Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The Pharrell phactor

I’ve absorbed my fair share of ridicule in recent years due to my somewhat erratic tastes in popular music.

Every time I’ve ever tried to convince one of my friends of the genius of Prince, I find my heterosexuality called into question because, as I’m told, Prince is a fruit. (If the man who made “Purple Rain” and “Sexy Motherf-cker” while bedding every starlet this side of Carmen Electra is a fruit, then I’ll have the cherries jubilee.)

When I casually admitted to my boss this past summer that Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was my favorite dance-floor anthem, for some reason I was no longer allowed to assist customers under the age of 15.

And I swear I can’t name all five members of ‘NSync.
I do know, however, that you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find the next King of Pop or symbol representative thereof among the Joey Fatones, J.C. Chasezes, Chris Kirkpatricks, and Lance Basses of today’s pop-music clime.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another bellyache session from another jaded music fan unhappy with the times in which he lives. Quite the contrary, as I believe pop music has been undergoing some rather interesting and radical changes since the death of the boy band.

It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another musical icon reign as King of Pop anytime soon simply because the presence of his royal family is much stronger than it used to be.

Of course, Michael and Prince had an army of managers, publicists and top-line producers to ensure the consistent quality of their music and image. However, you cannot overlook the fact that these artists were/are flat-out musical geniuses, and this is the reason they became two of pop music’s biggest stars of the past quarter-century.

Despite what Lou Pearlman would have you believe, pop stars aren’t made, but the big man wasn’t too far off. As easy as it is to hate boy bands and every musical sacred cow they’ve slaughtered, contempt for their industry practices and contempt for their talent as performers should never go hand in hand.

I don’t like Justin Timberlake either, but the kid can bust a move.

Which brings me to MTV’s Video Music Awards. Like every other self-respecting guy in the country, I groaned upon hearing Justin Timberlake’s name announced as the next live act, then nearly burned half of my wardrobe when I saw he was decked out in Pony.

Then, mid-way through “Like I Love You,” I found myself entranced by his pop-and-lock-via-Darrin-Henson dancing and nodding my head to the beat. I asked myself, “Why in God’s name am I being entertained by the reason for Britney Spears’ virginity?”

The answer, quite simply, is Pharrell Williams, one half of the super-producing duo that is The Neptunes.
I seem to remember A.J. of BET’s “106th and Park” describing Pharrell as having produced “every hot joint of [this] summer.” Indeed, Pharrell Williams has had his hand in nearly every successful pop single of the past two years, from Britney’s “I’m a Slave 4 U” to Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U.”

As part of N.E.R.D., he put out a neo-soul masterpiece with In Search Of . . . ; as part of the Neptunes, he’s produced some of the most infectious songs in recent memory.

Pharrell, alongside producers like Timbaland and Dr. Dre, is changing the way pop music is created. Now labels spend their money on the producer because they know they can pair him with whatever pretty face/mediocre rhyme-kicker is hot that week — come on, would you really care who Tweet was if Tim weren’t laying down tracks for her?

Every other song in The Clipse’s Lord Willin’, an otherwise middling debut replete with tired references to pimpin’ and pushin’, is introduced by Pharrell Williams. The subtext to these intros usually reads: “Disregard the sub-par lyricism and enjoy my impeccable beat-making.”

Phil Spector must be laughing himself silly. Who would’ve thought we’d ever see the day where people bought albums because of the production value and not the cute girl on the cover?

Although the role of the pop-music producer has always basically been to make bad musicians sound good, this concept is finally being brought to Americans’ social consciousness thanks to people like Pharrell Williams.

I still don’t like Justin Timberlake, but for some reason, I feel compelled to buy his new album — I’ll give you one guess what that reason is.

If you see a big, bald whiteboy walking around the Vilas area with headphones on, nodding his head, you should know that it’s to Pharrell’s beats and not Justin’s whiny falsetto.

So don’t make fun of me.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *