Pharrell Williams has made cool look effortless for almost 30 years. The Virginia-born icon—who has hands in the worlds of music, fashion, film, and art—is always finding new ways to surprise both the public and himself.
Pharrell says as much during an exclusive interview with GQ. When the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Will Welch, asks him about his various artistic endeavors, Williams mentions keeping his ambitions separate to not come across as too obnoxious:
“I don’t want to get tired of myself. It’s cool to work in different disciplines, but it’s annoying to come off like an arrogant Swiss Army knife. When I was really young, I thought that was cool. Now I understand that the element of surprise is what makes it cool.”
Pharrell's point is more salient than he might realize. As an artist, it is incredibly tempting to market yourself as all things to all people. But the real spectacle comes from subverting your audience's expectations. No one expected Tyler, The Creator to make songs for Universal's animated film The Grinch last year, but the transition was natural because of Tyler's natural whimsy in all spheres of creation.
Tyler, of course, is a natural point of comparison to Pharrell. Both artists have praised each other in the past, with Pharrell mentioning Tyler's secret weapon is his “audacity to try.” For both artists, being cool means staying ahead of the creative curve. Never underestimate the power behind the element of surprise; it's a point of satisfaction for both fans an artists.