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March 7, 2014

Pharrell Williams is ‘Happy’

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Written by: Sylvester Cosby
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Singer-Rapper-Producer Pharrell Williams is one busy man. In 2013 he help create two of the year’s biggest pop hits – “Blurred Lines” for singer Robin Thicke and “Get Lucky” for French Electronic duo Dadt Punk, which won the “Record of the Year.

Williams has been in even higher demand lately, thanks in large part to his first Oscar nomination. “Happy” from the hit animated movie “Despicable Me 2”. “Happy” was up for original song at the Academy Awards but did not win at the recent Academy Awards held March 2nd in Los Angeles, CA.

“Happy” a cheery gospel-funk number Williams said is modeled after Curtis Mayfield, serves in the animated movie as a means of humanizing Gru, the grumpy villain voiced by Steve Carell. But the song has also had great record sales as a stand-alone single, racking up more than 75 million streams on YouTube and an additional 45 million on Spotify. It charted on top of iTunes and No. 2 on Billboards Hot 100. There’s an infectious quality to “Happy” that just resonates. He describes “Happy” as a team effort between him and the “Despicable Me” crew.

Williams is also working on music for this spring’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and he’s supervising the final mixes for his upcoming solo project G I R L. Columbia Records plans to release the project March 3, the day after the Oscars. Williams is so busy that he says he’s happy about these days is getting some sleep. The Oscar nomination couldn’t have come at a better time, Williams seems to be using the song’s awards-season buzz to propel his latest crack at a solo career.

Career

The 40-year-old Williams help change the face of pop music during the late ’90s and early 2000s. He’s that charismatic star who often steals the show when producing and/or guesting on other artists’ hit singles. His presence is unfading, whether he was in front of a music video or behind a beat. To trace the beginning of his ascent, you have to go back to 1992, when Teddy Riley tapped him to write a verse for Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.”

He is also one half of the production duo The Neptunes, with Chad Hugo, and he has produced music for a range of well known Pop, Hip-Hop and R&B artists. As well as his production talents, Pharrell is also the lead singer and drummer of the funk-rock band, N*E*R*D.

In 2001 he attained world wide recognition producing Britney Spears’ single, “I’m a Slave 4 U”. It became a world-wide #1 hit and catapulted the group and their production skills into the lime light. As the duo took on more work, Williams’ voice became increasingly familiar. He was now more likely to provide the chorus and the background vocals of the same song, in addition to appearing in the video. (Hear/see Jay-Z’s “Excuse Me Miss” and Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” for two examples.)

In 2002, N*E*R*D released their first album- In Search Of… to critical acclaim. In 2003, as The Neptunes, Pharrell went onto release The Neptunes Present…Clones, featuring songs and remixes from various artists. This album topped the US Billboard 200 Albums Chart. In 2004, he would release a second album as N*E*R*D called Fly or Die. In 2007, he wrote and produced “Why Should I Be Sad” on Britney Spears’ latest album Blackout. He also produced two songs for The Hives latest record, The Black and White Album. In April of 2008, Madonna released her album, Hard Candy, which features production by The Neptunes on seven of the twelve tracks.

In June 2008, Seeing Sounds would be released as the third studio album from N*E*R*D.

Since then he’s continued to collaborate with Hugo (in both the Neptunes and their psychedelic rap-rock band N.E.R.D.), yet Williams has also become increasingly visible on his own: as a songwriter and producer, an Internet entrepreneur, a designer of clothing and luxury items.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2003 that he truly stepped out on his own.

He released his first solo single, “Frontin’.” Produced with Hugo and featuring a guest verse from Jay-Z, the song built anticipation for The Neptunes Present –  Clones, a compilation of all-new tracks from artists produced by the duo. “Frontin’” was a ubiquitous summer hit and kept Williams’ momentum running up to the release of Hugo and Williams’ second funk/rock-oriented N.E.R.D. album, released in March 2004.

Williams’ first solo album, In My Mind, survived a number of delays and was finally issued in July 2006. The uneven set, produced by Williams alone, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart.

Although Williams didn’t release another solo album for eight years, he had more commercially successful collaborations with the likes of Clipse, Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Solange, and Madonna. There was a handful of Grammy nominations, as well as a surprising 2007 win for Ludacris’ “Money Maker” in the Best Rap Song category. N.E.R.D., who released their third album, Seeing Sounds, in 2008.

The following decade began with a steady stream of activity. Williams was responsible for much of the music for the animated comedy Despicable Me. Along with outside production and songwriting work, Williams and Hugo put together Nothing, the fourth N.E.R.D. album. During 2011 and 2012, Williams produced most of Gloria Estefan’s Miss Little Havana, dozens of cuts for R&B, rap, and pop artists, and tracks for two of the most praised albums of the early 2010s: Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. Williams won a Grammy for his role in the latter.

2014 Awards

The soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 contained several Williams songs, led by “Happy,” for which he conceived a 24-hour music video. When the nominees for the 2014 Grammy Awards were announced, Williams’ name appeared in seven categories. “Get Lucky” won Record of the Year, Random Access Memories won Album of the Year, and, most notably, Williams won the award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.

“Happy” faces stiff competition at the Oscars from “Let It Go,” the sweeping ballad sung by Idina Menzel in Disney’s smash “Frozen,” and “Ordinary Love,” the feel-good U2 song from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” that last month won a Golden Globe.

A few weeks ago he sang “Happy” at the NBA All-Star Game, and at the BRIT Awards in London — each appearance a valuable opportunity for exposure before final Oscar ballots are determined. He’ll perform “Happy” on the Academy Awards telecast.

“This is probably the most I’ve ever been humbled in my entire life,” Williams said of the song and the reaction to it, “because it’s something bigger than me, bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”

G I R L

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As Pharrell prepares to release his second studio LP, G I R L, he revealed the provocative and interesting looking title was created to send a direct message to audiences.

“The reason why I named it G I R L in capital letters is because when you look at it, it looks a little weird,” Pharrell told BBC Radio 1.

“And the reason why it does is because society is a little unbalanced.”

He believes women should be celebrated, and he does just that in his songs on G I R L. “Women have been so good to me over this entire career and they’ve done so much for my family,” Pharrell explained.

“Everything I’ve ever gotten is because they’ve paid for [it], so they’re, like, my bosses — indirectly and directly — you guys are like my bosses. So for me, I wanted to analyze that for a second.” The imbalance Pharrell explores on this record seems to allude to gender inequality.

The Grammy-winning singer believes women are integral to life itself, as birth is simply an incredible inevitable that all persons experience.

“We need them,” Pharrell said, referring to women.

“Every human being has come through those silver-lined doors.”

However, a cadre of music journalists for the European media had the opportunity to get a first listen to the album on Feb. 20 and the accolades have already begun rolling in.

But according to early reviews, G I R L is Pharrell’s attempt to set the record straight on what his views on the opposite sex actually are. Pharrell admitted that he needed to clarify himself in the wake of the “Blurred Lines” controversy, because with the song’s “questionable lyrics, and the nature of the aesthetic of the video, it’s easy to get confused about that.”



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Sylvester Cosby