Artist Spotlight: Pharrell Williams
The last time Pharrell Williams tried a solo record, in 2006, it didn’t really work out. Half of [In My Mind] found him rapping, and the other half featured him singing—but neither hip-hop heads nor pop kids were satisfied. (The album isn’t bad, though, and singles like “Number One” and “That Girl” still sound terrific.) It didn’t help that we were kinda burnt out on Skateboard P. He had spent much of the 2000s dominating pop music, whether through his N.E.R.D. group, his Neptunes team with Chad Hugo—or else by singing hooks on hits like Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes” (not to mention non-musical, tragically hip ventures, like his Billionaire Boys Club fashion line).
Cut to 2014, and we find Pharrell experiencing a surprisingly healthy revival. His Michael Jackson-inflected moves on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, and his production of Robin Thicke’s mega-hit “Blurred Lines” had some people calling him the best artist of last year. “Happy,” his theme song to Despicable Me 2, not only powered a well-received 24-hour music video, but is threatening to become his first number-one hit since 2003’s “Frontin’”. Everyone demanded another solo album, and he has dutifully complied with G I R L, a release so anticipated it was released on a Monday instead of the usual New Music Tuesday. And don’t worry, folks, there’s no rapping P this time, just Pharrell’s too-sweet falsetto.
To prepare for G I R L, we’ve assembled some of Pharrell’s vocal highlights (for a playlist focused on his hip-hop oriented material, check out last year’s The Pharrell Williams Sampler). There’s his recent “Feds Watching” with 2 Chainz, and Busta Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier.” There are plenty of selections from his N.E.R.D. days—as well as his work on the first Despicable Me soundtrack. And we included “Marilyn Monroe,” the follow-up to “Happy” that he predicts will be his next hit single. We believe him.