If it works once, why change it? That must be the question that N.E.R.D. asked themselves when they created their new album, “Fly or Die,” because the twelve songs on the CD sound remarkably similar. It is something that one could envision coming from the Neptunes, who have produced hit singles for the likes of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, and No Doubt. And so, it’s something one could expect from N.E.R.D., or No one Ever Really Dies, which is made up of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, and rapper Shay. Make no mistake about it, however: N.E.R.D. is not the Neptunes. Rather, it’s the carefree offspring of the Neptunes. Now that this is out of the way, the songs:
The first single is called “She Wants to Move.” In it, Pharrell, the more recognized member of the Neptunes and the lead singer for N.E.R.D., finds himself desired by a woman who is with her boyfriend at a club. The girl is hypnotized by Pharrell’s smoothness and tries to leave her man to be with Pharrell. Unfortunately for the girl, her mean boyfriend won’t let her “move” towards Pharrell. The girl obviously must have been won over by the line, “her ass is a spaceship I’d like to ride,” and frankly, who can blame her — that’s one hell of a pickup line.
On “Jump,” N.E.R.D. calls on Joel and Benji Madden from the pop-punk group Good Charlotte for a song that is a teen’s declaration of freedom. By jumping, teens can avoid their problems. “Hey dad, ok dad, its what you say dad, I never could obey dad,” is the contribution from the Good Charlotte front man, as he addresses the father that left his family to fend for themselves before their group became successful. This song is reminiscent of Good Charlotte’s monster hit from last year, “The Anthem,” not so much in sound as in the message.
N.E.R.D. returns to one of their favorite subjects in “Backseat Love.” In this song, N.E.R.D. discusses what I can only imagine is the eventual encounter between Pharrell and the girl who was trying to escape her boyfriend in “She Wants to Move.” To the young lady, Pharrell cleverly sings “Stay in the car, put the windows up, no seat belt, no need to buckle up, emergency break, no need for the clutch, but wait, don’t get a ticket girl.” The song has an old-school feel, which could be said for the majority of the album.
N.E.R.D. joins the likes of Madonna and Trick Daddy as they make their political opinions heard in “Drill Sergeant,” staying consistent with one of the more popular trends within pop music today. In this song they sing “No drill sergeant I’ve got a word for you, I am not going to war.” They continue to tell the drill sergeant, in a way that would make Michael Moore proud, “Shame on you for mixing my mind up and giving me guns.” I am not sure what they mean by this but I think it might have something to do with being against war — I am glad that more pop stars are telling me what to think about politics because there is no way that I can make up my own mind.
Overall, “Fly or Die” is extremely repetitive, so much in fact that it was almost as if I listened to the same song 12 times. But luckily for N.E.R.D., I really liked that song. Although Pharrell cannot sing, the group has turned this apparent weakness into a strength. Pharrell’s high, scratchy voice is one of the most recognizable in the music industry and their cross-over appeal will help them win over audiences (not that they need the money). Pharrell, Chad, and Shay provide us with a welcome change from the monotonous tone of music today, and their noble attempt to bridge the gap between rock and hip-hop without resorting to rap-metal is welcome.
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