Prior to releasing his second album, Girl, in 2014, Pharrell Williams handed a new song to CeeLo Green. He loved it, and even recorded the track, but the “powers that be” vetoed Green’s version, and “Happy” was later released by Williams.
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“[He] wanted to do it, [and] he did do it,” said Williams in a 2014 interview of Green’s initial recording. “He sounded amazing on it. I mean, he burns my version. But, how do I say this diplomatically? The powers that be, at the time, did not see it fit for him. Some folks on his team just felt that the priority should be on [Green’s] album at the time, so they elected not to do that song.”
At the time, Green was working on his fifth album Heart Blanche, featuring the title track, which he co-wrote with Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
‘Despicable Me 2‘
As Williams was working on the score for the 2013 animated film, Despicable Me 2 with Heitor Pereira, he said Universal Pictures insisted that he sing “Happy.”
Williams’ version was released, featuring backing vocals by Rhea Dummett, Shamika Hightower, Jasmine Murray, Terrence Rolle, Trevon Henderson, and Ashley L. Lee.
“There was a much bigger agenda for [Green], he had an album to put out,” said Williams. “It’s not his fault. He was totally down with it, [and] he was one of the most gracious people about it when [‘Happy’] came out.”
No. 1: Across the Globe
A year later, Williams also released “Happy” on his 2014 album Girl. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and also features guest vocals from Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, and Daft Punk.
Upon its release, “Happy” gained worldwide success. Not only did the buoyant song top the Billboard Hot 100 and other relevant charts in the U.S., but it also topped the chart in 19 other countries.
The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and earned Williams a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.
“Happy” was also the most successful song of 2014, selling more than 13.9 million copies, worldwide.
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