Matt On Music: Neneh Cherry/Pharrell Williams
Neneh Cherry’s new album “Blank Project” contains strong tracks that greatly benefit from their production.
Coming off of his success with guest appearances on “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines,” Pharrell Williams’ album “G I R L” offers merely decent songs that are made incredibly fun by his own production.
These records don’t have much in common; sound-wise, they’re almost complete opposites. But they are both tremendous producer’s albums. Great as the songs may often be, much of the effect comes from the way the songs are presented.
Neneh Cherry: “Blank Project” (Smalltown Supersound) What might be her finest album ever succeeds not because it’s low-key, but because the material is strong enough to survive being low-key. The minimalism isn’t used to convey small emotions, but to instead covey her huge but deeply personal emotions in a relatable way. Essential to these tracks is not only Cherry’s delicate, yet powerful vocals and lyrical hooks, but also producer Four Tet, whose music gives Cherry an opportunity to let loose. In short, this is the kind of album that I hope St. Vincent records one day. Grade: A MINUS
Pharrell Williams: “G I R L” (I Am Other/Columbia) Being featured on two of last year’s most acclaimed singles could have easily resulted in Pharrell becoming overconfident and releasing an overstuffed attempt at innovation. Instead, he has released as basic a pop album as possible, almost as if he’s trying to prove he can do that better than anybody, too. Recruiting Justin Timberlake for a track shorter than anything on “The 20/20 Experience” seems like some kind of statement, but not as much of one as his seven-minute track, which tops all of Timberlake’s overlong travesties. Meanwhile, his overall choice of guest stars implies that he’s not trying to blow anybody away. But he manages to impress anyway, especially with “Happy,” a hit that’s more fun than “Blurred Lines,” more humble than “Get Lucky” and as catchy as either of them. Grade: B PLUS