1. Marilyn Monroe
2. Brand New featuring Justin Timberlake
6. Come Get It Bae featuring Miley Cyrus
7. Gust Of Wind featuring Daft Punk
8. Lost Queen (hidden track: Freq featuring JoJo)
9. Know Who You Are featuring Alicia Keys
10. It Girl
It's been nearly eight years since Pharrell Williams released his first solo album In My Mind, and things have changed considerably. Just take a look at the guest stars on his previous outing – Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Gwen Stefani, Nelly, Jay-Z, Jamie Callum (?!) – to who he's got on this one. Pharrell is no longer synonymous with The Neptunes, who were once synonymous with pretty much every hip-hop floor-filler of the late 90's and mid 00's.
The complete lack of other rappers on G I R L's line-up is just one of the major differences, as Pharrell has found his second wind as the current king of pop production. "Get Lucky", "Blurred Lines" and "Happy" (the latter of which appears mid-way through this album) have positioned Williams as a purveyor of upbeat positivity, with nary a ballad or down-tempo track to be found within the album's taut ten tunes.
The other noticeable trend through the album – perhaps vaguely surprising given the message of Blurred Lines – is just how pro-woman and pro-feminist it all is. Album opener Marilyn Monroe lists off all the great women through history who don't compare to his current crush, Brand New finds Pharrell trading bars with JT as they thank their ladies for making them feel "like the tags still on me", and so on with Lost Queen and It Girl.
When he's not discussing how great women make him feel emotionally, Pharrell likes to talk about how good they make him feel physically. Hunter is the closest sounding relation to the old Neptunes sounds, and it finds P in predatory mode up in the club. Gush probably doesn't need much of an explanation, getting quite descriptive with its lust, but perfectly accompanied by some bedroom banging bass lines.
Aside from Daft Punk returning the favour on Gust Of Wind, which is just as good as (if not, whisper it, better than) anything on Random Access Memories, perhaps the biggest surprise contributor to the album is Hans Zimmer. Yes, the legendary score-master for the likes of Inception and The Dark Knight pops up to open the album with 30-second orchestra piece, and again on Gust Of Wind with another perfect attack from his string section. Elsewhere, we've got Justin Timberlake giving good Michael Jackson on Brand New, JoJo doesn't have too much to do on the mostly forgettable Freq, and Alicia Keys gives her best performance since Empire State Of Mind on the penultimate number Know Who You Are, and perhaps most importantly of all, none of the guests take away from Pharrell's presence and influence.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that there's nothing here that really matches the ear-worm levels of his recent hits, with the closest being the Miley Cyrus collaboration Come Get It Bae (no, that isn't a spelling error, it stands for Before Anyone Else), with its wall of infectious hand claps and warped voice loops.
It would appear that in an attempt to just give us an album full of Get Lucky's or Happy's or Blurred Lines', Pharrell has toned down slightly the types of songs that made him reign supreme in 2013. While that's probably a good thing in the long run, the lack of obvious MASSIVE NUMBER ONE FOREVER hits apparent on first listen may turn some off, but with a little patience, you'll find the subtler funk here much more addictive, and much harder to tire off easily.
Review by Rory Cashin | FOUR STARS