By Scott T. Sterling
One of the most ubiquitous songs of 2014 almost didn’t happen.
The way Pharrell Williams describes the creation of his worldwide hit, “Happy,” it was the result of much pressure from Universal Pictures to write the perfect song to soundtrack a particularly memorable moment in the animated movie, Despicable Me 2.
“The creation of the song was fun, but it was the tenth song after nine songs didn’t work for what the movie company described as a pivotal moment in the film,” Williams admitted during a backstage interview at this year’s We Can Survive concert in Los Angeles. “So I was blessed in the sense that I was pushed to continue to create to get the song. That was great, but what I think what took us all by storm is the amount of dedication that we put into the video, and just being ambitious and proud to be ambitious. It’s just been wonderful to see how the universe has rewarded us, my whole entire team. I’m surrounded by greatness.”
The track’s stratospheric success is undeniable. “Happy” transcended the realm of music to take on an even bigger form in the pop culture landscape. From a wide range of parodies (including one from the master himself, Weird Al Yankovic) to the track being used as a protest song around the globe, it has left an indelible mark on the pop culture canon, which is not lost on Williams. Although for him, it’s the world’s response that he finds the most humbling.
“It’s essentially changed my life and changed the tune of how I look at things, my perspective,” he says. “The ‘Happy’ song has done a lot for me, but I think that beyond the song, because if you look at the views and look at the sales, none of that is me. So I think if anything has changed me, it’s been humanity. They’ve shown me so much. There’s so much more we can do when we’re writing songs from the purest place. You never know where it’s going to end up. None of us forecast this. We just thought, ‘Oh, we get to do a song with major chords in the verses and minor chords in the chorus. Me and my wife, we were just jumping around because I got that song in that film. We didn’t think it was going to turn into this.”
Already nominated for an Academy Award 2014 in the Best Original Song category (the award went to “Let it Go” from Frozen), Williams feels that the success of “Happy” transcends sales numbers and charts positions to represent something much more profound.
“I’m forever grateful to humanity because I know what they’ve done for me,” is how he sums up the personal impact of the tune. “There’s a lot of people who write songs that they think are great, but they don’t get a tenth of what I’ve been able to experience. So I think ‘Happy’ the song has done a lot, but I think humanity has done way more for me.”
Pharrell’s “Happy” is up for multiple awards, including Best Pop Solo Performance at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards, airing February 8 at 8 pm EST on CBS.
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