Audio Engineer reacts to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams

Audio Engineer reacts to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
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I got this in an email newsletter yesterday. I found this breakdown VERY fascinating and cool. I really need to start listening to music more critically. Thanks for posting!

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Very interesting analysis on the production. It gives some insight into what many times sounds ‘simple’, but is then revealed to be very careful choices and placement to create both momentary effect and overall song impact.

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I’m not sure what people are seing in this. The guy is just stating the obvious for 15 minutes - isn’t he?



I found his descriptions interesting and helpful in understanding the construction of a Pop (?) song. I think this song was VERY successful, made Pharrell quite famous, so it would seem he (and his team presumably) did some things well in making it - at least from a commercial viability standpoint. It’s not a musical style I listen to much, so I’m less likely to analyze it myself without a compelling reason to do so.

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My takeaways were the following:

using call and response to make space for the vocalist (3:36)

prosody lyrics “clap along” with percussion claps (4:44)

prosody visual of choir with increase of vocals in the chorus (8:30)

adding/building through arrangements ie number of voices in the chorus and switching from predominantly male to female voices in the background on choruses (9:27)

using different types of reverb throughout the song; I tend to just use one reverb to make it sound like the performers are in the same live space as opposed to using it differently in the song sections, and the effect it has on the sections (7:23)

combining different delays (5:45) and at the end of a song to add interest (11:58)

I hadn’t considered the contrast in the prosody between the chord progression mood and lyrics (13:23)(14:04)

To be fair, this is tagged as a post for beginners, so more experienced mixers may not find this video helpful, but we are not all there yet :wink:



Ah yes, sorry, I didn’t see that.

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No worries :smiley:



He does break down the obvious, but he does it in a helpful manner. I’m kind of with AJ on this one; the song was a huge hit (even if he did get sued) and it shows the extent they had to go to keep it interesting. It is infectious, but repetitive, so the production required that different elements weaved in and out to kind of subversively keep your interest. Probably could have summed that up more quickly, but he did the job. Sold a lot of Douglas Dooright hats.



He got sued for Blurred Lines with Robin Thicke.



My mistake, Happy is very derivative too, but not enough sue for it. Sounds like a Motown mashup, but it worked, so more power to him.

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Was there a news article about Happy? If there was, I totally missed it. Not that it should be surprising. I miss a lot. lol