Su­per­star PHAR­RELL WIL­LIAMS tells SARAH ENGSTRAND about his song that will never be heard

#Legend - - INTERVIEW -

ONE HUN­DRED YEARS ago, our world was rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent. Europe was en­gulfed in the first Great War, Amer­i­can women were fight­ing for suf­frage and it would be 10 more years un­til the ad­vent of tele­vi­sion. A cen­tury be­fore that, King Ge­orge III sat on the Bri­tish throne, Mis­sis­sippi had just be­come a young na­tion’s 20th state and the tele­phone was some 60 years away from in­ven­tion.

To­day, amid ris­ing car­bon emis­sions and global tem­per­a­tures, frack­ing and over­fish­ing, to name just a few en­vi­ron­men­tal crises, one ques­tion begs to be asked: what will the earth be like in 100 years? Will hu­man­ity have ru­ined it with over­con­sump­tion and greed? That’s the ques­tion that co­gnac house Louis XIII asked singer Phar­rell Wil­liams to con­sider for his lat­est song, 100 Years – in­spired by the length of time it takes to cre­ate the brand’s sought-af­ter spirit. That’s right; the Louis XIII we drink to­day is the prod­uct of 1,200 eaux-de-vie (the colour­less base spir­its) blended in 1917. 100 Years is the se­cond pro­ject of its type for the “King of Co­gnac”, which also col­lab­o­rated with ac­tor John Malkovich on 2015’s 100 Years: The Movie You’ll Never See.

Wil­liams de­buted the never-to-be-heard-in-this-life­time-again sin­gle on Novem­ber 13, 2017 in Shang­hai. The ex­clu­sive track, recorded on an LP made from the chalky soil of Co­gnac, pre­miered to a room of 100 celebri­ties, so­cialites and for­eign jour­nal­ists, who were re­quired to lock away their phones and all record­ing de­vices for the event.

It was a mov­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for many, in­clud­ing Hong Kong so­cialite Elly Lam. “It re­ally struck a chord in me, and I’m glad they’re bring­ing aware­ness to cli­mate change and sav­ing our planet,” she says, de­scrib­ing the track as catchy, touch­ing and a bit ag­gres­sive. “There are two parts to it – a nurs­ery rhyme, like a song for a child, and then the beat drops.”

To­day, the disc is kept in the un­der­ground cel­lars of Louis XIII, in a time-locked safe pro­grammed to open in 2117. That is, #IfWeCare. The safe can with­stand fire, trauma and ex­plo­sions, but not wa­ter; it has been specif­i­cally de­signed to de­struct when sub­merged. Should the earth’s sea lev­els con­tinue to rise as a di­rect re­sult of cli­mate change and melt­ing po­lar ice caps, the song will be lost for­ever.

Wil­liams has been a leader in en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness for years. He be­came a co-owner of sus­tain­able fash­ion line G-Star Raw in 2016, en­cour­aged world lead­ers to cre­ate more green jobs at 2015’s COP21 cli­mate-change sum­mit and worked with for­mer Amer­i­can vi­cepres­i­dent Al Gore to plan Live Earth 2015. “We only have one planet,” ex­plained Wil­liams at a press con­fer­ence the morn­ing of the pre­miere. “It’s our one and only home.”

Known as much for his peren­nial op­ti­mism as he is for his de­cep­tively boy­ish looks, Wil­liams’ lat­est track re­veals a new di­men­sion to the singer – an an­gry one. Speak­ing can­didly, he de­scribes it as sar­cas­tic and di­rect. Un­like the tra­di­tional, for­get­table call-to-ac­tion songs, 100 Years is in­tended to res­onate across cen­turies. “I thought, let me just troll all the pseudo-sci­en­tists that don’t care about the ecosys­tem. There are a lot of great, fine sci­en­tists, but we just hap­pen to have some that agree with our cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion in the States, and I don’t get that.”

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