MESSAGE OF THE CENTURY
Superstar PHARRELL WILLIAMS tells SARAH ENGSTRAND about his song that will never be heard
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.”