The Real Meaning Behind Happy By Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams has had a lot of hit songs over the years, both with The Neptunes and as a soloist, but his track “Happy” was an especially huge success after it was released in 2013. The upbeat tune was made for the soundtrack of the movie Despicable Me 2, and it also appeared on Williams’ 2014 album Girl, which also included singles like “Come Get It Bae” and “Marilyn Monroe.” The success of “Happy,” though, was unparalleled. 

After its release, “Happy” was absolutely everywhere. According to Yahoo! Entertainment, the song was 2014’s best-selling song, with 6.45 million copies sold. Additionally, Williams won a Grammy for a live performance of “Happy” and the track was nominated for a Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. Beyond sales and awards, “Happy” had a deeper significance for Williams.

Read on to find out the deeper meaning of the song for this artist, songwriter, and producer.

The 'Happy' lyrics are all about staying positive

In the “Happy” lyrics, according to Genius, Pharrell Williams sings about staying positive in the face of bad news and adversity. This is evident at one point in the song, he croons, “Here come bad news, talking this and that… Well, I should probably warn ya, I’ll be just fine.” Later in the chorus, he instructs the listener to express that joy and “clap along” in various ways to make it known. It’s an infectious, catchy song that you can’t help singing along to when it comes on.

And the track’s focus on happiness was very much intended. During a June 2013 interview with ScreenSlam, Williams revealed that the upbeat emotion in the title was indeed the inspiration for the track. The Despicable Me 2 creators wanted a very positive, soulful tune for the movie — which was the song “Happy.” 

While he wrote the song for the movie, he also recognized the track’s universal appeal, even without knowing the context of the film. “It was awesome to be able to make a song that when you’re feeling down you can just play it and feel a whole lot better,” Williams told the outlet. 

Pharrell Williams wrote 'Happy' at the last minute

In a May 2014 interview with W magazine, Pharrell Williams recalled how he came up with “Happy” while pitching songs to Despicable Me 2 producer Chris Meledandri. The track was actually the 10th — and final — one that Williams pitched. He told W, “After nine different songs, recorded fully, they were like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ So I went back and wrote ‘Happy.’ I didn’t have the melody, just the chorus.”

And after the artist wrote the tune, he seemed to feel the emotion of the title “Happy” itself. Williams said he was “jumping around the room” 20 minutes after he wrote the track. He declared it to be his last effort at writing a song for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack — and luckily, it was the one the producer chose.

But though “Happy” became a huge success for Williams, it was originally intended to be sung by a very different artist. 

'Happy' was originally written for CeeLo Green

Before Pharrell Williams was known as a singer in his own right, he was a famous producer and songwriter from The Neptunes, who had worked with artists like Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, and Daft Punk. So, when the Despicable Me 2 producers chose “Happy,” it was intended for another artist to sing: CeeLo Green.

In an April 2014 interview with The Howard Stern Show, Williams revealed that CeeLo recorded an impressive version of the song. Williams told Stern, “He sounded amazing on it. He burns my version!” But there was just one problem: CeeLo’s record company, Elektra Records, wanted the artist to concentrate on his upcoming Christmas album. So, Williams decided to sing and release the song as a solo artist.

Even though CeeLo lost out on having “Happy” as a hit song, Williams told Stern his fellow artist was supportive of the track’s success. “Happy,” however, wasn’t popular at first.

The 24-hour music video for 'Happy' made it a hit

Finally, “Happy” as sung by Pharrell Williams played during a key scene of Despicable Me 2 after the main character, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), falls in love. The usually sullen character dances joyfully to the tune with his family, the Minions, and people in the streets. Being paired with such a scene suggests that “Happy” could be interpreted as a love song, but Williams soon made sure it was known as more than that.

When the song was first released with the movie in July 2013, “Happy” didn’t get much radio airplay, Williams recalled in the 2014 interview with W. So a few months later in November 2013, he teamed up with the French directing team known as We Are From LA for “24 Hours of Happy,” which called itself “the first 24-hour music video.” The day-long presentation featured Williams and many celebs like Carell, Jamie Foxx, and JoJo, among many others, dancing gleefully to the song over and over again.

The 24-hour music video spread happiness across the internet and became a huge viral success. In March 2014, the song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. So, perhaps “Happy” isn’t merely a love song after all — it’s all about bringing joy to everyone, including its creator, Pharrell Williams.

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