N.E.R.D., "Nothing"

66 Billboard Rating

While Pharrell Williams' legacy as one-half of production duo the Neptunes has long been secure, his ventures as the frontman for hip-hop/funk trio N*E*R*D have yielded a challenging, inconsistent output. "Nothing," Williams' fourth album alongside the group's Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, offers more top-shelf beats and a few intriguing genre experiments amid the sweaty dance tracks. "Hot-N-Fun" (featuring Nelly Furtado) and "Hypnotize U" both employ stunning "stadium music" with regrettably forgettable lyrics, while "God Bless Us All" utilizes the same Latin-flavored brass that Williams employed on Clipse's "Popular Demand (Popeyes)" last year. However, the best moments on "Nothing," like the unraveling political rant "Help Me" and the bittersweet soul song "Life As a Fish," shy away from the party atmosphere and allow Williams to hammer home substantial messages. At 36 minutes, the set is quick, generally uptempo and full of the Neptunes' mixtape-ready bangers, yet Williams finds his groove during moments that won't rattle any trunks.

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