What does Pharrell Williams have in common with Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst? They all have something to do with the upcoming film, Hidden Figures. The movie is based on a true story about three African American women (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) who served as the master minds behind astronaut John Glenn’s launch into orbit. Pharrell served as one of the film’s producers. In addition, he wrote original music for the soundtrack. The stakes were definitely high this time, considering his monster smash “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack.
Pharrell proves he still has the Midas touch on the soundtrack’s breakout track, “Runnin”. This song (and most of the album) has a Ray Charles, James Brown inspired vintage sound. He expresses his angst against running here and hopes for better days. However, “Crave” is a party jumping, horn driven dance track. Lalah Hathaway lends her smoky, sultry vocals on the infectiously melodic “Surrender”. All of the contributing artists on the album are females. Then of course there’s the triumphant lead single “Able”. This song in particular serves as anthem for anyone who has ever been doubted.
Mary J. Blige offers one of the album’s best tracks on “Mirage”. Her confident alto pairs well with Pharrell’s playful production here. Alicia Keys and Pharrell trade verses on the spiritually inclined “Apple”. Janelle Monae appears on two of the soundtrack’s songs, including “Isn’t This The World” and “Jalapeno”. The former is a cautionary, gentle ballad. However, it’s the latter that dares you to sit still. “Jalapeno” has a spicy flare that lives up to its name and leaves you yearning for more collaborations between Janelle Monae and Pharrell. Pharrell lets the ladies shine, but hangs tough as the sole male voice on Hidden Figures. “Crystal Clear” finds him singing amidst a vibrant track reminiscent of Stevie Wonder.
Kim Burrell closes out the album on a high note of praise with the inspiring “I See A Victory”. Although the album clocks in at just over 33 minutes, it’s worth every second. The female artists were cleverly chosen and represent a wide range of styles. Sounds like Pharrell has another hit (or set of them) on his hands. Hidden Figures hits theaters on January 6, 2017.