Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams. Source: myspace.com

In light of our recent Pharrell Williams, G I R L, album review we have been inspired to look back at what has been an illustrious career by a once in a generation talent. So, we here at the Northampton Gent have decided to celebrate his amazing and extensive body of work by selecting our top 10 favourite Pharrell songs. Whether it is a solo track, a song by the production duo The Neptunes or as a member of the band N.E.R.D, we take on the monumental and close to impossible task of selecting 10 songs from his never ending discography.

10. Robin Thicke – Wanna Love You Girl

In at number 10 is the forgotten Robin Thicke and Pharrell collaboration Wanna Love You Girl. Released back in August of 2005, this song was on heavy rotation throughout the summer but failed to see any chart success. Produced by The Neptunes, the beat took a minimalistic approach and started a new trend in the hip hop and R&B world; replacing kick drums with toms. Pharrell also lends a verse at the end of the song in true Skateboard P fashion to add the proverbial cherry on top.

9. Missy Elliott – On & On

Number 9 sees another Neptunes production back from 2005 with Missy Elliott. The track is off the experiment album The Cookbook. Missy Elliott has always had a reputation for pushing the musical boundaries and teaming up with The Neptunes for this track allowed us to see Pharrell work with the same freeness and creativity that Missy Elliott does. The result is a wacky, old school styled hip hop track led by what can only be described as a Star Trek sound; a sound so many have tried to emulate but never achieved.

8. Clipse – Grindin’

Grindin’ by The Clipse takes our number 8 spot. Released in 2002, this underground hip hop song saw The Neptunes take four drums sounds from the popular Yamaha Motif keyboard and, with a stroke of genius, turn them into this chart success. Throughout his career, Pharrell has shown us that less is more and that expression could not be any truer with this song.

7. Snoop Dogg – Beautiful

Arguable happier than Happy, Snoop Dogg’s Beautiful has stood the test of time and still sounds fresh today although it is over decade old. Having been released in 2003, this song is still guaranteed to get a positive reaction at any party among any age group; which says a lot about Pharrell’s ability as a producer to transform a notorious gangster rapper, often portrayed as a pimp into a family friendly rapper. Pharrell also shows off his singing chops on the infectious chorus.

6. Lupe Fiasco – I Gotcha

Our 6th favourite Pharrell track is again from the production side. In an era dominated by gangster rap by the likes of 50 cent, Lupe Fiasco sought the guidance of his fellow skateboarding fanatic to make I Gotcha for his debut album in 2006. In doing so, Pharrell produced a jazz influenced Tribe Called Quest style of hip hop beat with a hypnotic piano sequence. Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell made it acceptable to be a ‘conscious rapper’ once again.

5. Frank Ocean – Sweet Life

Out of all the tracks on this list, it is safe to say that our fifth pick is the one most likely to have surprised you with Pharrell’s association. Frank Ocean’s Sweet Life doesn’t possess any of the Pharrell mannerisms that we’ve become accustom to; instead we are presented with a song created around Franks Ocean’s vision. This track wonderfully demonstrates Pharrell’s versatility and his ability to step outside of his comfort zone to deliver the goods. This song features on Frank Ocean’s 2012 album Channel Orange.

4. Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (The Neptunes Remix)

Before Pharrell’s assistance on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and before Daft Punk’s assistance on N.E.R.D’s Hypnotise U, their first collaboration was actually the remix to Daft Punk’s monster single Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger back in 2007. Much like the Missy Elliott scenario mentioned above, The Neptunes were free to run wild. The end product shows, with a mixture of a N.E.R.D.-esque head knocking beat that switches into what sounds like the background music to a 16 bit video game with a smooth, futuristic jazz lounge vibe. The creativity shown on this track is unpharralleled (yes, we did just say that).

3. Common – Punch Drunk Love Remix

In at 3 is the remix to Common’s Punch Drunk Love released in 2008. This has to be the most slept on song on this list, failing to receive much exposure. For those amongst you that have heard it, treasure it. There is no denying the magic on this track as the soft piano and warm synth hits you right in the gut, heating your body up faster than powerful fruit punch.

2. Kelis – Caught Out There

Kelis’s Caught Out There was many people’s first introduction to the sounds of The Neptunes and what a first impression it was! When Caught Out There first debuted in 1999, the R&B charts were dominated by girl groups such as Destiny’s Child. So to say this song was a breath of fresh air would be an understatement. From the screaming on the chorus to the science fiction sounds being the main melody, (this would later become known as the ‘Neptune’ sound) this song caught everybody of guard and made the music industry pay attention. That is why it is our number 2.

1. N.E.R.D. – Inside Of Clouds

In at number 1 is one of the most beautiful pieces of music created over the last 20 years. Off N.E.R.D’s Nothing album, this short flute driven song is featured at the end of I’ve Seen The Light (an amazing song in its own right). The light piano, jazz drums and raspy flute create a feeling similar to the iconic Isley Brothers Summer Breeze, which is saying a lot. In today’s music scene, overloaded with virtual instrumentals, computer programs and all sorts of effects, songs like these are a lost art form. Nobody really makes music like this anymore and it is not because they do not want to, it is because they can’t.

Honorable Mentions

Pharrell Williams feat. Kanye West – Number One
N.E.R.D. – Provider

So there you have it, top 10 tracks to have been influenced by the musical genius over his long career. But let us know your thoughts….

What are your favourite Pharrell tracks?
Are there any glaring omissions from our list?
Do you think Pharrell makes a better singer, rapper or producer?