Freedom by Pharrell Williams

Musically, this track immediately stands out from the millions of other songs on the airwaves. It’s not common. It’s not typical. It’s not expected. As Pharrell likes to say, it’s “other”.Track: Freedom
Artist: Pharrell Williams
Genre: pop, soul, other
Music Rating: 6/10
Lyrics Rating: 10/10
Interesting Fact: Skateboard P was in marching band as a kid. (Represent!)
Best thing About this Track: Scream-singing in the chorus. That is the song. That has to be the best thing, but the lyrics on the verses of this track are just insane. If this was any other song, the lyrics would be the best thing, because they are truly and unbelievably genius.
One thing I wish was different: This song is weird, because I don’t intellectually want to listen to it musically. My brain doesn’t love it, and it should be nothing special, but something inside of me craves it. The spark of humanity inside of me yearns for this song. So while it is not my favorite to listen to, I also can’t really say that I wished it was any different musically, because then I wouldn’t love it. It’s kind of a strange, indescribable relationship I have with this song, but I would expect nothing less from Pharrell. So to recap: This song is weird. I love it because of its strangeness. Um, if I had to change something . . . horns are cool? They could be used more? I don’t know! I’m not going to counsel Pharrell on this. He’s too genius.
Website: Pharrell Williams

Musically, this track immediately stands out from the millions of other songs on the airwaves. It’s not common. It’s not typical. It’s not expected. As Pharrell likes to say, it’s “other”.

This song feels like a musical thought. A sonic emotion. This song seems to be the seed of pure tonal potential that lies at the heart of all things. It feels as if Pharrell has taken a fully developed musical idea and stripped it back, removing layers until he found the bare truth at the core of everything. Then, gently cradling it in his hands, he broadcasted it for the world to see. I’m not sure that has ever happened before in music.

This song isn’t simple per se, but it is extremely sparse. That being said, the sparseness is extremely potent and very powerfully concentrated. He took all the power of music and lyrics from a fully-produced song and poured it into a tiny vessel. To me, that is why the song feels like it is exploding at the seams on the chorus, and it is truly a beautiful thing to witness.

Basically Pharrell totally went full Mary Poppins on this song, because there is no way that he should have been able to fit that much content and impact in so few notes and words. I mean, the chorus is one word. That’s insane. One word. But it’s not a willy-nilly “la la, na na, hey hey” bubblegum chorus (which by the way, still has more than one word). It’s a full-fledged, speak to your soul, scream your guts out, definition of humanity kind of chorus. In. ONE. Word. That is some straight up magic right there. Magic, I tell you!

One of the greatest things about nonspecific lyrics that are so obviously drenched in soul and meaning is that there is room for every heart to hear an echo of the message within. These lyrics can be heard in such a way that they will resonate with virtually limitless convictions and life experiences. The same few lines can be interpreted and reinterpreted in numerous ways depending on who hears them and at what point in your life you hear them. The core message is universal, leaving room for each listener to color in the painting with shades of their own reality and fill in the details of their own perception of truth. These lyrics just work on so many different levels.

Let’s take a few lines as an example:
Your first name is Free
Last name is Dom
Cause you still believe in where we’re from

I think we can acknowledge that everybody gets the dom/dumb pun, so I won’t go over it (although that has many layers in itself). However, that is not the end of the depth that these lyrics convey. Names have always held deep anthropological, sociological, and personal significance throughout history and across cultures. Arguably the entire theme of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is centered around the identity of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation as a monster as a direct result of the lack of a name given to it, thus rejecting it from society and robbing it of any humanity that it might have possessed. We have idioms in English alluding to the fact that our name is our very definition. Who are you? Socially, the correct answer to that question would be to give your name.

These lines in the song specifically address given names and surnames. A given name would be a more direct representation of your personal definition or identity which was chosen by those who know you most intimately, while your surname is more rigidly decided and denotes background information about where you come from. Modernly, it most often tells of your family, but at its inception, surnames could also tell where you were from geographically, what occupation you’d taken, or a number of other outlying facts and labels that make up your more broad identity.

-dom is an abstract suffix that denotes a noun in the state or condition of that which precedes it. Wow, that sounds an awful lot like what we just said surnames were supposed to be both historically and modernly. Your last name is -dom. It defines the context of your life as being in the general state of that background information. Your first name though, is free. You are your own person, and while we all come with baggage, history, and external labels, your very definition is open to whatever you will it to become. Who are you? You are free. Put together the will and fluidity of human aspiration with the grounding foundation of history and context, and you have Freedom. That is a powerful definition.

But this is still not the end of the layered contemplations these lyrics convey. Are we being idiomatic or expressive here? Are these adjectives or nouns? I feel like I could actually go on about this for days and days, and we’ve only begun discussing two short lines from the first verse. Every line in this song feels like that to me, and that is why I will always want to scream-sing along to this song at the top of my lungs. Regular singing will not do. Loud singing is not enough. Everything in me wants to scream-sing this song “when man recognizes: FREEDOM!”

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La la la la la la la la la x4

Hold on to me
Don’t let me go
Who cares what they see?
Who cares what they know?
Your first name is Free
Last name is Dom
Cause you still believe in where we’re from
Man’s red flower
It’s in every living thing
Mind use your power
Spirit use your wings

Freedom! x3
Freedom x3

Hold on to me
Oh, don’t let me go
The cheetahs need to eat
Run antelope
Your first name is King
Last name is Dom
Cause you still believe in everyone
When a baby first breathes
When night sees sunrise
When the whale hops the sea
When man recognizes

Freedom! x3
Freedom x2
Breathe in

We are from heat
The Electric one
Does it shock you to see, he left us the sun?
Atoms in the air
Organisms in the sea
The Sun, and yes, man
Are made of the same things

Freedom! x3
Freedom x5


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