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Three Albums Past the First Classic is Classic
on November 2, 2010
N.E.R.D. has been through a lot since 2001, when their debut album came out of nowhere to be proclaimed a classic amongst their cult fans as well as critics. But they never really took shape in the mainstream. Every album since the first has attempted to get more and more into the pop ranks, with only some success. Their last album, Seeing Sounds, seemed to make the most effort in doing so. However, among the cult following and critics alike, Seeing Sounds was said to be their worst effort out of the three. So, Nothing could have either pushed that "pop" sound more or it could have taken from what worked with the first album, In Search of... Luckily for fans new and old, N.E.R.D. decided to take their creativeness to new heights, with polished, yet not over-saturated music. We have a new classic on our hands.
Track by Track
1. Party People f/T.I. 4/5 - This track sets off the record, but does not give it a sense as to where the album's direction will go. It is a feel good, "let go" type of track that gets you moving, but seems more for the dance floor that it is for your headphones. Nevertheless, it is a well put together track. Their second official single added T.I. to add some star power
2. Hypnotize U 4/5 - A very mellow track that comes surprisingly after a fast paced dance track. Hypnotize U tells a story of appreciation toward the females. Pharrell goes all out on his falsetto belts which will remind most of his first solo single "Frontin'" years back. It's a great track with a memorable beat.
3. Help Me 5/5 - Shae and Pharrell were quoted as saying that this record had a lot of influences, one being, The Doors. Help Me is the song they were talking about. It has The Doors dripping off of it. Some might be scared of that idea, but the track comes off very well. It is one of the best on the album. The lyrics will even remind many of Jim Morrison's poetic style. It's something that N.E.R.D. has never really delved into as much as they do on this track.
4. Victory 5/5 - This is an inspiring song that will have almost anybody want to get off the couch and do something with their lives. It will remind some of a track that might eventually make it onto the NBA finals or Superbowl advertising commercials, but don't spoil it for yourself. Take the song for what it is supposed to be and not what it is most likely going to end up. Another lyrical gem for N.E.R.D. Their second album, Fly or Die, is ressurected a bit in the sense of subject matter.
5. Perfect Defect 4/5 - Another uptempo track that's central meaning is the appreciation of a female. The track speeds up and is accentuated by a bridge that leads to a very catchy chorus. Shae comes in towards the end to offer his own contribution the song, which is short, but adds a lot.
6. I've Seen the Light / Inside of Clouds 5/5 - This is a track which is divided into two separate songs. I've Seen the Light is a track which uses a sample that has been used before, but it fits N.E.R.D. like an old favorite T-shirt. The clap in the bass line restrains its potential to be a sappy, slow Jazz song. But again, lyrically, it stands above a lot of other material. Inside of Clouds has been called an instant classic by many fans and critics alike. It reminds me of something straight off of their debut album, along the same sound as Bobby James (a favorite among the cult followers of N.E.R.D.). It has a very nostalgic sound.
7. God Bless Us All 5/5 - N.E.R.D. has been known to "talk to the kids." And this track does it well. It sends a message to the young and lost who might have gone through a lot of negative experiences in their life. Experiences which have lead them to not believe in a higher being or meaning to life. "I bet this song won't make sense to you/with the weight on your shoulders, what can you see?/God blessed us all with the gift to pursue." A very good track. Again, when this could have been a sappy or corny song, N.E.R.D. turns it into a listenable track that can be repeated.
8. Life As a Fish 3/5 - This is another song that is heavily saturated with meaningful lyrics, but almost too much. It is slower than most of the tracks with no punching bassline that resides in other lyrical tracks. Life As a Fish seems to display Pharrell's (or possibly the band's) feelings about Jesus and God in a Christian sense. Listen yourself to decifer the lyrics. It might just be me. At any rate, the song seems out of place a bit because it is almost too slow for it's own good. It's still a track not to skip however.
9. Nothing On You 5/5 - R&B has been something that N.E.R.D. has dipped into a bit, especially on their last effort (Seeing Sounds), however, this track is probably the closest we will get to R&B. It comes across as a Justin Timberlake track from Justified, in that the tempo is great and the chorus is very effective. One of my favorite (dance tracks) on the album. Shae's verse sticks out to me the most. Single worthy.
10. Hot-N-Fun 4/5 - The first official single off the album that seems to be a bit old now that the official album has arrived. Nelly Furtado offers herself on the chorus and bridge, yet with all due respect, it could have anybody. Most fans would have wished for Kelis, an old N.E.R.D. label mate to have made an appearance on this track. It's a dance record. Lyrically, it doesn't offer anything special. Pharrell sings admittingly, "nobody wants to think anymore/they want to feel/they want to let go."
11. It's In the Air 4/5 - This is the most heavily political track on the album. It starts off with a rant from an unnamed politician at some sort of meeting. It does offer a sort of jazzy/blues feel to it that is appealing. However, the track itself is less entertaining than it is thought provoking. So if you are not in the mood to think, this track is not for you. It's haunting feel showcases the lyrics well.
12. Sacred Temple 5/5 - Another upbeat track that will sound perfect live. The thumping of the bassline is effective. Most fans will hear labelmate Kenna among the chorus and the beat seems something that Kenna would have chose for his own album. Lyrically, again, The Doors seem to be the influence. It's a great track - very infectious.
13. I Wanna Jam 5/5 - This is a track one can hear at any dance party or club. The classic, jump rock that N.E.R.D. has been known before in the past (Fly or Die). This track appeals to the young and energetic that just want to have fun and jam. Pharrell's lyrics "life makes me horny" will stick out the most lyrically. Other than that, this track is not supposed to make you think too much of the lyrics.
14. The Man 4/5 - Another track with political undertones. It's more of a slow talked track, but with a classic Neptunes beat. The chorus suffers slightly to me, due to the repeated "don't it feel good," but it doesn't ruin the song. Weird background sounds (life a horse) is sprinkled throughout, leading it be somewhat of an eccentric track. Shae once again delivers a great verse - something that make up some of the best parts of the album. A great track.
All in all, there are no skippable tracks on the album. 14 songs that seperate themselves form one another to make the most well rounded N.E.R.D. album that has came out. It is classic N.E.R.D. but adds a new synergy. It perfectly balances between indie rock, pop and hip-hop. It's what Seeing Sounds was supposed to be. A must buy for any fan of creative music that makes you dance and think while appreciating the beat. Incredible music.