Pharrell’s G I R L is probably going to be synonymous forever with his omnipresent soundtrack cut-turned-No. 1 hit “Happy,” but its follow-up and opening track “Marilyn Monroe” might be an even better encapsulation of the album. In one song, it’s got the opulence of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience: a Hans Zimmer string section like the one on “Pusher Love Girl,” which quickly becomes a disco string section; the loopy retro-disco that’s been a Neptunes hallmark from Kelis on; the New Age law-of-attraction horniness that finds its way into almost all of Pharrell’s work. (Think “like the legend of the phoenix” — basically, if a lyric sounds like a spiritual pamphlet reworked into a pickup line, it was probably written by Pharrell Williams.)
Marilyn Monroe, of course, is the most be-metaphored woman in pictures; even if you limit your scope to urban music of this decade alone, you’ll be able to find Marilyn-themed songs by Nicki Minaj, Brianna Perry and Chrisette Michelle, at least. But “Marilyn Monroe” isn’t really about Marilyn Monroe: it’s about all the ladies who are not Marilyn Monroe, but that’s OK, Pharrell doesn’t judge. This concept both lets Pharrell say “girl” (and G I R L) a lot, and lets him get a lot of girls into the video (most of whom look nothing like Marilyn Monroe), in a lot of settings and a lot of outfits, runway to risqué.
The video, directed by Luis Cervero, wisely doesn’t try to outdo the 24-hour-long shenanigans of the “Happy” video, opting instead for the playfully raunchy low-concept vibe of “Blurred Lines,” back when all anyone was saying about that clip was that it was “playfully raunchy.” (Put another way: If “Happy” was directed to launch a thousand GIFs, “Marilyn Monroe” was directed to launch a thousand well-timed screencaps. Of girls.) It’s the kind of video where large portions are set on a goofy lavender moonscape, where Pharrell’s hats practically get a feature credit, and where Kelly Osbourne interrupts the proceedings from nowhere, like she does on the track, to go on about the groove and disappear. Like G I R L, it knows that pop ubiquity should never be taken too seriously.
Watch the video above.