Pharrell Williams has defended the cover of his new album 'G I R L' after it sparked racial controversy.

The 'Happy' hitmaker received criticism for the artwork, which features him stood next to three women, because critics assumed they were all white and thought he should have included a black woman on the cover.

He told radio station Power 105.1: ''What really disappointed me is that, man, [the critics] jumped the gun 'cause the woman I'm standing closest to is black and she's a black girl from Wisconsin I used to date over 10, 12 years ago.

''That must suck for people to just look at something and assume they know what's going on...''

The 40-year-old singer, who is now married to Helen Lasichanh, also praised black women, in particular '12 Years a Slave' star Lupita Nyong'o.

He gushed: ''I told her two weeks ago at the Oscars luncheon her skin was flawless, I love her skin, my god.''

Pharrell insists if people listen to his new album, which is released on March 4, they will realise it's an ''ode to women''.

He said: ''The one thing I'm trying to help and change is that crazy standard that you have to be white, wafer thin for you to be beautiful,'' adding: ''They just reported I'm the first black person to go number one on pop radio since Rihanna, but then you're gonna shoot at me. ''My mom is a black woman, my business is run by a another black women and I'm married to a black woman, what are you talking about?''