N*E*R*D is an alternative rock/funk/rap group which formed in Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States in 2001. The group consists of lead singer Pharrell Williams (vocals, keys, guitar), Chad Hugo (guitar, bass) and Shay Haley (drums).
Williams and Hugo are also known as the Grammy-winning production duo The Neptunes.
N*E*R*D's sound is a blend of rock, hip-hop, and R&B. N*E*R*D stands for "No-one Ever Really Dies".
Williams and Hugo originally recorded the band's debut album, In Search Of..., for European release in 2001 using similar digital production techniques used on Neptunes-produced records. However, they decided that if N*E*R*D was to be different from The Neptunes, it should sound different. This led to them re-recording the album (still titled In Search Of...) with the power pop band Spymob for worldwide release in 2002.
In Search Of... achieved moderate success in the United States.: the album reached number 59 on the Billboard 200; its first single, Lapdance, reached the top 40 on the rap charts; and its second single, Rock Star, reached the top 40 of the modern rock charts in the US and is still incredibly popular today. "Lapdance" also went top 40 in the Netherlands and its music video received heavy airplay on American MTV2. The album was well-received by critics even though it was not as successful as many of the Neptunes' productions for other artists.
The album won the second annual Shortlist Music Prize, awarded (by a group of musicians, journalists, and other music professionals) for Best Album that had sold less than 500,000 copies at the time of nomination. The band performed at the show, bragging that the week prior to the ceremony, the album had, in fact, achieved gold status by selling over 500,000 units.
Fly or Die
The band recorded their second album Fly or Die during 2003. The band actually learned to play the tunes live, as Chad Hugo told MTV News on December 9, 2003: "We're the ones playing the instruments live this time. "I just started playing guitar last year so I'm learning as we go. Pharrell's playing drums. [Last time] we didn't have time to learn certain instruments so we got Spymob to help us out."
The band also recruited some assistance to record the album with Lenny Kravitz playing on the track Maybe (which has been featured in ads for XM Satellite Radio) and Joel Madden and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte playing on the track Jump. Several of the tracks discuss issues of particular concern to adolescents, for example Thrasher, which is about bullies; Drill Sergeant, about rebellion; and Backseat Love, which talks about first love.
Fly or Die went on sale on March 22, 2004. The album went top 10 in the USA, while the lead-off single, She Wants to Move, went top 5 in the UK, top 20 in Norway, Ireland, and Denmark, and top 30 in Australia and top 40 in the USA and the Netherlands. The music videos for "She Wants To Move" and its followup single, "Maybe", received strong support from music video stations globally.
In 2005, N.E.R.D ended their contract with Virgin Records. After becoming "hooked" on the energy from their fans, the band began recording their third studio album, spending their own money. Williams and Hugo later established Star Trak Entertainment, a subsidiary of Interscope Records.
The third album from N*E*R*D is called Seeing Sounds. The album's title, as well as its content, revolves around the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia, the mixing of sensory modalities. After touring in promotion of their previous album, Fly or Die, N.E.R.D felt that album was too consistent. For their following album, they wanted to create the atmosphere of hyperactivity they knew their fans wanted.
The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 80,000 in its first week. It received mixed reviews, with critics lauding the production of the album. Some writers called the record N.E.R.D's best album to date, while others criticized Williams' singing and the album's content.
The album was released on June 10, 2008. The first single off the album, titled "Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)" featured a video with fans as well as stars like Lindsay Lohan and Kanye West. In June 2008, the second single off the album, titled "Spaz", was used in a TV commercial for the Microsoft Zune. The third single "Sooner or Later" featured a video dedicated to America's economic crisis.
In 2010, N.E.R.D announced the release of their fourth studio album entitled Nothing, which had a scheduled release date for September 7, 2010, but was pushed back to November 2, 2010. The first single from the album, "Hot-n-Fun" featuring Canadian recording artist Nelly Furtado, was released on May 18, 2010, on iTunes. It was released in the United Kingdom on August 30, 2010. On August 20, 2010, a track titled "Party People" leaked onto the internet. It was rumored to be the second single from the album. On September 28, 2010, they premiered another track from the album titled "Hypnotize U" on Late Show with David Letterman, produced by electronic music duo Daft Punk. On September 30, 2010, in an interview with Mark Hoppus on A Different Spin with Mark Hoppus, Pharrell explained the album cover as "a mix of so many things. The feathers represent the peace, and the helmet represents the war. It's like where we are right now. There's a lot of war, that people can't necessarily explain. The economy sucks, girls are still beautiful. We wanted to make music that reflected that. So people can look back twenty years from now, and say 'this is what was going on'". They then announced in the interview that the next two singles would be "I've Seen the Light" and "Hypnotize U". Pharrell described "Hypnotize U" as being "so different from the rest of the album", stating he was "very pleased because it serves a different purpose" in the album. On October 17, 2010, the standard edition and the deluxe edition of the album became available for pre-order on iTunes. Nothing debuted at number twenty one on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 20,000 copies.
