9 Things I Learned About Pharrell From His New Album
On his sophomore solo LP G I R L, the star producer is more than just “Happy.” Here’s why.
1. He’s 40 and sounds it, in a good way.
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“I used to be a player,” he sings on cool-down track “Lost Queen,” placing wilder years firmly in the past. Pharrell married designer and model Helen Lasichanh in a private ceremony in France last summer, and the two celebrated with a star-studded Miami party last fall. But he insists that, even married at middle age, he knows how to have fun: “Half of me is good, the other half nasty.”
2. He has seen Duck Dynasty.
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“Duck Dynasty is cool and all/ But they got nothing on the female’s call” he says on “Hunter,” a carnal come-on that feels (smartly) tailor-made for moms that wear camo and love 50 Shades of Grey.
3. He thinks honesty is seductive.
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“I could be the guy that treats you/ To a nice movie, feed you,” he sings on “Gush,” the album’s ecstatically sexy fourth track. Then he makes it clear that for him, sex and romance are not distinct. “I don’t want to mislead you,” he says, “Tonight I think I wanna be dirty girl.”
4. He’s not here for anyone basic.
“I just want a different girl,” he exclaims on the thwacking album opener “Marilyn Monroe.” Though her qualities aren’t made entirely clear, Pharrell’s dream girl would be something *more* than Marilyn or Joan of Arc, someone he wouldn’t “need no adjectives” to describe.
5. And he’s a self-described ally of all women.
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On “Know Who You Are” — where guest Alicia Keys sounds the best she has in years — he makes this smarmy speech: “I want every woman to make a pledge with me/ Say your name/ I pledge to live life on that edge/ I want you to know I see the power is in me/ No more acquiesce, standing up with no stress/ I will do what I need until every woman on the earth is free.”
6. He’s heard Paul Simon’s Graceland.
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“Lost Queen” features G I R L’s most pared-down production. Its beat is built largely from human voices, like songs by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African choir that Paul Simon collaborated with on his 1986 album Graceland. Listen to “Homeless,” a song Simon recorded with Mambazo, for a sense of how humans can pull multi-instrument funk riffs straight out of their chests.
7. Sex reminds him of cars.
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On “Come Get It Bae,” his duet with Miley Cyrus, he asks if you wanna ride his “motorcycle.” (He takes care to warn that you should “take it easy on the clutch.”) On “Lost Queen” he’s back to talking about engines, wondering, “Can I start you up?/ That’s automatic/ Get your motor running, running.”
8. He’s into meditation.
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On “Freq,” a delicious hidden track which follows “Lost Queen” and has an uncredited cameo from Jojo, Pharrell repeats this mantra: “You gotta go inward/ To experience the outer space that was built for you.” The song’s dolloped with exaggerated exhales and gasps — like the ones you’d hear in a yoga class — and there’s a lot of noticeable breathing all over the album, particularly on track three, “Hunter.”
9. And he’s *really* into space.
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The cosmos are one of Pharrell’s lyrical tics. He rides into space in a hot air balloon on “Happy.” On “Gust of Wind,” which features backing vocals from Daft Punk, he looks up at Venus and Mars. On “Lost Queen,” he serenades a strange woman, asking, “What planet are you from girl?”