"Happy" became a movement unto itself last year. But during his Grammy moment, Pharrell Williams aligned the song's message with what's undoubtedly the biggest movement of the moment. While audiences at home fixated on his bellhop costume, many missed the artist's powerful message.
During the middle of his performance, Williams and his backup dancers on stage — many outfitted in black hoodies — paused. Instead of singing, they allowed their hands to speak for themselves in a tribute to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that emerged last year to protest the killings of unarmed black Americans.
The significance of the black hoodies and the "hands up" motion cannot be understated. Both images have been unmistakably synonymous with the broader movement against the killings of unarmed black people at the hands of police officers and vigilantes. The hoodies originally emerged as a form of protest following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the eventual acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. The "hands up" came immediately following the death of Michael Brown in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer.
Williams chose one of the biggest moments of his career, on what's perhaps music's biggest stage, to make a pointed gesture of solidarity with the broader #BlackLivesMatter efforts. Aligning his iconic song "Happy" with a call to value black lives sends a strong signal that the movement's message has been heard — and isn't going away anytime soon.