
Just when you think that boyish charm and “worshiping women” mentality will continue, like on “It Girl” and the tribal escapade “Lost Queen,” he hits you with that hip hop version of love, which is much more dirty and blunt than the passionate codes he speaks in before. And this kind of distinction is what makes the album work and is what defines Williams as an artist and producer.
His laid-back nature never leaves, it just takes a detour to another musical planet, where tunes like the mid-tempo R&B jam “Gush” and “Come Get It” exist, and reveal the explicit side of a Virginia Beach kid who used to fantasize about girls in the gym locker room.
He can’t help that he’s a ladies man. Just looking at the album cover explains it all. The cover shows Williams in a cool “I’m the man” stance standing beside a group of modelesque females in bathrobes. He caught some slack for the revealing album cover for its “lack of minority women” in the image. But that controversial bit didn’t keep Williams down. He even went on record as saying that there was an African American woman in the picture and that he felt bad that people were so caught up on this issue rather than celebrating the fact that he made this album for women.
We could all learn something from Mr. Williams about keeping calm and just living in the moment. GIRL definitely showcases his love of eclecticism and not going where the crowd is, but finding a new path to travel down. He’s a perfect example of what critic Nelson George defines as “retronuevo” which is taking something from the past and putting a different spin on it. If Williams can bring 1970s vibes back and make us millennials wish we grew up during the disco era, then he has succeeded in his goal.