Pharrell Williams has been a key artist in terms of my discussions with Henrique Hopkins about turn of the millennium funk. As a producer perhaps more so than a performer, Pharrell has spun his musical straw into gold many times for a diverse range of artists from pop to hip-hop. Both as half of the duo The Neptunes and on his own. His 2014 song “Happy” not only became an internet/YouTube sensation,but raised the bar for modern day jazzy/funky songs with a humanitarian lyrical message. Perhaps because of a lawsuit leveled upon him over another of his productions around the same time,it seemed as if this might be more of a one shot than the revival of a new funk movement.
It’s wonderful to be able to say now that my theory might very well have been wrong. While continuing his productions for other artists,which included comebacks from Sean “Diddy” Combs and Missy Elliot, Pharrell released a brand new single of his own in the summer of 2015. The name of the song is called “Freedom”. A portion of the song became looped as a back round soundtrack for Pharrell’s Twitter page and he even performed the song on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. As an entity,this song is very strongly associated with the internet stateside.In terms of the music and it’s message,the song has a whole other association entirely.
A chorus of women singing “la,la,la,la” to the songs main melody opens the song. This is directly followed by a piano playing the same melody as it does through the remainder of the song. This piano is backed up by a breathy,ethereal synthesizer. On the next part of the song,this same melodic piano is accompanied by a jazzy,steady swinging drum rhythm that’s accompanied by steady hand claps. The main chorus of the song finds Pharrell shouting the songs title in a highly soulful style with a chugging,drum like rhythm guitar beefing up the instrumental sound. This entire refrain/choral pattern is repeat one more time until the song comes to a fast halt.
Musically speaking,this song picks up where “Happy” left off. It’s rhythmic piano based sound evokes the 60’s soul/jazz flavor in the same way. Melodically it’s somewhat more gospel inflected in tone. When it comes to the lyricism of the song, it’s the literal flip side of that song. Pharrell’s use of the term freedom,both in words and as a visual element in the accompanying music video,represents the idea as the driving force of everything on Earth that grows and lives. With so many powerful people touting freedom as motivation to destroy and annihilate,this song showcases it as an idea that can allow positive actions and ideas. So again Pharrell is reaching out to our deepest,funky emotions.