Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Won The War: Pharrell vs. Timbaland

This is a series inspired by a tweet from perpetual lightning rod for controversy Azealia Banks when she inferred that although Michael Jackson won the battle, Prince won the war. This will be my take on which two rivals in packaging in the U.S. Music Industry, won the war in terms of longer success.

Round 7 of this series pits the two biggest producers turned solo acts. In one corner, Pharrell Williams; one half of the production super team, The Neptunes, frontman of the group N*E*R*D and a solo success in his own right. In the other corner, Tim "Timbaland" Mosley; a super producer with something of credibility to his name in solo music act mode.
Both are already the most evenly matched going into war. Both are Virginia natives that put forth futura-dappled pop/R&B music in solo mode. Both have produced songs for just about every goddamn artist you can imagine. Both have also crossed paths for a certain Pop Star Feminist icon's 11th album...thus making this question twice as difficult...

In longevity terms, who merely won the battle...and who Won the War?

As of 2015, Pharrell added a second solo album to his name; the 2014 released, G I R L. Timbaland while working on the upcoming Opera Noir, has two proper albums to his name*; the last proper effort was the 2009 released Shock Value II. Here's their charting album peaks from highest to lowest...

- G I R L at #2
- In My Mind at #3

- Shock Value at #5
- Shock Value II at #36
Tim's Bio: Life From da Bassment at #41*

*Technically, this is a glorified compilation effort of Timbaland's production at the time. It amazingly charted at all considering the type of album it is.*

Due to the fact that these two have made something of a name for themselves, radio has played their songs every now and again. In terms of longevity when was their last #1 hit on the Hot 100?

*Reminder: Hot 100 ranking does matter if you're absolutely looking for a gauge of where an artist is in terms of popularity*

Pharrell's sole #1 to date is "Happy" which despite being on G I R L was originally composed for the Despicable Me 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Either way, a recent #1 is a recent #1. Timbaland's sole #1 to date is "Give It to Me" ft. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. 7 almost 8 years and 1 album ago? Eeek.

The last Top 10 hit? Strictly using the name Pharrell, he has never had a Top 10 hit. Counting his sole album Clones with Chad as The Neptunes, it's the 2003 #5 peaking hit "Frontin'". Timbaland has either the #2 peaking "Apologize" remix with OneRepublic or "The Way I Are" ft. Keri Hilson which peaked at #3.

While acting would be considered for this series, neither Pharrell nor Timbaland has been in a movie. Insert joke of how musicians usually suck mildew thunderkunt acting in movies.

Musically, there are naturally some weak points in an artists' career when say...a lead single doesn't go to #1 or released singles chart really low. These are the positions at the lowest of Pharrell and Timbaland's careers...

Pharrell's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single: "Can I Have It Like That" ft. Gwen Stefani at #49 on the Hot 100.
- Lowest Charting Released Single: "Number One" ft. Kanye West at #57 on the Hot 100.

Timbaland's Lowest Charting Singles
- Lowest Charting Lead Single*: "Morning After Dark" ft. SoShy and Nelly Furtado at #61 on the Hot 100.
- Lowest Charting Released Single*: "Morning After Dark" ft. SoShy and Nelly Furtado at #61 on the Hot 100.

*If the compilation "Bassment" was worth something, then the double nadir is "Here We Come" ft. Magoo, Missy Elliott and Darryl Pearson at #92 on the Hot 100.*

Their nadirs are something of an eerily coincidental nature. At the time of Pharrell's solo nadir, this is when he made it no secret that he saw himself as a producer first and singer a distant second. When In My Mind was released, the consensus is that despite the fact a Pharrell solo album was inevitable it didn't meet ridiculously high expectations for him. Add in "Can I Have It Like That" being eaten alive by critics who lambasted the song left and right, and Pharrell couldn't win in this era.
Timbaland's nadir came after Shock Value II was an unmitigated bust. The success of Shock Value and three of its singles each reaching the top 3 ("Scream" ft. Keri Hilson and Nicole Scherzinger being the song left behind in the dust.) was essentially a fluke. Despite "Carry Out" with Justin Timberlake reaching #11 on the Hot 100, Shock Value II was just a flop of an era. Despite two more Top 40 on the Hot 100 "hits" in "Say Something" with Drake and "If We Ever Meet Again" with Katy Perry [reaching #23 and #37 respectively], the sequel was worse than the original in performance and in reception.

An interesting thing to consider for this war, is Madonna's 11th studio effort Hard Candy. Both producers more or less crossed paths here as they each had their parts in crafting the album. Pharrell had 7 of the 12 tracks while Timbaland had the remaining 5. Of Pharrell's 7, 5 were good which gives roughly a 71% average. Of Timbaland's 5, 2 were good giving it a 40% average. O_-
Sadly, it was the horrible song "4 Minutes" that saw the most success from the album as it remains Madge's last Top 5 "hit".
71% vs. a fluke turned poorly aging Top 5 song...

Now for the final points: iconic singles AKA the one song people know is by that artist.

Pharrell has The Best Pop Solo Performance Grammy winning "Happy" to his name. It may have been the earworm to end all earworms, but it's a song that went to #1 and didn't leave until more or less Taylor Swift or someone said "Fuck this noise; here I come".

Timbaland has either "The Way I Are" or "Give It To Me" and that's a problem. Both are decent but you have to split hairs to get to the technicality that "The Way I Are" is his best known single...even if it was #3 to "Give It To Me" going #1...

After this, it's time to name the winner. One has a reason to be happy; the other did it in the name of shock value; one is a super producer who focused on quality for his solo efforts; one relied on the SNL addict known as Justin Timberlake...

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