Last year may have brought about the global triumph of Mrs. Carter, the facepalm-inducing skeeviness of Robin Thicke and the tongue, cultural appropriation and subsequent redemption of Miley Cyrus, but Pharrell and his hat are the reigning pop juggernauts of 2014. He got Meryl Streep to shimmy at the Oscars. He’s convinced the world that a chirpy, chipper song from a kids’ movie can be enjoyed by listeners of every age. His sartorial choices have spawned a plethora of memes and Twitter accounts, and “Happy” and the rest of G I R L show no signs of dropping from the Billboard Hot 100 anytime soon. The only thing surprising about Pharrell’s Saturday Night Live performance is that it didn’t happen sooner, and that a NBC page didn’t get roped into wearing a giant foam suit in the shape of his infamous Buffalo topper.
See also: Miley Cyrus Redeems Herself on SNL
The Disneyfication of “Happy” and its SNL treatment should’ve been something we saw coming–especially given the wholesome, GAP commercial vibe of his performance at the Oscars–but something about a bunch of kids grinning their faces off and snapping in time felt weirdly off on the SNL stage. It’s great that Pharrell took the opportunity to make a small army of aspiring dance pros’ days, but this is SNL, not the Teen Choice Awards, and an opportunity to deliver a grown-up rendition that even attempted to defy expectations for the all-ages hit would’ve been harder to shrug off. This is the stuff of a musical theater wet dreams–it practically requires jazz hands and billboard-sized smiles from anyone listening to it. It’s no “Let It Go,” but “Happy” on SNL banked on the cheesy instead of proving its Top 40 worth.
Strings have been ever present on the SNL stage this season, and Hans Zimmer (speaking of Disney) and his orchestra swung through to provide some assistance for “Marilyn Monroe.” The difference between the moody strains of Beck’s performance, Sam Smith’s heart-wrenching, stripped-down take on “Lay Me Down” and Pharrell’s employment of Zimmer and Company is that he fused hip-hop, R&B and classical flavors seamlessly. Not only did he throw a shoutout towards Zimmer and his “female string section people,” the arrangement was exceptional and made up for the creativity “Happy” lacked. Why not throw a cello over a rad beat? Hopefully, we’ll see more inventive instrumentation on the SNL stage in the coming weeks.
Oh! Pharrell celebrated his birthday at SNL as well, which is great as long as Anna Kendrick didn’t try to do a “Cup Song” remix before he blew the candles out on his cake. Twitter was all about the well wishes and accolades, but plenty of people are still having trouble getting past Pharrell’s giant hat, as you’ll see on the next page.
Colin Jost (aka SNL head writer/the new kid on the Weekend Update desk) was stoked but more for the hat than anything else.
I’VE MET THE HAT
— Colin Jost (@TheColinJost) April 6, 2014
Questlove used his NBC employee badge for good and got up close and personal with Pharrell’s hat.
— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) April 6, 2014
And then a bunch of cartoon characters and Elton John and a guy dressed up like Rafiki showed up and got in on the group hug.
— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) April 6, 2014
+10 points, Columbia.
— Columbia Records (@ColumbiaRecords) April 6, 2014
DON’T JINX HIM/but yes you’re right.
Future Headline: Pharrell hospitalized in serious condition after what officials call “a hat-related tragedy.” #SNL
— Kara & Deb (@KaraAndDeb) April 6, 2014
And this is why we’re convinced Pharrell wasn’t lip-synching.
I paused SNL to go get a snack + Pharrell was making a face that looks like he sharted while hitting a high note. pic.twitter.com/343rzzTofG
— Jeremy (@jeremyblass) April 6, 2014
How many gallons have been wasted on Pharrell’s hat collection? #environment
— David Waghalter (@dwaghalter) April 6, 2014
Description is accurate, though this decidedly had more of a ’90s vibe.
Cool how Pharrell Williams brought on the cast of a 1988 Pringles commercial with him.
— Dan Cronin (@croninwhocares) April 6, 2014
This is probably the only thing Dom DeLuise and Pharrell have in common, but we’ll take it.
so Pharrell is basically a Dom DeLuise-esque Always Wearing a Hat Guy at this point, isn’t he
— Andy Bugay (@andybugay) April 6, 2014
File this under “saddest of tweets” or “Opposite of ‘Happy’.”
Pharrell singing happy on SNL makes me feel slightly happier … But still dead.
— Aub (@AuBreyZeeee) April 6, 2014