Pharrell Williams - "Happy"

Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pharrell Williams - "Happy". Courtesy Back Lot

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Written by Pharrell Williams

Produced by Pharrell Williams

Released November 2013 by Back Lot Music

Pros

  • Irresistibly upbeat tone
  • Retro soul roots
  • Handclapping break

Cons

  • No serious negatives here.

Review

How do you cap a year in which you co-wrote and appeared on two of the biggest hit singles of the year, both nominees for the Record of the Year Grammy Award, and walked away with the Grammy Award for Non-Classical Producer Of the Year?

 If you are Pharrell Williams, with a little assistance from TV commercials, you ride to the upper reaches of the pop charts with your biggest solo hit in a decade.  "Happy" has already reached #1 on the pop singles chart in at least a dozen different countries including the UK, France, and Germany.  Now, with an appearance in commercials for Beats By Dre, "Happy" is swiftly climbing the charts in the US.  An Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song From a Motion Picture only boosts the song's credibility in circles outside of the pop mainstream.

In 2010 Pharrell Williams wrote, produced and performed new songs for the soundtrack to the animated film Despicable Me.  He also co-wrote the score with Brazilian musician Heitor Pereira.  The film was a hit and when a sequel was planned, the producers came calling to Pharrell Williams again.  He wrote multiple new songs and "Happy" is one of those.

 The soundtrack to Despicable Me 2 was released in June of 2013, but "Happy" was not promoted as a single until last fall.

From the opening bass and drum interplay this song sounds...well...."Happy."  Lyrically, Pharrell Williams dares anyone to bring him down because he is "Happy."  The chorus encouraging clapping along is instantly infectious.

 A spare production is augmented by retro soul backup vocals that help give the song a cool groove that segues seamlessly into a handclapping breakdown backed with soulful chants of "happy" that is one of the most joyful moments of a young new year in pop music.

More than ten years ago in 2003 Pharrell Williams rode into the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 with his debut solo single "Frontin'" featuring Jay-Z. At that point in time he insisted he was a producer only and this was a one off single as a solo artist.  However, following significant success as a producer and with his partner in the Neptunes Chad Hugo, a decision was made to pursue solo work.  The result was the 2006 album .  It received mixed reviews and was a commercial disappointment although it earned a Grammy Award nomination for Rap Album of the year.  Seemingly stung by the lack of success as a solo artist, Pharrell Williams continued to work but maintained a lower profile for a number of years.  However, as the voice and co-writer of Daft Punk's massive pop breakthrough with "Get Lucky" and the producer as well as a featured artist on Robin Thicke's #1 smash "Blurred Lines," 2013 became the biggest year of Pharrell Williams' career so far.

"Happy" will please a wide range of pop music fans, and it is likely to move into the pop top 10 for a long stay.  There is even potential to be the first #1 solo pop hit of Pharrell Williams' career.  Fans and the music industry alike will be keeping a close watch on what he does for an encore. 

Legacy

"Happy" hit #1 on the US pop chart in March 2014. It spent ten weeks at the top and 22 weeks in the top 10 becoming the biggest hit of the year. "Happy" sold nearly 6.5 million copies in the US alone. It also hit #1 on the pop singles chart in 22 other countries. 

Pharrell Williams created an unprecedented 24 hour music video to promote "Happy." Many celebrities appear in cameos during the 360 four-minute repetitions of the song. Among them are Steve Carell, Jamie Foxx, Magic Johnson and Kelly Osbourne.

The official four minute edit of the music video won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video. A live recording of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance.

"Happy" helped Pharrell Williams' album reach #2 on the album chart when released in March 2014. It ultimately sold over 500,000 copies to earn a gold certification for sales.