Top 10 Pharrell Williams Songs, Artist and Producer
Pharrell Williams is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer. He is one half of the production duo the Neptunes with Chad Hugo. The pair created the band N*E*R*D with their friend Shay Haley, and it features Pharrell Williams as lead vocalist. Williams is the winner of 10 Grammy Awards and received a 2014 Best Original Song Academy Award nomination for “Happy.” These are 10 of his best songs as artist and producer.
1. Pharrell Williams – “Happy” (2013)
Written by Pharrell Williams
Produced by Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams wrote songs included on the soundtracks for both animated films Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. He originally wrote “Happy” for Cee-Lo Green and likes the Cee-Lo recording better than his own. However, Green’s label Elektra elected to cancel the release of the recording so that it didn’t compete with Cee-Lo Green’s Christmas album Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment.
“Happy” from the second film touched a chord in listeners and turned into Pharrell Williams’ first #1 pop hit in the US as the lead artist. It earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and a live recording of “Happy” won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance. “Happy” is included on Pharrell Williams’ second solo album Girl. “Happy” spent 10 weeks at #1 in the U.S. and four weeks at the top in the U.K. It was also a success across other charts reaching #1 at both adult pop and adult contemporary radio. “Happy” reached #14 on the dance club chart and topped the R&B singles chart. In September 2014 “Happy” became the most downloaded song of all time in the UK.
Pharrell Williams created a unique 24-hour music video for “Happy.” It was directed by the French team We Are From LA and included Yoann Lemoine, known for work with Lana Del Rey and Katy Perry, as creative director. The four-minute song is repeated 360 times in the 24 hours of film. Pharrell Williams appears 24 times at the start of each hour. Among the celebrities appearing are Jimmy Kimmel, Magic Johnson, Jamie Foxx, and Kelly Osbourne. The official four-minute edited version of the music video earned a nomination for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. It won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video.
2. Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl” (2005)
Written by Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, and Chad Hugo
Produced by The Neptunes
“Hollaback Girl” originated with a comment made by Hole’s Courtney Love in an interview for Seventeen magazine where she referred to Gwen Stefani as a “cheerleader.” Gwen Stefani’s response was to be a cheerleader in song and, “rule the whole world.” The song was created to deliberately express an attitude. Gwen Stefani never revealed a specific interpretation for the meaning of the title of the song.
While writing “Hollaback Girl” with Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani initially worried that fans of her group No Doubt might be disturbed by this musical change of direction. Ultimately she decided the song felt right. “Hollaback Girl” became a #1 pop smash in the US and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record Of the Year. It reached #8 in the UK and top 10 in many other countries.
The accompanying music video was directed by Paul Hunter and filmed in the Van Nuys and Reseda neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls dancers are featured in the clip. Among the other participants are the Orange Crush All-Stars cheerleading squad from Orange County, California, a marching band from Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley California, and a drill team from Stephen M. White Middle School in Carson, California. Pharrell Williams makes a cameo appearance. The video earned four nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards and won for Best Choreography.
3. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams (2013)
Written by Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers
Produced by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo
It took 18 months for Daft Punk to complete the recording of “Get Lucky.” When he heard about Daft Punk working with disco legend Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams asked to take part in the project. His lead vocals received strong critical acclaim after careful recordings that required multiple takes. The song was a #2 hit in the U.S. and #1 on pop charts around the world. “Get Lucky” was Daft Punk’s pop chart breakthrough in the U.S. and singlehandedly brought disco music back to the mainstream spotlight.
“Get Lucky” was a dominant presence in year-end lists of the best music of 2013. It earned Grammy Awards for Record Of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Stevie Wonder joined Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers, and Pharrell Williams for a live performance of “Get Lucky” at the Grammy Awards ceremony. The Village Voice’s celebrated annual Pazz and Jop poll listed “Get Lucky” as the best song of 2013. The MTV Video Music Awards bestowed a Best Song of the Summer Award on “Get Lucky.”
