Pop’s man of the moment Pharrell Williams lifts the lid on his recent astounding success.
He may have spent most of his career creating worldwide smash-hit singles for everyone from Britney to Jay Z (as half of production duo The Neptunes) and performing as one third of rock-inflected rap trio N.E.R.D, but last summer he went from being the thinking rapper’s producer of choice to the planet’s poster boy for fun times. His appearances on Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ defined the 2013 ‘summer of disco’, and those tracks became the go-to songs for DJs wanting to instantly whip a dance floor into a big, sweaty kingdom of joy. Now his own track ‘Happy’ has become the feelgood hit of the winter, too. We sit down with the man to talk about why he’s quite so jolly at this point.
Are you on a quest to bring joy to the world or what?
Is it that transparent? I had this personal mission to sneak some positive stuff into my music and see what I could get away with. I guess that’s obvious to everyone.
It is. But does the success of ‘Happy’ make you happy?
Seriously, I find myself trying to be cool about it, but I’m really like... whoa! I’ve always produced music for artists who are going through this level of success, but I just didn’t know it would be this crazy. I’m like a kid with a sweet tooth waking up in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Come on, it can’t be that alien to you. You’ve already got a shelf- load of Grammys to your name.
Look, as a producer, I’ve always been the guy standing next to the guy, and I was happy with that. But then the universe taps you on your shoulder and you realise that there’s more in store for you. It’s kind of like The Karate Kid. He thinks his exercises are just for washing cars – he doesn’t realise what he’s preparing himself for. I’ve spent 20 years preparing for this without even realising.
A lot of your recent success has been down to two songs: ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Blurred Lines’. Did you ever get sick of hearing them being played last summer?
No, I was just very thankful to all of the people voting, requesting, downloading, sharing and talking about those songs. I always think it’s really funny when a person claims to be the author of their own success. They think it’s all ‘I, I, I’. And when people don’t like them anymore, they get like, ‘my success was supposed to happen!’ No it wasn’t. You forgot who gave you success. The fans.
Is your new album also about having fun then?
Yes! When we were working on it, I kept asking, ‘does this feel celebratory and festive?’ My muse for it was women. I love them.
What, all of them?
Look, I love them, because I know their importance. If women wanted to shut down this country, economically, they could just not go to work and the world would just be finished. If they wanted to kill off our species, they’d just decide not to have babies. And there’s going to be a huge shift. There will be a time when women get paid as much as men. There will be a time when, like, 75 percent of our world leaders will be women. There will come a time. And I’m going to be on the right side of that shift.
Lastly, it seems like a lot of people are searching for ‘Is Pharrell Williams a vampire?’ on Google. Are you a vampire?
No I am not. I don’t drink people’s blood. How do I stay so young-looking for a 40-year-old? I wash my face.
Pharrell’s new single ‘Happy’ is available to download from www.apple.com/itunes.