Pharrell Williams: Happy
Pharrell has just been on a roll over the last few years while we've been waiting for him to release a second solo studio album. In 2010, he composed the film score to the much adored Golden Globe nominated animated film 'Despicable Me' and since then things only seem to be getting better for him. He has appeared on three number singles from other artists since he released his last one in 2006, but now he's well and truly back as a solo star in his own right as he releases a brand new single entitled 'Happy' which he wrote for the much-anticipated 'Despicable Me 2'.
There's not a lot you can criticise with 'Happy'; with Pharrell's classic soul voice it has a strong Motown feel - it's simple and archetypal with no embellishments. Unbelievably catchy, it's definitely the kind of song that makes you want to dance and sing along - an important element for any children's film tune. More importantly, it's infectiously cheerful with its summery vibes that ease that seasonal misery winter often brings and it's just so wonderfully innocent - not something often found in your average modern pop song.
It gets a little repetitive after a while, but maybe that's the beauty of it; it's uncomplicated with a very clear sentiment, and see if you don't clap along ("if you feel like a room without a roof...")!
And from The Los Angeles Times, Pharrell Williams, a 'Happy' and busy guy
By Mikael Wood
Late on a recent evening, the singer-rapper-producer was shuttling between two studios at a Melrose Avenue recording complex. In one he was working on music for this spring's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which he's scoring along with Hans Zimmer; in the other he was supervising final mixes for his upcoming solo album.
Now Ryan Seacrest's people had arrived to shoot Williams' cameo in a video, set to his song "Happy," marking the 10th anniversary of the radio host's popular morning show.
"You ever get that feeling on a long day," Williams asked no one in particular, "where the only thing that feels good is …" And with that he let his face slacken into a kind of open-mouthed zombie expression.
Always a busy guy - in 2013 he helped create two of the year's biggest pop hits in Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" - Williams has been in even higher demand lately, thanks in large part to his first Oscar nomination. "Happy," from "Despicable Me 2," is up for original song at the Academy Awards, to be held March 2.
A cheery gospel-funk number Williams said he modeled after Curtis Mayfield, "Happy" serves in the animated movie as a means of humanizing Gru, the grumpy villain voiced by Steve Carell. But it's also done brisk business as a stand-alone single, racking up more than 75 million streams on YouTube and an additional 45 million on Spotify. On Wednesday it sat atop the iTunes single chart and at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100.
"When you look at the history of songs written for films, the ones that've broken out to have a meaningful life beyond the film are very rare," said Chris Meledandri, whose Illumination Entertainment made both.
Still, "Happy" faces stiff competition at the Oscars from "Let It Go," the sweeping ballad sung by Idina Menzel in Disney's smash "Frozen," and "Ordinary Love," the feel-good U2 song from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" that last month won a Golden Globe.
So before he began his recent night at the studio, Williams, 40, was up early on the campaign trail, sitting for morning television interviews (wearing the hat he made famous at January's Grammy Awards) and then attending the Motion Picture Academy's annual Oscar nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
On Sunday he sang "Happy" at the NBA All-Star Game, and Wednesday night he did the song at the BRIT Awards in London — each appearance a valuable opportunity for exposure before final Oscar ballots are due next week. He'll perform "Happy" yet again on the Academy Awards telecast.
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Foster The People
"You say, 'Now what's your style and who do you listen to?'" Mark Foster sings on Foster the People's first album, before adding defiantly, "Who cares?" Later, he punctuates "Call It What You Want" with the declaration, "What I got can't be bought." With just a few catchy singles and a reputation for energetic live shows, this L.A. trio already sounds defensive and cagey, as if bristling from some imagined attack. We've heard their sort of scene dissection before, mostly from younger bands entering a fractious pop arena (Arctic Monkeys, for instance), but Foster the People-- at distinct odds with their nurturing moniker-- seem to be daring you to categorize them, assess them, or, hell, even engage with them. By way of introduction, it's a bit off-putting, especially soundtracked by demonstratively upbeat West Coast indie-pop buzzed on disco-infused vodka.
