TRANSFORMATION TUESDAY: PHARRELL WILLIAMS

March 12, 2014
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Let’s be honest, the biggest transformation we have seen from Pharrell Williams over the years has been his recent choice in hats. Other than that, things look remarkably similar (I mean, really. This guy is 40 years old and still looks 28).  It’s hard to find a place in his history where he strayed too far from his steady path. His artistic vision and signature sound has carried him far.

Ever since Pharrell met Chad Hugo at seventh-grade summer band camp, his career has been exemplary. Calling themselves The Neptunes, the two formed an “R&B type” group with their friends Shay Hayley and Mike Etheridge in the 90s, and were soon after discovered by Teddy Riley. Later on, Pharrell and Chad became known as a producing duo under their same group name, The Neptunes. A mutual friend introduced Pharrell to Kelis in 1999, and their collaboration resulted in their producing her debut album “Kaleidoscope”.  They duo went on to produce hits like Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body,” and Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U” became their first worldwide No. 1.

In 2001, the group N.E.R.D. (previously called The Neptunes and also including Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge) released an album “In Search Of…” in Europe since Kelis’ album was better received there. They found that their music sounded a lot like their produced work, so they decided that N.E.R.D. would have to become a distinctive sound on its own. They then re-recorded the album with an added rock element from the band Spymob.

The Neptunes went on to collaborate with and produce tracks for Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Madonna, Usher, Miley Cyrus, Frank Ocean…

You get the picture; everybody wants some of that “I’m a hustler baby” sound on their album.

In 2002, The Neptunes won the award for Producers of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards and The Source Awards, furthering the demand for The Neptunes’ creative genius.

Then, in 2003 Pharrell finally released his first solo track, “Frontin’” in which he debuted his signature falsetto and fun wordplay.

 

Though his work as a solo artist is not nearly as extensive as his producing credits, Pharrell released the follow-up to his 2003 debut solo album “In My Mind” with “G I R L” last week on March 3rd. The album’s first single is the recent hit “Happy,” which is for the animated film Despicable Me 2. The song has been positively received outside of the film arena, and currently gets ample radio play.

 

Among his most recent successes are helping create two of the biggest pop songs of 2013, “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, being nominated for seven Grammy awards, and receiving his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (“Happy”).

 

In an interview with the LA Times, Pharrell expressed his gratitude for his new song’s success. “This is probably the most I’ve ever been humbled in my entire life,” said the artist of the reaction to the song, “because it’s something bigger than me, bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”

 

Considering the fact that he has many huge successes, that’s a cumbersome statement. Just to one-up the entire music industry once again, Pharrell made the “Happy” music video an epic 24-hours long! It is the first music video in history of such tremendous length. Guest appearances in the video include Steve Carell, Magic Johnson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monáe, and more.

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Before “G I R L” was released, Pharrell answered questions about his sophomore album.

“The criteria was that I wanted it to feel festive and celebratory.” Indeed, those qualities are achieved on “Happy,” Beyonce’s recent “Blow”, and Miley Cyrus’ “#GetitRight”, which Pharrell had his hand in creating as well.

While he may not have gone through a dramatic transformation over time, he’s a creative chameleon on a day-to-day basis. During the course of any given 24 hours, Pharrell Williams has likely transformed from a singer-songwriter into a rapper, record producer, musician, skateboarder, father, or husband. He is also a fashion designer, co-founder of the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear, and co-designer of a series of glasses (Blason) for Louis Vuitton.

The reason so many people can vibe with Pharrell is that he’s so damn eclectic. You just can’t put this guy in a box. Luckily, you don’t need to. Since his beginnings he has been carving out his own unique — and integral — place in the music industry, and working with basically every key player in modern Hip Hop, R&B, Pop & Rock. The result? Pharrell’s portfolio is impressive and agreeable to the masses.

This week’s Transformation Tuesday post isn’t so much a transformation as it is a commemoration of how Pharrell Williams has stayed true to his artistic style throughout his many prolific years in the music business, and has influenced artists and music  through a multitude of avenues.

What’s your favorite Pharrell-influenced song? Tweet us @weknowtheDJ!

~ Jenni M. (@JenniferKayMo)

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