Whether he’s creating hot beats or wearing Arby’s hats, Pharrell Williams is a trendsetter. Pharrell has been making hits since the late ‘90s, when he and Chad Hugo, as the Neptunes, became the go-to producers in music, crafting songs like Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.”
In addition to releasing a couple of his own albums, Pharrell has been a featured artist on dozens of tracks, which means that narrowing this list to just 10 was not an easy task. Follow along as we count down the 10 best Pharrell Williams songs.
10. “Number One” (with Kanye West)
Pharrell’s 2006 solo debut In My Mind produced two moderate hits: the Gwen Stefani duet “Can I Have it Like That,” and this Kanye team-up, which blended classic R&B with hints of disco – a preview of the retro style that Williams would mine for years to come.
An album track from Pharrell’s 2014 solo album GIRL, “Hunter” took soul and dance elements, falsetto delivery, and a lustful story – “Just because it's the middle of night / That don't mean I won't hunt you down” – and wrapped them in a sexy melody that remained stuck in listeners’ heads long after the track ended.
8. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (with Snoop Dogg)
“Drop It Like It’s Hot” was a revelation – a minimalist song in a genre built on over-the-top excess. Its simple drum beats and clicks allowed Snoop’s laid-back delivery to dominate the track. The 2004 song was the first No. 1 for either Snoop or Pharrell on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. “Come Get it Bae” (with Miley Cyrus)
The world still wasn’t ready to let go of “Happy” when Pharrell issued the follow-up single “Come Get it Bae,” so even though the Miley Cyrus-assisted tune was released in May, it took three months for the song to arrive at its peak position of No. 23. It finally got there thanks to a cool blend of funky guitar licks, “Hey!” chants, and suggestive lyrics.
6. “Blurred Lines” (with T.I. and Robin Thicke)
“Blurred Lines” was essentially Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” reborn four decades later. As producer, Williams took on more of a supporting role here – the funky track spent an astounding 12 weeks at No. 1 largely due to Robin Thicke’s crooning and T.I.’s swagger.
5. “She Wants to Move” (with N.E.R.D.)
Pharrell sometimes moonlights as a rock star. In 2001, he and Hugo teamed up with Shay Haley to form the alt-rock outfit N.E.R.D., which released four albums. Their biggest hit and best song was 2004’s “She Wants to Move,” a guitar-heavy rhythmic rock song.
4. “Frontin’” (with Jay-Z)
Pharrell’s first hit as a lead artist was “Frontin,” which featured an overload of falsetto vocals and a came from Jay-Z. The song from 2003’s The Neptunes Present… The Clones hit No. 5 and still holds up today as an excellent pop song.
Thank goodness Pharrell didn’t give away “Happy” to Cee Lo Green as he originally intended, because it became his signature song, a welcome blast of positivity that seemed to arrive in our culture at just the right time. “Happy” hit No. 1 on pretty much every chart and became one of the biggest pop hits of the 2010s.
2. “Beautiful” (with Snoop Dogg and Charlie Wilson)
By 2003, it had been almost a decade since Snoop had a Top 10 hit, but Pharrell helped resurrect his career with “Beautiful,” a hip-hop song that sounded hard-edged and tough even as Snoop got uncharacteristically sensitive, rapping, “Baby girl, you’re so beautiful.”
1. “Get Lucky” (with Daft Punk)
“Get Lucky” took Pharrell’s soul-disco style and added in some Nile Rodgers guitars and beats from hugely-successful electronic duo Daft Punk, ultimately resulting in an unforgettable song. It also created a fun moment at the Grammys where Williams had to speak for the mute robots after “Get Lucky” won Record of the Year. Though it was held out of the No. 1 spot on Billboard by “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” is, in our estimation, the best Pharrell Williams song of all-time.
Keep reading AXS.com for the latest Pharrell Williams news and tour dates.