The name NER*D might bring to mind images of Steve Urkle or Willy Wonka candy more frequently than those of hip-hop dominance, but band members Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo have had a huge behind-the-scenes impact on the 21st century music industry.
As production duo The Neptunes, Williams and Hugo had their hands on superhits like Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” and Britney Spears’s “I’m a Slave 4 U.” They have also worked with Justin Timberlake and Usher en route to producing 43 percent of the songs on U.S. radio in 2003. Somewhere in between, they found time to form their own band, NER*D, which dropped its fourth studio album, NOTHING, on Nov. 2.
The funk-rock group’s previous releases displayed the talents that made The Neptunes such monsters in Top 40 radio —- irresistible choruses, disgustingly dance-worthy beats and hooks that would make Peter Pan’s nemesis shudder with jealousy. One listen to past single “Spaz” is more than enough to get of taste of how much talent these motherfunkers have.
NOTHING, however, struggles to reach the bar set by Williams and company’s previous work. It strays from rock and gravitates toward R&B. Not that there’s anything wrong with good ol’ rhythm and blues, but by losing the alt-rock edge, NER*D also softens its nasty beats.
The new record is far from bad, though. Williams’ falsetto is pleasing as always and the hour-long listen has a generally enjoyable feel. But without the frenetic, syncopated alterna-beats, there is little to differentiate NOTHING from rap-toned elevator music.
Someone must’ve given NER*D some Theraflu because it just isn’t quite as sick anymore.