Pharrell’s latest attempt at music hits a low note

Ben Breier

Acclaimed producer releases one of the worst rap albums of 2006

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Credit: Steve Schirra

Pharrell Williams, more notoriously known as the better half of The Neptunes, has slowly started to work his way out of the production offices to take stage in front of the microphone. With the release of “Beautiful” -ÿa duet on which Snoop Dogg provided addictive staccato and Pharrell provided a chorus consisting of a fairly typical falsetto, Pharrell was launched into the musical limelight.

In My Mind

Released on Star Trak/Interscope

Stater rating (out of five): *

Despite the fact that this single was really nothing out of the ordinary when compared with rap hits of its time, his musical popularity rose. On top of the production he was doing for artists such as Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, Pharrell found cult-level success with N.E.R.D – a rock/rap hybrid that was critically acclaimed, even though it never caught up with the hype or popularity of his other material.

In My Mind has all the makings of a great rap album – the record features a laundry list of guests including Kanye West, Nelly, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. However, big bucks and big talent don’t always equate to big hits.

Pharrell mixes it up with Nelly on “Baby” -ÿa song that sounds like a de-caffeinated version of “Beautiful.” It isn’t astoundingly terrible, and it begins to catch up with you like a guilty pleasure, regardless of the fact that the drums in this song are decidedly low-fi sound effects generated from a Casio keyboard.

“Number One” begins with Kanye West shouting out empty verses about Louis Vuitton and being the “world’s greatest.” By the time Pharrell’s voice kicks in, the beat morphs into pure Muzak -absolute garbage that you wouldn’t find in the elevators of the worst department stores on the planet.

From someone who is heralded as one of the planet’s best producers, it’s even more disappointing to hear tracks like “Young Girl,” which contains violins that sound like they were ripped straight out of Usher’s “U Remind Me” -ÿa song that was popular on TRL half a decade ago. Yawn.

The record’s saving grace, “How Does It Feel?,” consists of subtlely pompous brass laced with Pharrell’s occasional Spanish rapping. He gets bonus points here for having the courage to use Judge Ito in one of his raps. When he raps, Pharrell ranges from average to good, but his falsetto reminds me of Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” which plagued those awful Burger King commercials a few years back.

Unfortunately, one track cannot carry an entire record. In My Mind is one hit and an endless chain of misses. Pharrell needs to decide between concentrating on his production or his rapping. Whatever he does, he needs to check his falsetto at the door – forever.

Contact managing editor Ben Breier at [email protected].