Pharrell Williams is a Genius, But Let’s Not Call Him That

It was Day Two at Made in America. The rain started to fall from the sky, it had been moody all day. The air was humid, and the crowd was slightly thinner than it was the day before. Spoon had to skip off the stage, but when they returned, there were murmurs that Pharrell was going to bail on his set. He was scheduled to perform after them. Who knows how true his indecision might have been, if it existed at all, but once he took the stage, the crowd was thrilled. Pharrell coursed through a versatile playlist, taking classics from Fly or Die and In Search Of…, his albums with N.E.R.D., his collaborative efforts with Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani, to selections from his new album Girl. The dedicated crowd was alive, soaked, and exuberant. He lifted their spirit with his Daft Punk collaborative Lose Yourself to Dance and Get Lucky, and Happy, the infectiously jubilant track from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, which he co-curated. All three were arguably songs of the summer, and with top billing Kings of Leon arousing the crowd to give it up for Pharrell’s performance and his impeccable number of hits, it’s hard not to wonder why Pharrell wasn’t a top name. Playing before Tiesto, and with Kanye West (whom Pharrell has worked with several times before) running the conclusion on Saturday, is Pharrell getting the respect he deserves?

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It probably doesn’t matter to Pharrell. Someone with such immense talent and success doesn’t need any sort of reaffirmation. The Virginia Beach native has come a long way from producing Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker “in 1992. His resume includes collaborations with Britney Spears, Kelis, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and even award-winning film composer Hans Zimmer. In the early 2000s, Pharrell consistently produced several top hits across several genres. While recently he may lack the number of chart toppers that he’s had in past years, he’s here to stay. He’s a youthful 41 years old, is still experimenting, and is prepped for his international Dear Girl Tour. But he isn’t being talked about. Not enough. Not nearly as much as his counterparts. He’s successfully been elusive while remaining artful, progressive, and relevant. Not many performing artists achieve this feat, particularly with the nature of the music business. It’s evolution has leaned more heavily on image and sensationalism, meanwhile Pharrell is still a highly sought out producer, and has been for twenty-two years now. His humility is apparent, and he’s never attracted negative attention from the media. MIA_ROP_DayTwo-40

So why isn’t Pharrell being called a genius? He certainly is. And he is a rarity in how anyone can adapt through such a rapidly changing ecology and still remain true to self. Pharrell is not quite the household name as Jay-Z, Shakira or Madonna, but he’s produced top hits with them. It must be because Pharrell isn’t parading around celebrating himself, at least not publicly, and must be personable considering he’s working with some many different kinds of people, and is able to bring out their best. After Made in America, Pharrell will remain outside of the limelight, and rightfully so. There’s no need for him to be there, and it’s what is best for him. The impact he’s had on the music industry doesn’t get the conversation it deserves. It’s because the impact is still resonating. And he doesn’t need to call himself anything, he only needs to continue to make great music.

Photos: Kyle V. Hiller

4 Comments

  1. Wakana

    September 5, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Awesome photos! Love Pharrell

  2. Lauren Silvestri

    September 6, 2014 at 12:14 am

    This article brings up a good point. I think Pharrell is in a great position because he gets to do what he loves and is very successful, but does not have to deal with most of the negative aspects of fame that his other contemporaries have to deal with.

  3. Devon O'Connor

    September 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I totally agree! I love Pharrell and all of his music, so it blows my mind that he isn’t bigger than he is. But it’s all the better for him – I just can’t wait to hear what he puts out next : )

  4. Pingback: “It Girl” Video Levels Up Pharrell’s Japanese Charm - Rock On Philly

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