With N.E.R.D’s fifth album, Pharrell Williams and gang are taking a sterner turn
Hey, party people in the place to be! N.E.R.D have a new album packed with guests (Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar) and we all know what to expect, right? Good vibes, fun times, juicy tunes… Except, uh-uh. Not this time. No_One Ever
Really Dies from Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley is not a laugh-riot. In fact, a riot might be closer to the fact, albeit a tightly rhythmed, meticulously produced one. “Don’t Don’t Do It” features Lamar and is an inflamed response to police brutality towards African-Americans; “Deep Down Body Thrust” sounds sexy and a bit like Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman”, but actually takes on evil consumerism; while “Kites”, with MIA and Lamar, takes the perspective of a refugee boy in Calais. It’s not an easy listen — beats are frantic, wilfully disjointed songs change halfway through, difficult tunes shun easy melody. It’s not the album you were expecting, but it’s more arresting for it.
— No_One Ever Really Dies (RCA) by N.E.R.D is out on 15 December
N.E.R.D up: Chad Hugo, Shay Haley and Pharrell Williams return after seven years