The albums concept was to create a time capsule about America's divisions, "so that ten years from now people remember that era." Sonically the album was inspired by the late 60's and early 70's psychedelic pop.
Pharrell explained: "I just wanted to make some good music that would affect people in a good way." Williams says it wasn't easy. N*E*R*D worked on "a previous body of work which was really good, but it wasn't timeless to me. I didn't feel like we were pushing ourselves as much as we could. We needed to perfect the sound, so we kept pushing the date back until it was right." The result includes "a lot of vintage sounds...The album is very '68-'72, '73, America meets Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Moody Blues."
Nothing received mixed to positive reviews from most music critics.
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES
In 2013, Pharrell confirmed a N.E.R.D album was in progress, but also mentioned that the album would not be released that year due to the projects he was working on with other artists. He has also said the album will be "nature-based". The group reunited on December 26, 2014, to release the songs "Squeeze Me," "Patrick Star," and "Sandy Squirrel" for the film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
On February 6, 2017, during an interview with BBC Radio 1, Pharrell stated that "it's feeling really good, really special" about the group's return.
In October 2017, the album was teased after posters were popping up on the side of streets, and by concertgoers at the 2017 Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.
It was preceded by three singles; "Lemon" with Rihanna, "1000" with Future, and "Don't Don't Do It!" with Kendrick Lamar.
The album was debuted with a live listening party during the first day at ComplexCon, thus revealing the tracklist. Pharrell revealed the album's cover art and release date via Instagram and Twitter on November 22, 2017.
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES was released on December 15, 2017 through I Am Other and Columbia Records. It features guest appearances from Rihanna, André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., Gucci Mane, Wale, Future and Ed Sheeran among others. The album presented a radical change in sound compared to Nothing, heavily influenced by 80's New Wave and Post-Punk.
“Mr. Williams had been listening to the nervy jangle of post-punk and avant-punk: Gang of Four, Suicide, Devo, Talking Heads,” the Times reported in a December profile. “Once I identified all my pieces,” Williams said, “I was like, ‘Yo, I don’t want to make any more linear songs.’ ” N.E.R.D’s fifth album, “NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES,” released in December, delights in the aimless, anything-plays spirit of post-punk and New Wave—an era that Pharrell, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley watched firsthand as students of nineteen-eighties MTV."
To make sense of “NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES,” it helps to spend time with the cartoonish yelps of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh on “Uncontrollable Urge” or David Byrne on “Life During Wartime.” Those front men both shout-sing somewhere higher than mid-range; Byrne has mentioned that, on “Once in a Lifetime,” he evoked the quivering timbre of a southern evangelical preacher whom he’d taped off of local radio. Fans are used to Pharrell’s many voices: the falsetto made famous on “Frontin’,” the breezy and conversational way that he rapped on “Mr. Me Too,” even the showman croon on “Happy.” But this latest voice, on such tracks as “Rollinem 7’s” and “ESP,” searches for a slightly goofball tone that offsets stone-serious messages, like “What possessed the slave to look in the river / Then he saw his true master, fuck is a ‘mister’?” and “Detach yourself, repack yourself / Be back yourself, and dream as yourself.” Many music fans winced at the sight of the new album’s credits, worried that its several guest slots meant a muddy, scattered N.E.R.D. project, but the most unexpected voice on it belongs to Pharrell, who finds new angles for his instrument almost fifteen years in.
This shape-shifting extends to the album’s production, an unrelenting tangle of stuttering rhythms, tempo changes, bridges, and every other misdirection the band can jam in. “Lemon,” the opening track, is the most generous to pop form, and “Deep Down Body Thurst” takes traditional N.E.R.D. piano chords and lays them under new, challenging shapes. You can hear shades of the song’s stomping guitar in the English Beat’s “Mirror in the Bathroom,” itself a mutation of the ska sound that took hold in the U.K. “Don’t Don’t Do It!” pushes through its hook in the same fashion: while the verses are smooth and bluesy, the chorus bursts open in three steamy riffs. (“Don’t, don’t do it!” “They’re gonna do it anyway!” “They. Are. Go-nna. Do. It anyway!”) “Kites” is just as sprawling, bobbing between a double-time punk stomp and trunk-melting trap as Kendrick Lamar and M.I.A. vent about flying over borders and walls on both ends of the beat.
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES received positive reviews from music critics.