MTV Soundtrack was invited to Red Bull Studios for a private listening session yesterday with Pharrell Williams, the man who’s music you couldn’t escape for the past year, to get a track-by-track breakdown of his new album G I R L (spacing intentional – we’ll get to that shortly) and for Pharrell to hang out with 15 or so of his favorite fans.
Here’s our timed run-down of the event:
2:30pm – Arrived to Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica, just around the corner from our MTV offices.
2:45pm – Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pharrell and his hat (it has it’s own Twitter account and was just auctioned for charity to Arby’s for $44K!)
3:00pm – Pharrell arrives and we overhear him telling one his crew that hearing about how successful his song “Happy” has become, he wants to “run through the wall like Tom & Jerry!”
3:05pm – Pharrell heads up to the small stage, greeting his fans along the way and sits on a small gray couch behind a Red Bull logo on the wall. He apologizes for his voice sounding strange because he has been fighting off a cold for a few days and now sounds like “sick goat.” He is genuinely humble and grateful as he explains that he is used to “being the guy next to the guy” (rather than the front man). He knows his fans are the reason he is where he is today and beautifully thanks them by saying “I know what the top of clouds looks like because of you.”
3:10pm – He then turns to explaining how he got signed to Columbia Records. The label approached him after they heard Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and asked him to start thinking of a solo album and that they want to be a part of it. Pharrell said he was intrigued by the idea and wanted to make “an album that is unapologetically quirky and honest.” He then explained the album title G I R L including the fact that the capital letters and spacing between each letter are intentional, because the album’s muse is all the wonderful women in his life and he “wanted the title to look larger than life.”
3:15pm – There are a few minutes here when Pharrell moves into a more serious tone and eloquently discusses gender inequality and even US legislation connected to a woman’s right to choose. We can’t do it justice here, but rest assured Pharrell appreciates and is a huge advocate for women.
3:20pm – Next he explained his love of Columbia Records because the diversity of their roster of artists proved to him that they valued artists being different (“I snicker when normal people walk by.”) From there he launched into the album play-back.
3:25-4:00pm – We were then treated to playback of the album: “Marilyn Monroe”, “Brand New”, “Hunter”, “Gush”, “Happy”, “Come Get It Bae”, “Gust of Wind”, “Lost Queen” and “It Girl”.
Some fun facts:
“Marilyn Monroe” – Hans Zimmer wrote the string sections and the spoken word part of the song is Kelly Osbourne
“Brand New” – one of only 2 duets, this one with Justin Timberlake and featuring Timbaland beatboxing at the beginning of the track
“Gush” – has it’s own dance called The LeBrown which a basketball cross-over and shoot move
“Come Get It Bae” – second duet, this one with Miley Cyrus and definitely our favorite tracks (Summer Jam 2014!)
“Gust of Wind” – Pharrell’s favorite track featuring production by The Robots, he described it as “rainbow Atari 8-bit style”
“Lost Queen” – includes an oceanic segue that leads into a hidden track called “Freq” which features JoJo and Leah LaBelle