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“I Will Now Tell You about the Dream I Had about Pharrell”

Some men in music, like, say, Dan the Automator and Billy Joel, do more for the industry than can even be documented, described, measured or accounted for in any way. With these two men at this point having mostly receded into obscurity, this is especially the case with Pharrell Williams, who at this point I think is basically single-handedly holding up mainstream pop music. 

Among Pharrell’s recent accomplishments is doling songwriting and vocals for the 2014 smash hit “Happy,” which graced Disney’s Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and garnered about a galaxy of radio airplay. He also produced the last album by Beck, Hyperspace, and even handled the bulk of the songwriting on that — a stoned-out, tense and gorgeous gem of a pop album that also stands with compete distinction within Beck’s catalogue (if perhaps hinted at by the narcotic ease of “Movie Theme” from his last prior good album, The Information). This work is so catchy and pliable that it’s easy to forget he’s also been the arbiter of a bona fide hip-hop record (as in producer and rapper), NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES by N.E.R.D., a solid, politically correct but vibrant hip-hop album that features Kendrick Lamar and Migos, among others. He’s also narrated Disney’s The Grinch movie and composed the score for Despicable Me 3, all in the last three years. Through all this, he in addition found time to attend Chris Cornell’s funeral in 2017, a little gesture which should obviate, more so than logically display, his dedication to the craft of music.

Just out of nowhere, I had a dream about him last night. I was sitting on this couch in this room, which, given polymorphous spatial dream dimensions, was probably kind of oblong and 12 feet by 36, which had one wall knocked off to one of the shorter sides, and was shedding in sunlight. Pharrell was depressed, actually. I saw this in my dream because it was an approximate mind state I’ve encountered before — it’s not so much clinical depression as it is the perception of pervasive creative dead ends. Pharrell was looking down to the ground, and spraying the ground with this orange spray paint (the ground was sort of like a black concrete and in general this room was really weird like the last scene of The Blair Witch Project [1]). He was spraying, marking the ground, incessantly and aimlessly, as if trying to stumble upon a new artistic avenue for expression, apparently perceiving music as derelict in this regard. He was obsessed with space and shapes. I had encountered this mind state in college, gradually and even half-unwittingly and so softly that I at the time didn’t even fully recognize the need to antidote it. The full realization of my malady came when I purchased the Godspeed You! Black Emperor album F#A#oo [2] on CD, in which the liner notes feature this notated diagram of a de facto mental impasse. The quandary depicted involves four possible mental recourses, each of which in its own way embodies a different particular “trap,” or psychological pitfall, if you will. Hence the overall mental impasse. It theoretically stems partly from the condition of every medium of expression having already been exhausted, something that would seem to make sense seeing as in our culture these days we’re experiencing a significant movement toward the anatomically revealing in women’s clothing and “visual art,” if you can call it that. Two of the maladies depicted in the drawing are “police car anxiety” and “continuous self-doubt” (the latter of which is also titled “fear”). 

In my dream, anyway, I ended up saying “hi” to Pharrell, and giving him props on the new Beck album, of which I am an ardent fan. I guess one irony of the dream is that I particularly lauded my favorite song on the album, “Stratosphere,” which happens to be the only tune that Beck wrote all by himself, with no help from anyone else, Williams or otherwise. Actually, I think my words were kind of like half-out when I started laughing too hard to continue, while looking at just him (there was sort of ambiguously the presence of one or two other non-judgmental while males around, in spirit or corpus, who might have had the proclivity to sort of blankly seek money), with no force involved having been funny to me other than Pharrell’s very presence. It’s the typical condition of an LSD trip — uncontrollable laughter the throes of which are even more powerful than marijuana effects. Pharrell then left and I kept cracking up so I never got the chance to explain the Godspeed liner notes to him. 

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[1] WHOA was this movie nuts — it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up at the end. It’s great for this time of year too. 

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[2] Please excuse my butchering of this title — I’m doing what I can on a conventional Mac keyboard. That last set of two “o”’s is meant to represent an infinity symbol. 

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