The Many Faces of Pharrell Williams
What a year it’s been for Pharrell. As well as his contributions to one of last year’s biggest records, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, he’s penned three songs for the soundtrack to Despicable Me 2, released the world’s first 24 hour video, appeared with Robin Thicke on ‘Blurred Lines’ and he’s even featuring on Major Lazer’s upcoming EP, Apocalypse Soon, not to mention bagging a ‘Producer of the Year’ gong at the BET Awards and jamming with Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder at the Grammys. For most people, that would be enough. But then Pharrell isn’t most people…
So, apparently still not satisfied with his output over the last 12 months, next week he’s releasing G I R L, his second solo studio album. So what’s it like?
Well, for starters there are some stellar collaborators including Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and, of course, Daft Punk, with the robots providing some vocoder-style backing vocals on one of the album’s highlights, ‘Gust of Wind’, which also features Francesco providing some suitably Nile Rodgers-esque guitar chops. The album kicks off with ‘Marilyn Monroe’, ushered in by a lush string arrangement courtesy of none other than legendary composer Hans Zimmer, who also provides the string arrangements on the rest of the album. This is followed by ‘Brand New’, featuring Timberlake and bursting with beatboxing, more funky guitars and horns. Other highlights include the single ‘Happy’, taken from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, the bluesy ‘Hunter’ and the Alicia Keys collaboration ‘I Know Who You Are’.
Overall it’s upbeat, smooth & sexy and in places feels like what could have been a Michael Jackson record, especially on the opening track and the falsetto-drenched ‘Brand New’.
It’s hard to believe this is only the second time in a long and varied career that Pharrell has found the time to release a solo record, but after a couple of relatively quiet years by his standards, he’s come back with a belter.
So why the long wait since 2006’s In My Mind? Well, he’s a busy boy, wearing any number of hats: producer, vocalist, businessman, fashion designer…oh and let’s not forget that Vivienne Westwood buffalo hat. Below we take a look at the many faces of Pharrell Williams…
Pharrell The Drummer
Back in the early days, when he first met Neptunes partner Chad Hugo, the two were playing in bands at summer camp, with Hugo on tenor sax and Pharrell on drums. Then came the formation of N*E*R*D*, with Hugo and their pal Shay Haley, for whom Pharrell contributes drums as well as vocals. He’s pretty handy with those drum sticks too…
Pharrell The Producer
There was a period during the late 1990s / early 2000s where you could barely turn on a radio or TV without hearing a track The Neptunes had worked on. Undoubtedly the hottest production team around at that time, Pharrell and Chad were responsible for dozens of hits from a long list of artists that includes Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Mariah Carey. Phew…
Pharrell The Vocalist
As well as providing vocal duties for N*E*R*D*, Pharrell has featured as a guest vocalist for artists as diverse as Kendrick Lamar, Robin Thicke and of course Daft Punk, with the man in the buffalo hat channelling MJ on last year’s most ubiquitous single.
Pharrell The Fashon Mogul
The man some call ‘Skateboard P.’ has co-founded a clothing line called Billionaire Boys Club, as well as a footwear line named Ice Cream, with a boutique on New York’s famed Broadway. As if that wasn’t enough he has also designed jewelry and glasses for Louis Vuitton and even furniture for French manufacturer Domeau & Peres.
Pharrell The Businessman
In addition to his clothing businesses, Pharrell is creative director of KarmaloopTV and has founded a YouTube channel named i am OTHER as part of their $100million dollar initiative.
Pharrell The Geek
In spite of his super-cool demeanour, Pharrell is actually a huge fan of Star Trek, to the extent that he named his record label Star Trak entertainment and daubed their first compilation 'The Neptunes Presents… Clones'. He even conducted a lengthy interview with Star Trek star Leonary Nimoy for his for YouTube series ARTST TLK last summer. Who knows what he thought of Star Trek: Into Darkness though…
And finally… Pharrell The Sculptor?
Yep. In 2009 Pharrell collaborated with sculptor Takashi Murakami to create a sculpture for Switzerland’s Art Basel festival.
G I R L is available in hmv stores and to download from March 3rd