PHARRELL WILLIAMS can’t stop singing. Here in a windowless conference room at Pier 59 above New York City’s Hudson River, the 40-year-old hitmaker is, without impulse, breaking into song. It’s nearly as loud as the white polka dots screaming from his black long-sleeve Comme des Garçons top. But he fails to warble the contagious hook of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” P’s first No. 1 single in seven years. Nor does he hum the melodies of his production on “BBC,” Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail superstar posse cut. In this sterile office space, Pharrell is crooning the opening notes of Daft Punk’s 2000 new-millennial classic “One More Time” in a manner that could pass for a tribute show. On the receiving end of Williams’ powerful falsetto are the song’s architects Thomas Bangalter, 38, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 39, aka the Robots, who sit across an oval table in black leather chairs. It’s somehow not awkward.
This assemblage represents a moment for everyone involved; yet Pharrell only cares to toast Daft Punk’s recent success. Sure the Virginia native producer has played a part, writing and singing on the instantly classic disco-funk hybrid “Get Lucky,” a global sensation that ushered in the French musical icons’ chart-topping comeback album Random Access Memories. Yet today he seems more fanatic than peer. He bypasses multiple solo looks for this magazine shoot as not to absorb Daft Punk’s warm spotlight, despite being in the midst of an unpredictable comeback of his own. When you ask about his work with a certain twerksome celebutante (name sounds a lot like Molly), he deflects, making your query seem trivial and borderline insulting. Pharrell simply won’t let the gravity of this moment—right here, right now, with the Bots— escape you. “Think about it,” says Williams, injecting an enormous pause, for emphasis. “Right now, you’re in the middle of what was and what it is about to be. Do you know how important now is? All of this is unbelievable. I’m pinching myself.”
Daft Punk flew in from Paris to be here today. To pose in blinged-out Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking tuxedos and don their signature helmets, which look like illuminated motorcycle headgear with a sheen metal finish. And to discuss how they’ve fearlessly navigated 20 years of sonic creation. “This is a journey, but for us, we are not afraid of any consequences,” says Bangalter, the chattier half of the Bots. “We do exactly what we want.” Bangalter and de Homem- Christo own every aspect of their musical outputs, and rarely divulge what’s to come. Such as with the 10-minute-and-33-second remix to “Get Lucky,” which they’ll tease, but remain tight-lipped about before it drops three weeks later. “We talk about the present because it’s such a gift,” Williams explains. His eyes then go straight to Daft Punk. His role is clearly supporting cast today. And the music symposium begins.
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