Pharrell Williams: From Behind The Scenes To The Forefront
You may have heard of this rising solo artist, Pharrell Williams from his smash single “Happy” that was released this past year and has flooded radios around the world with its catchy melody, simplistic lyrics and positive message. What you may not know is Pharrell’s history in the music business.
Pharrell Williams was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He took an interest in music at a very young age. He was encouraged to pursue music by his grandma he says in an interview with CBS Sunday morning correspondent, Anthony Mason and never looked back.
Williams met his first music partner, Chad Hugo when he was in the seventh grade at a band summer camp. In the 90’s the two formed a four-piece R&B group called “The Neptunes” with other local talent, Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge. The four played at a high school talent show when Teddy Riley discovered them.
He has written and produced songs with Justin Timberlake for the hot album, Justified, worked with Hip Hop artists like Nelly on songs like “Its Getting Hot In Here” and songs with Snoop Dog like “Drop It Like Its Hot”. But it was the early 2000’s when “The Neptunes” produced their hit “I’m a Slave 4 U” for Britney Spears, it was their first worldwide number one hit and helped them grow their vast fan base.
Although Williams has had his share of wins he has also had his share of losses, big losses. His solo album “In My Mind” in 2006 was a train wreck only reaching number 48 on the charts. He attributes the failure to his big ego at the time. Most artists would fall off at this point but for Pharrell this was just the beginning. You have to have a certain drive, desire if you will, to succeed to do what he has done. This has also helped him stand out from his competition.
The combination of his drive and creative thinking helped him launch his new single “Happy” which is a worldwide sensation. The song was first released in a movie called “Despicable Me 2”. The song was given to radio but was turned down due to its lack of 808 drums and side chain compression every other pop song has today. Miraculously “Happy” started to pick up in other countries around the world and eventually led Pharrell’s single and album number 1 in 60 countries on iTunes.
Starting off as a drummer/musician/producer Pharrell’s initial goals were to produce for Pop, Hip Hop and R&B artist with his group The Neptunes. I’m sure he never imagined his life taking such a turn. His vision and plan have changed, as you can see he went from being in the background of the industry to a very successful front man. There are very few people who have done this and even fewer who have done it successfully.
Besides working on his music Pharrell has also dipped his creativity into fashion working with Louis Vuitton and creating two clothing lines (Billionaire boys club, Ice Cream Footwear). Some future projects he has been working on are the soundtrack for “The Amazing Spiderman 2” and has also recently has announced his partnership with Adidas. He also recently started a YouTube channel called i.am.Other, which he describes as ” a cultural movement dedicated to Thinkers, Innovators and Outcasts.”
He also has the edge over his competition because unlike his competitors, Pharrell is constantly moving through different genres and creating new sounds. Most producers would stick to the genre they know and have been successful with. Pharrell has managed to maneuver his way through the music industry with versatility, tapping into genres like Rock, R&B, Hip Hop and Pop to create his own sound.
As a fan that has listened to his all of music and I can honestly believe that the best is yet to come.
Zach Matari ’16