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85. Pharrell – Frontin’



This song has the potential to be incredibly irritating in the wrong hands, as Jamie Cullum so ably demonstrated. But actually Cullum’s interpretation is a useful tool for demonstrating why the original is so addictive – Cullum doodles and fusses all over the arrangement, playing twelve notes when one will do and singing with all the desperation of the company IT guy who’s just realised there’s only twenty minutes left of the office Christmas party. By contrast, the idea of Pharrell giving the remotest toss is a complete anathema – “what? This old thing?”, he may as well be saying as he strides past his swooning admirers with absolute and unimpeachable cool. His beats, too, are tight, clipped and sexy, perfectly happy to rest on their own laurels. It all boils down, perhaps fittingly, to how good the singer is at fronting – acting “all nonchalant in front of an audience, like you was just another shorty I put the naughty on”, as Jay-Z puts it in his brilliantly self-effacing cameo. Pharrell is essentially pulling one big confidence trick here, but when it’s done with this much indifference it’s easy to fall for it.

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