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Pharrell Adds Drama to ‘Happy’ With Gospel, Piano at the Grammys

Pianist Lang Lang and film composer Hans Zimmer join singer for Grammy-winning tune

Pharrell Williams performed his inescapable Girl single “Happy” on the Grammys with newfound drama, since classical pianist Lang Lang, who played with Metallica at last year’s Grammys, and film composer Hans Zimmer joined him. Dressed like a bellhop in white gloves, blue shorts with yellow shoes, Pharrell led a cinematic intro to the tune that gave way to a typically blissful version of the song with breaks for piano sonatas and gospel breakdowns. In the midst of it, the dancers wore hoodies and raised their hands in the “hands up, don’t shoot” motion, showing support for last year’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri. But it wasn’t all heavy: in a more upbeat moment, Questlove clapped along, as a white-gown-wearing choir made their way up the aisle. “As you can see, I’m at your service, Lord,” Pharrell said at the end.

Williams was nominated in several categories this year, including his collaborations with Beyonce and Ed Sheeran against himself in Album of the Year, and, as a solo artist, was nominated in four categories: Album of the Year for Girl, Best Pop Solo Performance for “Happy,” Best Urban Contemporary Album for Girl and Best Music Video for “Happy.” He’d already won trophies for the latter three awards by the time he performed; Album of the Year had not yet been announced.

“I won’t keep this awkward and long because I was so prepared for everybody else that is so talented in that category to walk away with that award,” the singer and producer said in his acceptance speech for Best Pop Solo Performance earlier in the evening. After thanking the Academy, and again saying how super awkward he felt, he offered to moonwalk his way off the stage.

Pharrell originally released the song on the soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 in 2013, and created the world’s first 24-hour music video to accompany it. Months later, he revealed to Howard Stern that he had originally written it with CeeLo Green in mind and that that singer had actually recorded it. Williams said that CeeLo sounded amazing but that “the powers that be” vetoed its release. 

The song was previously nominated for an Oscar last year – Pharrell even performed it at the Academy Awards – but it went to another ubiquitous children’s movie song: Frozen’s “Let It Go.”

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