Pharrell is hardly a modest guy. Of course, in the past, he didn't need to be. Everyone from Jay-Z to Kelis to Justin Timberlake benefited from his magic touch, and his work with the rock-flavored N.E.R.D. generated so much ink that it's a wonder he didn't drown in it. But maybe the more visible half of the Neptunes production team should have thought twice before proclaiming In My Mind "the record of the year" 30 seconds into its episodic opening track, the Gwen Stefani-aided "Can I Have It Like That."
There are flashes of studio brilliance here. The horns that come up on the choruses of "Raspy Shit" are evidence that Pharrell still possesses a preternatural sense of the hook, but a slew of self-involved R&B tracks - the dumbest being "Take It Off (Turn It Off)" with its snatch of heavy breathing and sub-juvenile play on the word "masturbation" - make you wonder what he's smoking these days. This stuff sure isn't sexy, and it's really not as weird as he seems to think it is.
You can bet that we'll be hearing Pharrell's feature for Kanye West, the shimmering, profanity-laced love song "Number One," months after the snow flies. It's a strong song. But the bulk of the CD lacks focus, and even cameos by some very big names can't save it.