“Get Lucky” was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York where Nile Rodgers recorded the first Chic single in the 1970s. Pharrell Williams jokingly offered to just play tambourine on the record. He was previously involved with Daft Punk when he created a remix of their single “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” The Daft Punk album Random Access Memories that includes “Get Lucky” was also a smash hit reaching #1 on the album chart and earning a platinum certification.
4. Kelis – “Milkshake” (2003)
Written by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo
Produced by The Neptunes
Kelis first hit the top 10 on the R&B chart in 1999 with the song “Caught Out There” which was also a project produced by The Neptunes. However, “Milkshake” became her smash worldwide pop hit. Kelis says of the song, “A milkshake is the thing that makes women special.” She also said the specific word “milkshake” was something that was suggested on a whim. Many music critics listed the song as one of the top singles of the year, and it peaked at #3 on the U.S. pop chart. It went to #2 on the U.K. pop singles chart. “Milkshake” earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Urban Alternative Performance.
The arrangement of “Milkshake” includes exotic instrumentation. The primary beat comes from a Middle Eastern drum called a darbuka. The rhythm is similar to that of belly dance music. The sound of manjira cymbals is heard throughout the song. They bring to mind the sound of an “order up” bell at a soda fountain. Jake Nava directed the “Milkshake” music video. Rapper Nas portrays a cook delivering milkshakes to customers while Kelis dances.
5. Robin Thicke – “Blurred Lines” featuring T.I. and Pharrell (2013)
Written by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr.
Produced by Pharrell Williams
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams created “Blurred Lines” in a deliberate effort to recreate the spirit of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got To Give It Up.” Their effort was successful enough it led to legal issues with Gaye’s family. Ultimately Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were found guilty of copyright infringement. Nevertheless, “Blurred Lines” was a #1 smash pop hit around the world despite accusations of misogyny in the lyrics. It spent 12 weeks at the top in the US becoming one of the biggest pop hits of all time. It was Robin Thicke’s first top 10 pop hit and was certified six times platinum for sales while topping the adult pop radio chart. It also reached #3 on the dance chart. “Blurred Lines” earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year.
The music video directed by Diane Martel was one of the primary targets for criticisms about the treatment of women. Amid accusations of objectifying women and supporting rape culture, she said that she was attempting to ridicule efforts by men to overpower women. She said the video forces the men to feel playful and not like predators. A live performance of “Blurred Lines” at the MTV Video Music Awards in a medley with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” drew even more controversy with a sexually charged performance.
The jury’s decision finding Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams liable for copyright infringement was issued March 10, 2015. It was the subject of outcry from a wide range of musicians across multiple genres. Keith Urban, John Legend, Nile Rodgers, and classical music critic Mark Swed were among those who spoke out in defense of Williams and Thicke. In August 2016, the judgment was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. More than 200 musicians filed briefs in support of overturning the decision. The appeals court upheld the decision in a March 2021 ruling.
6. Snoop Dogg – “Drop It Like It’s Hot” featuring Pharrell (2004)
Written by Chad Hugo, Calvin Broadus, and Pharrell Williams
Produced by The Neptunes
The phrase, “Drop it like it’s hot,” had been used in many songs before Snoop Dogg made it a centerpiece of this #1 smash hit. He turned it into one of the biggest rap hits of the decade with the help of Pharrell Williams and his partner in The Neptunes Chad Hugo. The recording includes vocal samples from Laid Back’s 1983 hit “White Horse.” The unique production includes percussion provided by tongue clicking. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” earned Grammy Award nominations for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance By a Duo Or Group.
A year before “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Pharrell Williams helped Snoop Dogg put together “Beautiful,” his first top 10 pop hit as a lead artist in nine years. Then “Drop It Like It’s Hot” went all the way to #1 across the pop, R&B, and rap charts. It reached #5 on mainstream pop radio and made an appearance on the Latin airplay chart. The album R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta) returned Snoop Dogg to the top 10 of the album chart for the first time in four years.
Paul Hunter directed the accompanying music video Snoop Dogg does the dance step known as the Crip Walk at the beginning and end of the clip. His sons Corde and Cordell both appear in the video.
7. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body” (2003)
Written by Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Chad Hugo
Produced by Williams and Hugo
The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) initially gave “Rock Your Body” and several other songs to Michael Jackson to record for his Invincible album. However, he did not want any of them, and they were passed on to Justin Timberlake for his debut solo album Justified. Vanessa Marquez sings the female vocals on the track. This song was one of two top 10 hits from the album. It peaked at #5 and was certified gold for sales. “Rock Your Body” gained some notoriety as the song that was performed at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson during the infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”
“Rock Your Body’s” sound is influenced by classic music by both Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. The accompanying music video was directed by Francis Lawrence, who is best known today for directing three of the films in the Hunger Games series. Justin Timberlake dances with Staci Flood in the video, and she lip-synchs the Vanessa Marquez vocals. Justin Timberlake’s Justified album was a significant success peaking at #2 on the chart and selling more than three million copies in the U.S. alone.
8. Pharrell Williams and Camila Cabello – “Sangria Wine” ( 2021)
Written by Bianca Landrau, Pharell Williams, and Camila Cabello
Produced by Pharrell Williams and Camila Cabello
Pharrell Williams previously co-wrote and sang background vocals on Camila Cabello’s breakthrough solo smash “Havana.” She is a former member of the girl group Fifth Harmony. Cabello left the group in 2016 to pursue a solo career. “Havana” was her first #1 pop chart hit.
“Sangria Wine” was recorded for inclusion on Camila Cabello’s debut album Camila. However, it didn’t make the final cut. It includes elements of both salsa and reggae in the mix. Despite the song’s exclusion from the album, Camila Cabello began performing “Sangria Wine” in concert. On May 16, 2021 both Cabello and Pharrell Williams announced the upcoming official release of the song. It hit stores on May 18, 2021, and on May 20, 2021, the pair performed it live at the Billboard Music Awards.
9. Ed Sheeran – “Sing” (2014)
Pharrell Williams co-wrote “Sing” with artist Ed Sheeran. He also produced the record, and it was selected as the first single from Ed Sheeran’s second album x. “Sing” is influenced by the music of Justin Timberlake on the albums Justified and FutureSex / LoveSounds. Pharrell Williams delivers uncredited background vocals and appears in the official music video. The new R&B direction for Ed Sheeran was a big international hit. It peaked at #13 in the U.S. while going to #1 at home in the U.K. Critics commented that Ed Sheeran’s voice sounded more full and confident singing this type of song.
The innovative music video for “Sing” featured a puppet version of Ed Sheeran on a crazy night out. It earned the Best Male Video honor at the MTV Video Music Awards. Ed Sheeran’s x album became a worldwide smash and hit #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. It earned a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year.
The release of “Sing” came on the heels of Pharrell Williams’ worldwide commercial success with “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines.” Ed Sheeran told interviewers that he was always an R&B fan but was waiting for the right collaborator to explore the style. He said that “Sing” pushed him out of his comfort zone, and that is part of why the song stands out. Williams also co-wrote and produced the song “Runaway” on the x album.
10. Pharrell Williams – “Frontin'” featuring Jay-Z (2003)
Written by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shawn Carter
Produced by The Neptunes
When “Frontin'” was released as Pharrell Williams’ debut solo single, he insisted he had no ambitions to be an artist in his own right and would stick to production and songwriting in the future. He stuck with the statement until he released his first solo album In My Mind in 2006.
This song about putting up a false facade hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Pharrell Williams co-wrote and produced “Frontin'” with his Neptunes partner Chad Hugo. British jazz artist Jamie Cullum’s cover of “Frontin'” so impressed Pharrell Williams it led to him signing a recording contract with Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak label.
“Frontin'” was included on the 2003 Neptunes album The Neptunes Present…Clones. The album debuted at #1 on the album chart with first week sales totaling 249,000. It ultimately earned a gold certification for sales. The collection includes appearances from Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Nelly, and Jay-Z among others.