In My Mind
ue the vultures. Plopped into store shelves almost a full year after it was originally reported finished—and with three misfired singles (“Can I Have It Like That?” “Angel” and “Number One”) already pinned to its star-crossed name—In My Mind, the would-be side-project of Neptunes fashion savant Pharrell Williams, barely breathes with life. The release date isn’t a celebration, it’s a mercy killing.
A brief distillation of everything calamitous about his and Chad Hugo’s production style, “Can I Have It Like That?” awkwardly titters between an acceptable trumpet bridge and groan-inducing back-and-forth between Williams and Gwen Stefani. Williams asks if he can, indeed, have it like that. Stefani complies. Repeat for just under four minutes.
We knew Pharrell can’t rap; he’s struggled to establish any kind of comfortable rhythm on his previous guest appearances and his vocabulary tends to stop dead beyond designer sneakers and the occasional anime reference. A gaggle of Hollywood rappers—Snoop, Nelly, Slim Thug, and Jay-Z, all of whom owe at least one chart-topper to the Neptunes—try and patch-up the lyrical abscesses to no avail. You can’t really blame them though; the album has easily the most bored, empty riffs of Pharrell’s career. “Angel,” “That Girl,” and “Raspy Shit” are all bloodless, paint-by-numbers Prince dissections and drum patterns he and Mannie Fresh beat into submission around 2000. Assuming you’ve listened to mainstream radio in the past four years, you can probably do a decent job of recreating the album’s musical germination: run every lazy Neptunes track (“Excuse Me Miss” and “Nothin’” come to mind) through about a dozen filters, add some clunky digital tripwire, strip them of all urgent, awkward guile, and put a big bloated piano on top.
Mind’s badness is readily relatable yet totally flabbergasting. Williams raps about loving, actually believing in, and succumbing to a woman (“That Girl”), yet all he can summon about their courtship is, “I arrested the coochie and the feelings got cuffed.” “Our Father” is the least believable, most consumer motivated “you-saved-me” rap ballad since, well, R. Kelly’s “U Saved Me.” There’s hardly an honest word on In My Mind; any sane listener’s bullshit meter should red-line after about fifteen minutes of its textured repulsiveness.