Sunday, February 4, 2018

N.E.R.D. - No One Ever Really Dies Review

Going into No One Ever Really Dies, I had no idea what to expect. Knowing two things, that I've never heard a N.E.R.D. album before, and that its been seven years since one anyway, suppositions were bound to be wildly inaccurate. That much was confirmed with '1000' and the bizarro Footwork turned Trap for Future to walk on. Sure enough, the rest of the album follows suit. It is highly uncharacteristic of 2017, borrowing only the foremost trend bearers as features, ditching any and all musical constructs that come as baggage with the year. Hell, even the tasteless cover features a manufactured grill, the textbook financial flaunting piece for mid-2000's Southern emcees. Really, what holds Pharrell and company down to 2017 is the content itself, rife with political commentary that, expectedly so, gets lost in the shuffle of high energy Juke and Footwork. At times, the tongue-in-cheek production of 'Don't Don't Do It!' or 'Secret Life Of Tigers' seems insensitive towards the topics at hand, police shootings and conservative ideals respectively, but gosh darn does Pharrell's charisma counteract that. He's brushing serious concerns off as Taylor Swift would inconsequential 'haters,' using the infallible catchiness of music to unite those towards a common goal. Combating fire with fire, gloomy events with gloomy music, isn't always the correct solution, and Pharrell knows that.

Thankfully, if you want to avoid N.E.R.D.'s commentary, you're more than welcome, as there's plenty of music material to gleam. At times, almost too much, as numerous tracks switch erratically between entirely different platforms. This can be seen on '1000,' 'Don't Don't Do It,' and most obviously 'Rollinem 7's' with Andre 3000. The track is an utmost curiosity, shifting between styles, even finding the legendary Three Stacks himself cooing like his Class Of 3000 era before unexpectedly diving into rap-tastic intensity akin to his collaboration with Gorillaz on 'DoYaThing.' The song also features production that relies heavily on short, chopped n' screwed vocal cuts, something that appears elsewhere, like on the ultra slick and sleek 'Lemon' and byway of the overseas unfamiliarity of 'Kites.' It's an acquired taste, and most certainly won't be for everyone. As for myself, seeing as how I keep returning for more, I can't get enough. The lively production N.E.R.D. bustles between really compliments not only Pharrell, but virtually every feature (excluding the lazy Gucci Mane on 'Voila'). Kendrick Lamar, unsurprisingly, excels in each of his two prime roles, whereas Rihanna, M.I.A., Andre 3000, and even Ed Sheeran elevate their respective tracks. 

With all this said, No One Ever Really Dies is a joy. Staying power is questionable at best, as the LP certainly thrives as a short-term injection, but with enough layers to satisfy repeated listens, N.E.R.D.'s return is one both welcomed and refreshing. The features don't overwhelm the group's own prowess, as solo cuts like 'Deep Down Body Thrust' and 'Esp' highlight some of the album's best moments. In each of these cuts, Pharrell's coolness meter is off the charts. Seriously, his personality shines unlike virtually any artist making music today. Like Outkast, the group that's cooler than a polar bear's toenails, it all comes so natural and effortless as well. Speaking negatively, there's really only two tracks I could do without; 'Voila' and 'Lightning Fire Magic Prayer.' The former's not so bad, and does improve with a beat switch and concluding verse by Wale, but the latter struggles for the near eight minutes that it's in place. Arguably the slowest and most meandering, set dead center it awkwardly shifts into place around some of the album's best material. Adding to that, Pharrell's language is quite clunky, which, mind you, isn't unusual for the LP (See: 'Secret Life Of Tigers'), but because of the uninteresting production, there's nothing holding him up.


No comments:

Post a Comment