Unless you’ve managed to completely cut yourself off from mainstream music for the last five years the chances are you’ve heard something that Pharrell Williams has been involved with. And you’ve probably liked it, whether it’s been behind the mic or at the production desk everything Pharrell has touched has turned to hits. Amazingly, In My Mind is Pharrell’s debut solo album release despite two albums with N.E.R.D.
Of course it’s going to be successful, by the time this review is published it’s highly unlikely the number one album slot will be occupied be anything other than In My Mind but this isn’t because of a PR machine driving the point home. It’s because when Pharrell releases something, the world wants to hear it. Can I Have it Like That is an enviable way to open an album, although I still don’t quite understand the point of having Gwen Stefani alongside as she adds nothing that an anonymous backing vocalist couldn’t.
How Does It Feel shows Pharrell in his soloist element, something that has only developed since breaking onto the scene as part of N.E.R.D. The beat is in the same vein as the album opener, and carries the track but lyrically it’s only as entertaining as someone telling you how rich and good they are. Raspy Shit indicates the innovative beat making that lead to N.E.R.D being the hottest producers in hip-hop.
That innovation and ingenuity continues on Keep It Playa with a simple underemphasised drum beat making both Pharrell’s and Slim Thug‘s verses seem effortless. The tried and tested Snoop Dogg alliance continues with That Girl but it doesn’t have the same impact as Beautiful or Drop It Like It’s Hot and it’s difficult not to hit the skip track button.
Luckily pressing skip lands you on Angel, the second single release from In My Mind. It should be a soppy love song; in fact it should be a very poor soppy love song but it is in fact almost three minutes of very easy listening met with another original R&B beat threatening at times to burst into unabashed calypso. Jay Z whose retirement lasted all of eight minutes pops up on Young Girl, yet another upbeat, fresh but lyrically bland number.
The hip-pop continues with Nelly‘s appearance on Baby, despite a gritty opening and an attempt at a rock-vibe supplied by the backing of electric and bass guitars, the jumpy kick-ins are more Sugababes than anything else. Unsurprisingly Nelly’s contribution is of little or no note, other than helping set the tone of the track. Number One is 2006’s Frontin’ although for Jay Z substitute Kanye West and although it’s clearly been put together to clog radio stations’ playlists it’s inoffensive and enjoyable
In My Mind is exactly what you could expect from Pharrell Williams, a number of superstar guest appearances and a collection of songs ranging in quality from average to excellent. It would have been difficult to release a debut album with 15 brilliant tracks, but this is just the start of Pharrell Williams as a solo artist; and if it doesn’t go to plan he can always go back to producing stand-out tracks for his rather large collection of influential and successful admirers.