make a hit, you've got to get personal, says Pharrell Williams
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[June 04, 2014]
By Eric Kelsey
ANGELES (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
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
"People want a story. They want a story they can connect to," he
said while promoting his Tuesday concert from New York's Apollo
Theater, which will be 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 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.
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"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
"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
The concert will be streamed at amexunstaged.com.
(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Marguerita Choy)
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