With his prestigious pop career and Neptunes work, does Pharrell need to resurrect his rap/funk/rock project?
Album review: N*E*R*D – No_One Ever Really Dies fails to fully deliver
Seven years after Pharrell Williams project N*E*R*D released previous album Nothing, their patented mix of rap, funk and rock feel rather a distant, almost quaint memory. Since then, Pharrell has elevated his solo stock from merely “star” to “your-mum-will-recognise-him A-lister”, primarily thanks to omnipresent hit Happy. Does he even need to revisit N*E*R*D?
Based on the promising guest list of comeback No_One Ever Really Dies, you could be hopeful of an affirmative answer: rap and R’n’B royalty Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, OutKast’s Andre 3000, MIA, Future, Gucci Mane and Wale all feature. Oh and – mild vomit – Ed Sheeran. The coalesced reality has slightly more blurred lines.
The early signs are certainly less encouraging. Rihanna-embellished opener Lemon sees the Bahamas-born bad girl attempting to go, err, full rap, but the whole thing trips over its own expensive trainer laces in attempts to chase the zeitgeist.
When the real rappers come to play, the results often resemble a track by the guest artist as soundtracked by The Neptunes – 1000 (Future) and Voila (Gucci Mane and Wale) fail to fully connect. Lamar’s breathless vocals are a reliable highlight, albeit with the same aforementioned production caveat. Don’t Don’t Do It! could almost be a To Pimp a Butterfly off-cut.
The theory used to be that Pharrell plotted the pop present to afford room to work on his futuristic production. N*E*R*D continue their fight to combine both, yet you wonder if this is one of project best left in the past.