Pharrell Williams

In My Mind

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The idea of an all-Pharrell album is natural and unnatural in roughly equal measure. Half of the extremely successful Neptunes production team, as well as a collaborator who has been deployed for countless guest verses and vocal hooks, Pharrell has been a regular presence on radio stations and video programs for several years. As of late 2005, however, there was only one single -- the summer 2003 smash "Frontin'" -- the man could call his own. You'd think he would've been on his second or third solo album by the time the decent In My Mind was released in July 2006, but Pharrell has always considered himself a producer/songwriter first, a background figure who isn't a singer -- and, for that matter, he's not much more than a competent MC. If he weren't so crafty at his primary calling, he'd be relying almost exclusively on his charm and sex appeal. Perhaps this partly explains why In My Mind took so long to materialize. In interviews, Pharrell seemed more exhausted than excited and indicated that the album was too much of a compromised process. While the album never sounds as if less than 100 percent was put into it, a large chunk of the material is second rate compared to his past highlights ("Frontin'" included), and it's no help that the tracks tapped as singles are some of the weakest moments (as was the case with the first version of the first N.E.R.D. album). Produced entirely by Pharrell, with guest appearances from several of the high-profile artists (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Nelly, Slim Thug, Clipse's Pusha T) whose careers have been boosted by the Neptunes, the album is divided in half between R&B and rap, at least if you go by Pharrell's singing-to-rapping ratio. Those who have been wanting to hear more of Pharrell's softer side will be pleased with the direction the album takes during the latter half, where his usual cocky demeanor is tempered by some loverman vulnerability. Just the fact that the album contains over an hour of Pharrell will be enough to attract scores of his fans, and it's not like any part of it is flat-out poor, but it's a shame it didn't turn out better. [The album has three different covers. The content does not vary.]

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