This Week's Music: Pharrell Williams and Rick Ross

Looking for some new jams for your afternoon on the beach? Check out the newest albums on the music scene from Pharrell Williams and Rick Ross!

G I R L by Pharrell Williams:

Here at Boston College, we know the song “Happy” all too well.

But how does the rest of the album fare?

Upon first listening to G I R L, I was stunned by how little I liked the album. My roommate and I shared confused looks as we haphazardly listened to the album through my Mac speakers. The vocals seemed off, the style came across as weird. But I came to realize the most important word to draw from the album is also the first word that Pharrell employs.

“Different.”

After various listens on headphones, I came to appreciate Pharrell’s new effort quite extensively. The lively, dance-inspiring duet with Justin Timberlake, “Brand New,” couldn’t help but sneak its way into my current list of favorite songs. Variations of tone and inflections that originally left me unsettled eventually sounded right (for the most part).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pwOGbnlD5Q

Fun songs like “Hunter” show how Pharrell often looks to past records like "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees for inspiration while also adding his own personal production touches to make songs unique. The similarities to an alternative or rock song also give nice variation to the album.

Each of the features on the album are quite different from one another, yet help to ultimately make the effort cohesive. Miley Cyrus gives one of her more enjoyable features to date on the clap-happy “Come Get It Bae” that is simply good fun. Daft Punk makes for one of the best features on the album, providing an awesome chorus for the extremely catchy “Gust of Wind.” When listeners could potentially become bored from hearing another verse from Pharrell on “Know Who You Are,” Alicia Keys lends a much-needed hand to make for G I R L’s second memorable duet.

Apart from a few questionable lyrics (listen to “Gush”), Pharrell chooses different moments to switch gender roles as well as celebrate the importance of women while avoiding the use of demeaning lyrics that he got involved with before. Perhaps he’s trying to make up for the controversial “Blurred Lines”?

It is comforting to hear Pharrell openly speak to his diary in “Marilyn Monroe,” claiming that beauty and fame aren't what he necessarily wants. Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra and Joan of Arc are societal ideals that are overrated, and he is giving a chance for any woman, no matter who they are, to feel like they could be that “girl” he is searching for.

Regardless of whether or not Pharrell’s attempts to celebrate women live up to his earlier promises, almost every song on the album is enjoyable and fun. Some of the lyrics could have been a bit more complex, as evidenced by lines like “Winners never quit, and quitters never win” that pop up from time to time. Also, the first half of “Lost Queen” might be a nice gesture, asking if he can serve a woman that he adores, but it has trouble avoiding a weird and awkward flow. However, the atmosphere of the second half of the song is pretty remarkable and has an unmentioned appearance by JoJo.

Pharrell had a hot streak in music last year, and after hearing his new album, it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon. If anything, I could only wish that there were even more tracks to enjoy -- not a bad sentiment for listeners to hold. The songs of G I R L come together as a whole to form one of the best pop records of 2014 that is easily worth your time.

Suggested Songs: “Marliyn Monroe,” “Brand New,” “Hunter,” “Come Get It Bae,” “Gust of Wind,” the second half of “Lost Queen”

Mastermind by Rick Ross:

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Considering how rarely I enjoy a song that features Rick Ross (I’d normally expect to find ripe bananas at Lower two days in a row before expecting that), Mastermind actually supplies us with some good songs scattered throughout – “some” and “scattered” being the key words here.

You might be turned away from Ricky’s album completely if you can’t make it through quite a few unimpressive songs and skits. The intro skit describes the Mastermind album title, but that doesn’t make me want to listen to the speech every time I turn on the album. Next comes two Rick Ross solo songs that are underwhelming, which then lead into a skit that connects to “Nobody,” the first track that is at least somewhat interesting and verging on good listening.

Skits like “Shots Fired” and other unnecessary additions like Diddy’s needless banter throughout “Nobody” not only break up the album’s flow, but also make important events in Rick Ross’s life seem trivialized. It is interesting to include actual reports about when his car was shot at, but it would have been more fulfilling if he had decided to rap about the incident and how it introspectively affected his outlook on life.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

“Devil is a Lie” finally gives listeners an actually good song, and although the chorus probably could have been handled differently (Rick Ross seems to do best on verses), the overall experience is enjoyable. The album continues much like a roller coaster ride, climbing and falling over and over again before ending on a high note. After having the potential to continue an upward trend, Ross gives his Jeezy feature. “War Ready” might be tolerable, but taking into account how much better the song could have been, there is little incentive to listen – seven minutes is far too much time to waste on mediocrity.

The next two tracks are both very good, and only prove further that Rick Ross can make some respectable collaboration songs. “What A Shame,” the second collaboration with French Montana, packs a punch with a thumping beat, good verse delivery and a catchy chorus. “Supreme” shows that there can be at least one song intro that works, and the very flashy beat actually works well with Ross’s flow. The singer may not be a big name artist, but thank goodness Ross didn’t tackle the chorus alone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG-c2o_y_3Q

Why should Ricky be weary of being alone on songs? Because he might end up with a final product like “Blk & Wht.” How he even achieved such a whiny voice and how he thought this was a good idea at all is beyond me. To continue the downward trend, Ross throws in a skit that features two atrociously materialistic women that talk about the money they spend in a drawn out skit that is just shy of three minutes. Completely unnecessary and bland.

Luckily The Weeknd steps in and draws Rick Ross into a dark, sultry “In Vein” that is very unlike most of the other songs. There is a battle between an album’s need for diversity and it’s becoming unfocused, and while the song is great, it shows how all of the best songs differ enough that you might question whether they came from the same album. “Sanctified” brings a somewhat religious track with a Kanye West and Big Sean feature, but with such famous musicians included, it feels like it could have been slightly better.

“Walkin’ On Air” is completely unremarkable, but the following “Thug Cry” with Lil Wayne turns out to be a pretty interesting song with a catchy beat and chorus, and Rick actually asking deep questions like, “Do thugs cry?”

The Deluxe version includes a good “Blessing in Disguise” with solid verses from each artist included, a chill and instrumentally soothing “Paradise Lost,” and “You Know I Got It (Reprise),” an altered version of the track that shows up on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuUUO9rgL2Y

Rick Ross isn’t without fault in Mastermind. In fact, there are downright bad songs on the album. However, the amount of satisfaction brought by the good tracks is surprisingly noteworthy. Figure out which songs you do like and you will find the experience to be quite entertaining.

Suggested Songs: “Devil is a Lie,” “What A Shame,” “Supreme,” “In Vein,” “Sanctified,” “Paradise Lost”

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Jonathan Reed