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CD Review: N.E.R.D.

Nothing (Star Trak, LLC)

On their fourth album, N.E.R.D. replace most of the rock elements found on their earlier records with more cohesive R&B sounds. It gives them a sturdier base for more experimental tracks and helps cover up the trio's occasional lyrical and vocal weaknesses. But Nothing isn't a boundary-redefining revolution, just a clever collection of poppy R&B music that offers a few pleasant surprises. "Help Me" starts off as an unassuming ballad before an unexpected and dazzling blast of horns sends things into the stratosphere, reframing the song's entire perspective by adding tension to everything that follows. And even though Pharrell and crew do a passable Gorillaz imitation with distorted keyboards in "God Bless Us All," Nothing is more at home on the dance floor. N.E.R.D. channel De La Soul's deadpan raps in "Hot and Fun" and clearly want to be starting something with "Party People," which borrows its horns from Michael Jackson. Matthew Wilkening

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