It's only fitting that Pharrell Williams has finally jettisoned collaboration for a solo career. The hallmark of his six-year chart reign as half of the superproducer team the Neptunes has always been reduction, stripping down urban music to its essence. That genius remains on In My Mind
most definitively on the single "Can I Have It Like That." A generically hot-blooded rhyme and a pointless Gwen Stefani cameo are redeemed by a single musical element: an acoustic bass line that writhes as ominously as a rattlesnake. Unfortunately, Pharrell's skillful, skeletal soul and hip-hop now give you too clear a view of the man behind the music. His intention to supplant Justin Timberlake as the 21st-century Michael Jackson is obvious, and during inspired moments such as "Number One," the perhaps-inevitable duet with Kanye West, or the ethereal R&B of "Our Father" Pharrell can be convincing. Over an entire album, however, neither his wispy falsetto nor his West-like, backpack-meets-bling verses carry enough charge to make In My Mind the Thriller
it aspires to be.