Ever since its debut at the GRAMMYs last January, Pharrell Williams’ hat has been linked with, well, Pharrell Williams. So it made sense for the singer/producer, once he graced the “Saturday Night Live” stage, to don the now-famous headwear to usher in his guest spot on the show, though this time it was dark green, not brown.
Pharrell, whose “Happy” has become one of music’s biggest sleeper hits with its six-week reign atop the Hot 100, stuck to that formula for his first performance just after the midnight hour.
“Happy” certainly didn’t lack its usual infectious joy, which was spurned on by a backup crew of a little over a dozen young dancers. Williams jived and swayed ahead of his dancers and backing band, crooning the song’s sunny hook, while the rest jumped around to a choreographed routine complete with claps and stomps, two in particular getting the opportunity to showcase their moves ahead of the others during a quick breakdown.
Take two involved “Marilyn Monroe,” the first track on Pharrell’s new solo record “GIRL” and its second radio single. No dancers this time (though the grooving tune certainly could have used some!), but in its place sat a flurry of string players, helmed by none other than composer Hans Zimmer, who contributed string arrangements to the new album. Unlike “Happy,” “Marilyn Monroe” provided Williams the opportunity to show off his falsetto a little more, though the singer still mostly stuck to the lower register part on the chorus.
Williams even got the chance to guest star in the final sketch of the evening, which saw him play himself looking for a backup singer for his live performances. Flanked by Kenan Thompson and Taran Killam, both of whom ended up with their own giant hats (“I’ve always had this hat!”), he watched Vanessa Bayer and host Anna Kendrick attempt to wow him with their “Rent” audition, and he was quite feeling at least one of them – though it’s probably not who you’d think, except it probably is.
Speaking of hosts, Kendrick, who famously had a sleeper hit of her own last summer with “Cups (When I’m Gone),” she put in a solid performance, appearing as Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” at one point. Ursula was all about stealing her voice, but when Ariel didn’t quite dispense the vocal she expected, things got a little awkward (think Ke$ha, Britney Spears).
“SNL” returns next week with Seth Rogen as host and Ed Sheeran playing two songs as the musical guest.