It would seem that during 2013,with his involvement in the major hit records of Justin Timberlake,Daft Punk and Robin Thicke,that Pharrell Williams was suddenly everywhere. He is by no means an unknown to the world. Much as with Quincy Jones before him,Pharrell represents a strong symbol of the music producer-as-artist-someone who both maintains a musical stamp all his own yet is able to adapt his sound,along with that of his partnership team The Neptunes to suit the musical flavors everyone from Brittney Spears to Nelly. Earlier this year Pharrell released a single from his then forthcoming album GIRL entitled “Happy”. At first it didn’t have much success. Finally it began to take off in Europe when a music video was released and then its appearance in the Pixar film Despicable Me 2. Instead of our usual duel song format,Henrique and myself have decided to do a two part special presentation this week. That is due to the suddenly evident importance of this song.
Musically the song kicks into gear with a count down of sorts,using a repeating electric piano chord five times before the a sturdy rock ‘n soul style drum comes in,accompanied by a bluesy electric piano and Pharrell’s smoothly soulful voice declaring “It might seem crazy what I’m about to say”-dipping in and out of his sleek falsetto into his high tenor with great ease. Throughout the song Pharrell describes the emotion of happiness not as a theoretical concept,but as a living entity that has a physical nature he describes as “sunshine,she’s here”-the sun often being a revered symbol for a regal type of joy. On the chorus of asking “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth”,clapping does ensue before a second verse-fading out with the same clapping refrain that began this song to start with.
Instrumentally this song has much of the melodically upbeat and sophisticated atmosphere of 60’s Motown while the stripped down and bluesy funk style of instrumentation also calls to mind both the Muscle Shoals sound of that era as well as the jazz-funk of early 70’s Crusaders. What is most impressive is the nature of this songs massive cultural impact. While trendy songs and dances have always come and gone in the past,even ones that had a message to them,its been a very long time since a song that represented funk and soul’s musically meaningful and sophisticated nature has been such a positive source of inspiration in the post internet world community. This week even Pharrell himself has said to have been moved to tears by seeing many people creating videos of their own to his song-in particular a video created by those of the Muslim faith.
Having lived through almost half of the life cycle of Generation X,Pharell himself has seen many people (in particular in the black community) lose hope and fall into a never never land of hopelessness,despair,cynicism and lack of interest in getting involved. Having seen Pharell interviewed several times myself recently? He is a musically and sociologically grounded man who understands exactly what he is doing. Part of that sight is of a world where a black man in particular seems to have to be edgy and angry to make any sort of difference. Knowing from second hand experience with producing other artists that those conditions tend to feed back on themselves with time? Pharrell declares in this song that he is assuming a quality of happiness-that despite such negative conditions slowly improving around him that he can harness that inner assumption of joy within him to instill those feelings in others. After all,what is more satisfying than feeling genuinely hopeful and optimistic? That’s part of what people need to make conditions in the world better. And Pharell’s song “Happy” appears to be effecting that kind of change in many different people-including myself and my family. I thank Pharrell for his message of goodwill to music lovers everywhere,and hope people continue to heed and take creative inspiration from his vision!