|Photo via Flickr / Avi Loud|
Summer is now but a distant memory but the impact of Pharrell Williams on the pop landscape after that season is still being felt. From singing on Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the universally loved pop earworm of the year to producing Robin Thicke's controversial but massively successful Blurred Lines he placed his stamp on two songs that are likely to inform much of how the chart sounds over the next year.
He's back as a producer du jour now assisting Kelly Rowland, Jennifer Hudson, Nelly et al on songs and lending his weight to Miley Cyrus' hip-hop tinged reinvention, which comes full circle this week with the world getting to listen to her new album Bangerz, on which Williams has produced several tracks.
Of course this isn't the first time Williams has been in demand, the early 2000s were dominated by Williams and Chad Hugo using The Neptunes mix of brittle funk and sleek R&B to give every second song on the charts a shot of cool. But as much as we know the big hits there are some other songs that Williams has sang on / produced in / been involved with that which should have been huge. Here are handful of ones I think are worth a look.
Madonna - Beat Goes On
Madonna's 2008 opus Hard Candy was unfairly maligned if you ask me. Pharrell handled production on several key tracks, including the underrated single Give It 2 Me (I wrote about that song for Idolator's Hard Candy piece). The real gem though is this shimmer-y 80s tinged number that sounds bouncy and forward thinking but also has a simplicity and ease that recalls Into The Groove. The Kanye West feature is the icing on an already sweet, sweet pop treat and it's a real shame this wasn't ever a single. At least the live performance on The Sticky and Sweet Tour was amazing:
N.E.R.D - Hypnotize U
The success of N.E.R.D was really a testament to the kind of golden touch Pharrell had at one point and also N.E.R.D's killer mix of rock and hip-hop that made genre straddling classics like She Wants To Move. 2010's album Nothing wasn't much of a success for the group but the Daft Punk produced Hypnotize U is an absolute lost gem. Given the success of a Daft Punk produced song with Pharrell on vocals this summer, it's a shame someone didn't think to re-release this and cash in.
Leah LaBelle - Lolita
This summer this slinky cut debuted with a video directed by Diane Martel who also helmed the clip for Blurred Lines. While Blurred Lines blew up this failed to set the charts alight which is a shame. LaBelle has been floating around YouTube for a few years and had a short stint on American Idol but her work with Jermaine Dupri and Pharrell suggests she may have a hit in her yet. It really should have been in the shape of this track which has an easy groove but plenty of bite, even if this weird popcultural fixation on Lolita is in fact a tad creepy. Still, what a tune:
Jennifer Lopez - Fresh Out The Oven feat. Pitbull
When J Lo and Pitbull made On The Floor one of 2011's biggest hits I'm sure Pharrell was a bit miffed, given that he'd put the pair together on a fair less successful single back in 2009. Fresh Out The Oven was meant to tease a new J Lo album Love? which took a couple of years to finally arrive which also saw this tune flatline on the charts.
This is still an unusual sound for J Lo. Her delivery on the verses isn't the best, a slightly grating tone to her voice ruining the would-be sexy come-ons but that chorus is still delightfully kooky. It's all feathery and to the point but also a proper ear-worm. And even the Pitbull bit isn't too awful. Plus it all drops out at the end for a weird post chrous production meltdown that still sounds deliciously odd. An interesting moment for both Pharrell and J. Lo.
Adam Lambert - Kickin' In
Adam Lambert's 2012 album Trespassing boasted impressive work with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell and Bonnie McKee among others. The result was mainly interesting if hardly groundbreaking pop but on certain tracks Lambert let his voice and personality really run riot and the results were often impressive. Amongst those is this stellar cut from Pharrell that's got tumbling snyths, sass by the bucketload and even some cowbell. It's got buckets of charm and it shows that even when he wasn't landing a trillion singles in the top 10, Pharrell was still making killer pop songs.