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Music Review: N.E.R.D. – Nothing

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As I finished listening to N.E.R.D.’s new album Nothing, I wondered what happened to one of my favorite bands. Their sound has always been what I’d call an acquired taste as it’s a mix of retro-soul, hip hop, rock, and the Neptunes’ acclaimed electronic production, but this time out I was surprised by how little I liked their album.

Nothing opens strong with “Party People”. The upbeat track is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and it features a rap verse from T.I. After the opener, results vary quite a bit. Instead of ’70s soul and comparisons to the Steely Dan era of music, N.E.R.D. seems to be going further back in the soul time machine. I have nothing against music from this era, but the execution is lackluster.

A few tracks come across as acceptable to good N.E.R.D. songs. Victory with its inspirational lyrics is pretty good, for Nothing at least. “I’ve Seen the Light/ Inside of Clouds” has an interesting beat similar to a Spanish ballad. Then, the second half of the two-part track called “Inside of Clouds” is a strong-point of the whole album. Sadly, it’s only an interlude. “Hot-N-Fun” and “God Bless Us All” are passable. “Hot-N-Fun” is pretty good and more of what I’d expect from the band, but it’s still not as good as many tracks from 2008’s Seeing Sounds.”I Wanna Jam” is almost painful to listen to and “The Man” is forgettable.

Not only was the music sub par for me, but the lyrics are getting pretty stale too. At times N.E.R.D. makes political statements (see “Life as a Fish”) but quite often their songs are about sex (“Nothing on You”). Sprinkle in an occassional existential lyric, and a love song, and there you have the band’s lyrical recipe. I could look past the lyrics a bit more if I found the music more enjoyable, but this time I didn’t.

I miss the funky jams and audacious electronic beats from Seeing Sounds. Their debut album In Search Of… is a classic and their follow up album Fly or Die had some of my all-time favorite tracks as well. I’ve gotten thousands of plays from those albums over the years. If you’re interested in checking out N.E.R.D. see these albums. I’ll stick with them until they return with a new album. They’re still one of my favorite bandsp; I just didn’t get it this time.

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  • I essentially feel the same way. This album disappointed me quite a bit, especially since Seeing Sounds was really good.