Following his involvement in ‘Blurred Lines’ all we wanted to do was write off Pharrell William’s ‘G I R L’ as the epitome of 21st century, misogynistic chart-topping. Who was going to buy this album? Probably not the Free Bleeding feminists of 2014 and I could hardly imagine the Billionaire Boys Club street wear bracket claiming that his hit ‘Happy’ was a “wavey” tune. Indeed, what I thought I was about to listen to was a shallow and generic reflection of mass standardisation. What I actually listened to was an adaptation on modern feminism, and an impressive revival of some Funk and Soul vibes that haven’t surfaced in popular music so boldly since James Brown.
For an album attempting to push the idea of the strong female form, the opener, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ seems a good place to start. Understated high-frets and an orchestral opening say that Pharrell has rediscovered his mojo, whilst he himself lays down some paving stones for his ideas on the modern ‘G I R L’. And why not; he needed to pull something progressive out of the bag given that he had almost dwindled into nothingness since his last solo venture ‘In My Mind’ back in 2006. The 70’s-esque, soulful feel continues throughout in one form or another, with more foot-stomping feel-good riffs in ‘Hunter’, ‘Come Get It Bae’ and ‘Gust of Wind’ featuring contributions from Miley Cyrus and Daft Punk to secure a fusion of traditional Funk and modern, expensive Hollywood.
‘Lost Queen’ is without a doubt the most captivating number on the album. The Sub-Saharan instrumental breaks from the New Orleans landscape and provides a-perhaps even anthropological-base layer for his promotion of the female form, and his disillusionment with the patriarchal world “full of warfare”. Lost Queen achieves a soothing listening experience containing a strong message for the return of female kind and a balance to the world. Alternatively, he may not have thought about any of that when he made the song, and I am really trying to read too much into this.
Admittedly, ‘G I R L’ deviates from its gender equalizing at points so that Mr. Williams can focus on the apparently tedious routine of making love to good looking women, with ‘Gush’ sounding more akin to Robin Thicke than Joan of Arc. Still, the musical composure of the album doesn’t falter in synchronisation with the lyrical content.
Perhaps he isn’t always pushing a structured argument for gender equality, but his motives, at least from where we are standing, seem to be in the right place.
Anyone claiming that the Motown miracle ‘Happy’ is not one of the sunniest songs they have ever heard is lying, because in this sometimes depressingly chaotic world of ruthless individualism, there’s something so good about hearing Pharrell’s frictionless voice telling us to cheer up. This is where the LP triumphs- timeless human ideals getting brought to life by the exuberant forever-young whizkid of sonic finesse.
Words: Rown Cassels-Brown