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DJBooth Album Review
No need to adjust the station, this is indeed the review for N.E.R.D.’s new album Nothing. For years The Neptunes long line of smash singles gave them the leverage to really push musical boundaries in their alter ego group, N.E.R.D. (Ah, now it comes together.) All the Hollaback Girls let Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley to more purely pursue their genre busting vision on hard to categorize albums like In Search Of… and Seeing Sounds. Maybe it’s the recession, or maybe the trio feels like the world needs to just party now more than ever, but their new album Nothing finds the gap between The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. smaller than ever. Instead of Spymob alt-rock collaborations, you’ll find Nelly Furtrado trying to move booties. Instead of Pharrell Spazing out, you’ll find Pharell trying to move booties. Is that such a bad thing? That depends on how much you like to get wild.
No one should be surprised at this movement away from some of their more musically ambitious works. N.E.R.D. aren’t exactly strangers to clubs, or girls doing blow in bathroom clubs, and they did select Hot-n-Fun as Nothing’s lead single. That means the first words we heard off the album was, “We wrote this for a purpose...please feel free to lose you mind,” a phrase that could easily serve as the album’s motto. Mission accomplished. While Hot hasn’t been the chart burner they had hoped for, as far as dance floors go, that hypnotic bass line and driving percussion are en fuego. And after the ladies have sweated it out on the dance floor, Pharrell will take them home and turn the lights down low with Hypnotize U. Personally I find Pharrell’s whispered, “I’m behind you,” more stalker than lover, but I’m far from the target audience, so I’ll have to let the those aforementioned ladies have the last word. But whether it’s underneath a booming sound system and the club lights (Party People) or underneath the sheets (I’ve Seen the Light), Nothing was put on this earth for one reason and one reason only: to serve as the soundtrack to your most memorable nights.
That’s not to say that the boys never step outside the alluring world of lights, camera, action; it’s hard to imagine a less party-conducive joint than It’s In the Air. There’s just something about beginning a song with a 30 second clip of a man berating the media for not covering America’s two wars that kills the mood. From there we get a slow jazz march that someone also manages to incorporate a Swizz Beatz sample and a rock bridge. Yeah, it’s as strange as it sounds. Slightly less sonically adventurous but even more conceptually outlandish is the acid trippy Life As a Fish, a record that, I feel safe assuming, is hip-hop’s first ode to evolution and creationism. Speaking of acid, the album’s most openly guitar oriented cut, Help Me, heavily draws from The Doors classic rock sound for a jam band sound that finds Pharrell leaving out his Jim Morrison fantasies. So let me be clear – when I say Nothing is N.E.R.D.’s least adventurous album yet, that still makes them more creative than 90% of the game.
Still, from the youth fetishizing I Wanna Jam to the funk soaked Perfect Defect, the heart of Nothing is the chest-thumping bass drum, the moving bass line and body-rocking live drums. N.E.R.D. are one of the greatest dance-inducing groups of all-time (“Of all time!” - Kanye voice), and now, more than ever, they’re embracing their party-starting legacy. So calling it selling out or buying in, either way, it’s got a beat and you can dance to it.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Nov 01, 2010
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