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This Is Why Pharrell Thinks Hits Are Like Hashtags

Don’t force genius, even if it makes you ... ‘Happy’ (sorry)

Thursday morning (November 17), The Hollywood Reporter published an epic roundtable with Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Pharrell Wiliams, Tori Amos, John Legend, and Sting, and the amount of wisdom — about life, love, making music, the music industry, you name it — is, well, a little overwhelming, to be honest, as there’s a lot of great advice to take here.

It’d be one thing if only one of these incredibly talented individuals sat down and doled out what they’ve learned from their various successes, but this whole thing is a valuable conversation about the creative process, the songs that changed their careers, the crucial importance of music in today’s political climate, and the pressures they face to succeed. Pharrell, an indisputable hitmaker, was direct about how he got to where he is: He didn’t overthink his music or try too hard to churn out a single for the sake of hitting No. 1.

“People who say, ’This is going to be a hit’ are as unsuccessful as those who create hashtags,” he tells THR. “You know? Let’s do a hashtag call for action. It never works. But then when some seemingly random person who isn’t really random has something that really means something to them, they say it, that becomes the greatest hashtag. So just like a hashtag and just like a hit, we have nothing to do with that. We just ideate. People don’t have to respond. It’s not guaranteed that they will.”

Hrm. All due respect, Pharrell, but you could probably blow your nose into a microphone and throw a beat behind it and the people would respond. His latest track — “Crave,” for the Hidden Figures soundtrack — is already proving that in spades, so heed his advice and avoid brainhurt when you’re chasing inspiration.