Once you get past the genre paranoia, Torches actually has enough going for it that Foster the People could conceivably make those same points through their music rather than their lyrics. The songs dodge and weave stylistically, avoiding perceived critical jabs by scavenging pop history for new old sounds. Foster's falsetto alternately evokes Jamiroquai and Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue-- surely the only overlap between those two performers-- while his keyboards volley between early-90s radio dance pop and more recent MGMT doodles. Foster the People's proud maximalism also extends cannily to their songwriting. Foster can write a chorus so bold and simple that you can hear it once and sing it for a fortnight, a tactic that has already made minor hits of "Helena Beat" and "Pumped Up Kicks" (the latter of which promotes hipster-on-hipster violence).
Particularly hoisted onto such dense production, the hooks are so big, blunt, and persistent that even my four-year-old niece counts Foster the People as her favorite band. But on Torches that plays as a crutch as well as a strength. For example, the band runs a two-line melody into the ground on "I Would Do Anything for You", never building on it or allowing it to evolve in any way. Still, when this earworm-core works, as on the singles, its pleasures are perfectly modest and enthralling. All of which makes the group's dodginess only more distracting-- no less so considering their rapid successes: a major-label deal, a Billboard top 10 debut, a coveted slot at Lollapalooza, and the devotion of at least one fan who prefers them over the Wiggles or Odd Future. Listing those accomplishments may strike Foster the People as an accusation of selling out, but seriously, relax. As the song that's wedged into my cerebellum goes, "Who cares?"
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Lady Gaga: Artpop
After two and a half years of silence and months of relentless marketing, Lady Gaga has finally unleashed her third full-length album, "ARTPOP," to the world.
After the cancellation of Gaga's "Born This Way Ball" tour in February, she reemerged onto the pop culture scene in August with the release of her lead single from "ARTPOP," "Applause," which continues to top music charts around the globe months after its release.
Historically, topping the charts is familiar territory for Gaga, and with the release of this new album, she's going to become even more familiar at the top of the charts.
Unlike her previous controversial album, "Born This Way," "ARTPOP" is filled with radio-friendly, EDM-style hits that both her fans and the general public alike will embrace. Not to mention that dance clubs around the globe will be playing these songs for years to come.
In comparison to "Born This Way," there is no political agenda on "ARTPOP." Gaga was able to make her public outcry for equality throughout the "Born This Way" era, arguably to an exhausting point, and has now returned to her roots of making catchy, non-political, quality dance music.
As a whole, "ARTPOP" is musically impossible to define, ranging from bubblegum pop to hip-hop, all with an EDM undertone that gently pushes pop music into a new dimension in typical Gaga fashion.
This album, by no means, is a creation of surface level pop music for the faint of heart. The beats and stems throughout the album are endlessly deep and intertwined, making a creation of "electronic candy" for the listener, as Gaga herself declared.
Aside from the two current singles off the album, "Applause" and "Do What U Want" featuring R. Kelly, "Sexxx Dreams" and "MANiCURE" serve as stand out tracks on the album, hailing back to Gaga's original style on her first two releases "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster".
The deepest moments on the album come from "Dope" and "Gypsy," both of which expose Gaga at her most raw and vulnerable. Her vocals in both of these tracks not only wipe away any previous doubt of her vocal ability, but take the listener on a journey through a superstar's deepest vices and insecurities, leaving the listener emotionally exhausted in the best way possible.
In addition to the release of the album, Gaga has also released an app for mobile devices that allows fans to connect with each other, share their own art and create music based on the beats and stems from the songs off the album, creating an interactive experience for her fans.
And that's exactly what Gaga wanted "ARTPOP" to be — an experience. On the night of the album release, Gaga hosted an album release party, the "ArtRave," where fans and press could come together and experience her songs for the first time as well as view sculptures created by Jeff Koons specifically for the album and Gaga, one of which graces the album cover.
Gaga is, arguably, the most divisive pop star of today, leaving some belting her tunes and others collectively shrugging. But that's just what Gaga wants. She doesn't care to create music for the charts, she creates music specifically tailored to the desires of her fans. And without the subconscious pressure of creating chart-topping hits, Gaga is able to seamlessly create anthems that resound in earphones, cars and clubs across the globe.
In a year of mediocre pop releases, Lady Gaga has returned to save pop music, serving up an album filled to the brim with hits that could make even the hardest critic tap his toes.
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