Thursday, April 18, 2019

100 Albums: "Seeing Sounds" by N.E.R.D.

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: N.E.R.D.
Title: Seeing Sounds
Released: 2008
Genre: funk rock with hip hop


Pharrell Williams is probably most famous for his contributions to 2013's most highly anticipated summer single (Daft Punk's Get Lucky) as well as its most controversial one (Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines). But in the late 90s and early 00s, he was the public face of The Neptunes, a production duo consisting of Williams and Chad Hugo, which made waves producing huge hits for Britney Spears, N'Sync, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Kelis, etc. Around that same time, they recruited Shay Haley, a friend they'd jammed with in high school, for a side project called N.E.R.D., a "side project" that has put out five albums. Seeing Sounds' title is a reference to the fact that Williams has synesthesia, a condition in which input processing signals in the brain bleed across senses, and a common manifestation is for sound to produce a visual sensation like a color. It's part of what contributes to the unique sound of Williams' music, since he's not just trying to make things sound cool, but to look cool as well.

Seeing Sounds is adventurous. It's got the punchy drum loops you associate with Neptunes tunes and the hip-hop keyboards, but the guitar and bass are straight out of alt-rock, and the lyrics are just damned witty. The lead single was Everyone Nose (All The Girls Standing In The Line For The Bathroom) about girls at a club doing cocaine in the bathroom, and the line "a hundred dollar bill, look atchoo, atchoo" cracks me up every single time. The song Windows manages to use Bill Gates and Microsoft as puns. Anti-Matter's chorus hook is "You so anti, it does not matter".

Puns!

My favorite song, if not Everyone Nose, is Sooner Or Later, whose music video features the 2008 financial crisis. Close behind that is You Know What. The song Happy is pretty good as well, although not as good as the other song called Happy that Williams recorded for Despicable Me 2.

Further Listening: Fly Or Die is pretty decent. And, of course, Happy.

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