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N.E.R.D: Nothing

Pharrell Williams’ come-ons do not improve with age—theirs or his. “You’re so perfect, don’t you ignore me, girl / No need to be nervous, this’ll work out surely, girl,” goes the chorus of “Perfect Defect.” “Touch you, girl,” he whispers repeatedly on “Hypnotize U,” a throbbing near-techno track (produced with help from Daft Punk, no less) that never fully gets where it’s going. That goes for Nothing in general. Williams and his N.E.R.D cohorts Chad Hugo and Shay Haley are adept in the studio; their musical constructs are always polished, and often at least somewhat impressive. But their lyrics and point of view are so entitled that there’s little sense they’re aiming much further than the nearest frat house.

The tough-guy talk, such as “No, I won’t kill you, but I’ll watch you die” on “Help Me,” isn’t especially convincing. The mid-tempo new-wave rocker “Victory” features Williams doing some of the most misguided emoting this side of daytime television. There is, of course, a classic Neptunes-sounding club track: “Hot-N-Fun,” featuring Nelly Furtado, skips nicely along on busy drums and a darting bass, with Haley boasting, “This is stadium music, 50-thou jumping at a time.” And later: “People don’t want to think no more / They just want to feel, they want to let go.” He has a point, but most of this album won’t aid either activity.

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