Have you ever found a song completely by accident? Maybe you were listening to Pandora or Spotify and heard a small part of the song during a commercial right before moving onto the rest of your playlist. That is how I stumbled on to this gem, Marilyn Monroe, by Pharrell Williams.
Looking at the cover, it seems rather simple. Four individuals wearing the same white robe. However, looking closer, notice that the skin of each individual begins to get darker, bringing diversity into the cover. This did not go unnoticed by the public, and stirred up controversy, specifically that there was noblack woman on the cover. Many people took to social media to express their unhappiness. Yet Pharrell went right back to the public and made a statement. He said that the woman in the back is black, and that the people criticizing are “ill informed”. After talking about the cover itself,he tells the YBF, an online media source, what the album is really about, which is an ode to women, not an ode to a shade.
The first thing that catches the readers attention is the opening. There are no guitar solos or heavy beats. Instead, the song begins with violins and an orchestra. I think of a James Bond theme during this part, right before he says the word different. If the music sounds familiar, like a film score, that may be due to the fact Hans Zimmer played a part in putting the sting section of this song together. Hans has composed for many films including Inception, Man of Steel, and the recent Oscar winning picture 12 Years A Slave . The song then moves into a bit of funk, electronic and other beats, while keeping the instrumentals strong in the background.
The chorus holds the vital meaning to the song, as well as the title.
Dear diary, it’s happenin’ again
This energy, like I’m ’bout to win
I just close my eyes and visions appear
She’s everything I want, and it’s crystal clear
Not even Marilyn Monroe
Who Cleopatra pleas
Not even Joan of Arc
That don’t mean nothin’ to me
I just want a different girl
Girl, girl, girl, girl
Girl, girl, can’t another good boy keep it this thorough
Here the chorus repeats that he wants a “different girl”, one that differs from three famous women in history; Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra, and Joan of Arc. Each woman is viewed as powerful, fierce, and beautiful. These individuals have made their marks throughout history and have set a higher standard for women everywhere. Yet, Pharrell turns this notion on its very head. He wants the girl who does not fit in this description. He wants a different girl, a unique girl. He makes the everyday woman feel more powerful than these figures, which speaks volumes. Many lyrics throughout the song have this same idea. However, this chorus helps support the song and album over all.
This song has many levels one can look into after listening to it a few times. As stated earlier, this song supports the album overall. Many have focused on the idea that the album is a celebration of women or is happier, joyful album (which plays off one of his more popular song on the track list, Happy). I found it interesting that this album came out after Pharrell took part in one of the most controversial songs in 2013, Blurred Lines. This song was hailed sexist and degrading, while still remaining a top charting song. Marilyn Monroe and album shows a different side of Pharrell Williams, a fun side that you may not be familiar with.