Pharrell Williams: An Elite State of Mind

Pharrell Williams may  still be high off the mega success of 2013’s “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, and “Get Lucky”  by Daft Punk, but don’t put him on a pedestal because he’s determined to stay grounded.

The Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/producer/entrepreneur says that he isn’t part of any elite group dominating the musical playing field and those who put him in that category may “confuse endurance for elitism.” He feels everybody can do what he does and credits “the people” for getting and keeping him where he is today.  Pharrell may have both feet on the ground, but he definitely has elite aspirations.

Pharrell Williams
photo from

His interview with David Greene on Morning Edition (on contains more than one reference to Leonardo da Vinci, whether consciously or sub-consciously. Da Vinci, well-versed in multiple areas including music, made “lasting contributions” and has been referred to as a “Universal Genius” with an “unquenchable curiosity”. Besides the obvious reference where Pharrell likens the musicians he works with to Mona Lisa,  Pharrell is finding success in areas outside of music as well; i.e. clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories, sculpting, and even furniture.

True, Leonardo out-diversifies Parrell by also being a skilled “painter…architect…mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, [and] botanist…”, so no argument there. But Pharrell does refer to himself as a “baby alchemist” who is grateful that the people allow him to mix cultures and things he finds interesting.”

On meeting his Neptunes partner Chad Hugo when they were kids, he describes himself and Chad as “universalists”, with a “genuine curiosity to want to know more and see how thing work.” That same curiosity continues to fuel Pharrell’s “search for something that feels different” and surely contributes to his continued relevance.

Pharrell’s knack for hit-making, and maybe his secret weapon, was hinted at in the title of the third platinum album with his group NER*D., Seeing Sound, released in 2006.  The title refers to Pharrell’s “neurological condition” called synesthesia which involves a connecting of the visual and auditory nerves consequently allowing him to see music in color.

Despite whatever upper-hand Pharrell may have, he firmly believes “there are so many kids that can do it way better”. He warns against falling for the illusion that success in the entertainment world is unattainable unless you give in to certain requirements. He even gives insight to his creative process while working with other artists. To break it down he says that he considers: A. the artist’s request, B. the artist’s experiences (their story), and C. the artist’s voice (their tone, ability, and what would best complement it). His last bit of advice, “stop thinking about it and just go do it.”

Pharrell’s tune “Happy” featured in the movie Despicable Me 2 will be included on his latest solo project due this year. The video for the song is the first 24 hour music video, see it here or watch the official video here.  Read or listen to the Morning Edition interview here.

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