My high school chemistry teacher described it like this: You have two hands, so holding two textbooks, one in each hand, is saturation. When you cradle your hands by your waist, you can stack more than two textbooks, and that’s supersaturation. The term’s scientific application describes a solution that contains more of the dissolved material than could be dissolved by the solvent under normal circumstances. But in music, it just means being fucking everywhere for an extended amount of time.
There was worry that Lil Wayne was supersaturating the market in the late 2000s seemingly giving away verses to anyone who asked. Rap’s version of Little Caeser’s Hot N Ready. More recently, the word was associated with 2 Chainz, who demanded attention with stand out feature verses and then rode that vehicle a little too long, until Kanye had to mandate a higher fee on behalf of Mr. Two Pieces of Neck Jewelry. (And even then, dude still flooded the interwebs with features.)
The thought came back to me this morning as news circulated that Pharrell will be releasing a new album, his first solo project in eight years, this March. The maestro was already praised for taking 2013, onboard two of the year’s biggest songs, “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky,” and serving as the world’s doctor, writing smile prescriptions with his own “Happy.” Dude had such a killer year that it warranted it’s own “The Best Pharrell Songs of 2013” list. (For the clicking averse, the previously mentioned songs are the top three.)
Skateboard P stayed top of mind at the top of the year by not only taking home multiple Grammys on Jan. 26, but by making waves with his daring choice of headgear. It wasn’t a one time fashion statement either. When P performed at the NBA All Star game this past weekend, he rocked two versions of the Vivian Westwood hat. Oh, and he also ran through an abridged version of his laundry list of hits, bringing out Diddy, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, and Busta Rhymes.
Every one of these moves, dating back, let’s say a year, has worked. Dude is on a wave right now that is pretty unprecedented. Usually, when artists come to take the game, they sit with it for a little while, then hand it off or fall off. Justin Timberlake came back strong with The 20/20 Experience, even if the album stole from the Frank Ocean song structure model and “Suit & Tie” never hit you with that JT charisma like previous singles have. But then The 20/20 Experience Part 2 dropped and it was clear that Timberlake had less in the tank then he/we thought. It was too much too soon.
There are only two ways to lose King of the Hill, to get beat or to get down. And it’s looking like Pharrell is choosing neither. G I R L will drop March 3 and can be preordered on iTunes now, though the tracklist is strategically barren. Of the album’s ten songs, only “Happy” is listed by title.
Expectations are predictably high for G I R L, due in large part to Pharrell’s incredible string of wins. But how long can that streak realistically continue? I know it’s borderline blasphemous to question P’s prowess, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Yes, the benefit of the doubt here is high, as high as it possibly can be, and there is no reason at all to think G I R L will be anything but a smash, but that’s just it; if you’re Pharrell, how do you top 2013? How does the stock go any higher? The scrutiny will be sharp, and the bar higher than an olympic pole vault.
Realistically, I see it playing out like this: Pharrell takes home the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Happy” (it was first released as the “Despicable Me 2” theme), performs the song, likely kills the red carpet, likely steals the show. And when are the Oscars you may be asking? March 2nd, the day before G I R L drops. The momentum will be at an all time high. The album’s title will be on everybody’s lips. Those just now getting familiar with Pharrell will transition from watching the Oscars to buying the record and sales figures will be alarmingly high. Pharrell becomes even more of a coveted figure in music than he is now, and parlays that momentum into something of gargantuan proportions. This has to all be leading up to something grander than an album release. It has to.
What that is though, I don’t know. Maybe he’s gunning for an EGOT? Either way, this is a pace nobody can keep up and Pharrell is too savvy to think that he can. There’s a checkmate move waiting in the wings, and this supersaturation is just the preamble. Till then, let’s enjoy the ever rising ice cream cone that is Pharrell’s recent output. Nothing’s fallen to the pavement yet.