News / Arts & Entertainment

To Make a Hit, You've Got to Get Personal, says Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams poses during the opening of the exhibition "GIRL" at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris, France, May 26, 2014.
Pharrell Williams poses during the opening of the exhibition "GIRL" at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris, France, May 26, 2014.
Reuters
Pharrell Williams pauses, takes a breath and considers how the past year has unfolded for the R&B producer and singer: four Grammy Awards and three mega-hit singles including a song that has galvanized countless fans to express how they're “happy.”
 
And the key, says the 41-year-old known simply as Pharrell, in the midst of a career second act, has been tapping into audiences' thirst for sincerity and heartfelt personal stories.
 
“I think we've entered a new singer-songwriter era, regardless of the genre or music,” said Pharrell, who produced and performed on Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines,” the raunchy R&B hit that was last year's top song across the U.S. Billboard music charts.
 
“People want a story. They want a story they can connect to,” he said while promoting a concert this week from New York's Apollo Theater, which was live streamed and directed by Spike Lee as part of American Express' “Unstaged” series.
 
“It's not about what you have or what you don't have, it's more about your journey and your perspective that's important to people,” the musician told Reuters.
 
Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2014.Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2014.
x
Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2014.
Pharrell Williams performs his hit song "Happy" at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2014.

Pharrell said he noticed a shift in audiences' tastes over the past year in particular with the runaway success of “Happy,” his up-tempo song from the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack that received little fanfare upon its release but has turned into an international viral hit.
 
Countless videos populate sites like YouTube with people from Portugal and Macau to Abu Dhabi and Iran singing and dancing along to the song with the exuberant chorus that declares, “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof ... clap along if you know what happiness is to you.”
 
After seeing how far his song traveled, the singer broke down in tears during a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey.
 
“It isn't how great the execution is, it's the level of intention, it's the level of connotation that you put behind it,” Pharrell said.
 
“It's just encouraging to people who have something to say, something to express,” he added.
 
Pharrell has cemented himself as a master collaborator who was behind hits with rappers Snoop Dogg and Jay Z a decade ago, as well as with his own hip-hop band N*E*R*D.
 
This year, he won the Grammy award for best non-classical producer for his work with Thicke and French electronic music duo Daft Punk on their album “Random Access Memories.”
 
The success over the past year has demonstrated to Pharrell that people are searching for personal and emotional links, perhaps as an antidote to reliance on mobile devices in the virtual age, he said.
 
“People want to feel. They're over-inundated with thinking,” the singer said.
 
“We're a different species we were 15 years ago,” he added. “The only thing we have left that reminds us that we are humans that cannot be duplicated is feeling. It's the most important thing ever.”

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."