Pharrell Williams' 'G I R L': What the Critics Are Saying
Eight years since releasing his debut album, the Grammy-winning producer aims to rectify his chauvinistic image while riding the wave of his "Happy" success.
Decked out in ruby sneakers and his now-signature Vivienne Westwood hat, Pharrell Williams danced with Lupita Nyong'o and Meryl Streep during his Academy Awards performance of Despicable Me 2’s "Happy" on Sunday night, but the producer-singer hasn’t left the stage quite yet.
Eight years since releasing his debut album, In My Mind, Williams is again vying for the spotlight with G I R L, out Mar. 3.
Recently winning Grammys for his collaborations with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, the charismatic falsetto struck a deal with Columbia Records for his second studio album, with which he aims to rectify his chauvinistic image and un-blur the lines about his attitude toward women.
The self-produced album features appearances by a litany of pop artists, including Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk, plus a hidden track featuring JoJo and cinematic additions by Hans Zimmer. And with his animated feature single, "Happy," topping the charts, G I R L and its neo-soul tracks seem poised for success.
Read a sampling of what top critics are saying about Williams' second album below:
Billboard’s Reggie Ugwu gave G I R L an 85 rating, lauding the "career renaissance" of the producer-singer. Like his recent hits, the album "is a relentlessly positive and unselfconsciously joyful tour de force," Ugwu wrote. "Loosely framed as a celebration of women," G I R L is "loaded with luscious orchestration, motivational mantras and playful sex metaphors." In terms of tone, the critic sides with Williams, who has described the album succinctly as "festive and urgent."
"A voracious listener able to write rock, rap, pop and R&B songs with equal skill, Pharrell on G I R L seems to be gunning for solo pop ubiquity, and to that end it’s an extra-large success," said LA Times’ Randall Roberts. "Through compact, perfectly infectious tracks, he’s out for some true love, some passion and/or someone to roll with," but there are also admirable concessions throughout the tracks. But "given that he’s the most charming and fashionable hit-maker working today, the fates don’t seem to have failed him."
The Guardian’s Kitty Empire noted the challenges Williams faced with respect to his chauvinist controversies. "In the midst of all this success, the accusations of sexism seemed to sting -- hence G I R L, pouring expensive essential oils on to troubled waters." Empire gave the album three out of five stars, concluding that this "remains a commercial exercise, one carrying a bouquet rather than a packet of novelty condoms."
G I R L "has a pronounced retro feel, echoing earlier styles and eras with acute attention to sonic detail and hooks," wrote Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot. Based on the album’s title, listeners can deduce its main thematic concern, "but there’s a lightness to its touch." For the majority of G I R L, however, "the singer reins in his freakier side for something more accessible, a logical, frothy if somewhat risk-averse follow-up to last summer’s chart-topping singles."