With some much happening at Coachella, we'll be providing daily recaps of the acts we saw and the other random things we did. Day two: We saw Pharrell.
Pharrell is on top of the world—but even he knows that it’s always good to remind people of everything great you’ve done over the years. It puts things in perspective, and helps flesh out the contours of your legacy. That’s essentially what his star studded set on the Outdoor stage at Coachella amounted to. It was a reminder that Pharrell has been a hitmaker for over a decade and only now, are we truly appreciating his genius. With a little help from his friends and a murderer’s row of hits he’s tallied over the past decade, P put on the kind of show you brag to your friends about attending for probably the rest of your life.
It was a reminder that Pharrell has been a hitmaker for over a decade and only now are we truly appreciating his genius.
Adorned with his now signature hat, P performed cuts from his new album, G I R L, along with smash hits like “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” But he also brought out Nelly (“Hot In Herre”), Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes ("Pass the Courvoisier, Part II"), Snoop Dogg (“Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Beautiful”), Tyler, The Creator, Diplo (“Aerosol Can”), and Gwen Stefani (“Hollaback Girl”). He also announced that Gwen would soon be making her musical comeback.
At one point it felt like he might pull out damn near anybody he’s worked with over the years. Maybe Pusha T would come out and do “Grindin” or any Clipse track. Maybe Robin Thicke would come out for “Blurred Lines.” Maybe Mystikal would make an appearance for “Shake Ya Ass” (hey, he brought out Nelly so why not?). None of that actually happened, but it didn't feel unreasonable to think they might. After all, who wouldn’t want Pharrell to owe them a favor?
Despite all the cameos, Pharrell’s singing was severely hampered by strong winds which had desert sand flying everywhere. To put it in perspective: the winds were so bad that when I got back to my hotel, my hair was grey with sand. At one point, a frustrated P screamed out, “Fucking sand!” Later on, he promised he’d perform in a gas mask next week if that’s what it took to get his set down right.
What was striking about the set was having it feel like you were listening to the greatest hits of the 2000s on shuffle and realizing how far P’s reach and influence was.
Pharrell’s singing has always left something to be desired. He was never great at it, he's just someone who made expert use of the moderate vocals he has and gotten better over the years (he’s at his best on his latest album). But on stage, nearly every song was lip-synced and his backup singer did some heavy lifting. P didn’t even pretend to actually sing his songs; at one point he walked away from the crowd to take a sip of water as the music played on; other times he wasn’t even holding up the mic while the song was playing. However, he repeatedly apologized to fans for letting the sand ruin his voice and his show. Although he didn’t play it, perhaps P should have performed the Daft Punk assisted “Gust of Wind” off G I R L, as it certainly seemed appropriate.
What was striking about the set was that it made you feel like you were listening to the greatest hits of the 2000s on shuffle and realizing how far P’s reach and influence is. He closed his set with the worldwide smash hit “Happy.” But rather than sing it alone, he brought all of his guests on stage and ton of other random people. Everyone took part as the stage turned into a block party. Rightfully so, as Pharrell’s success has been everyone else’s as well.
Insanul Ahmed is an Associate Editor at Complex. He's out at Coachella for the weekend and kinda pissed he didn't stay for Nas' set. Follow him on Twitter.