Mega-producer and Happy singer Pharrell Williams closed the MTV Europe Music Awards in Milan on Monday with his new track, Freedom. The video for Freedom, released in July and nominated for Best Video, features images from around the world including women toiling in a sweatshop, to a slum, to India's holy Ganges River.
He dedicated the song to refugees fleeing to Europe, praising the contribution of immigrants around the world, and started the song with "Let them in!"
"Freedom is something you're born with," he continued. "No one has to give it to you."
While he sang, thousands of fans in the Piazza Duomo waved a massive "Freedom" flag fashioned from flags of the world, launching the MTV Freedom campaign. MTV has joined forces with UNICEF to raise awareness and amasssupport of the current refugee crisis in Europe (freedom.mtvema.com).
"Tonight at Pharrell Williams's powerful EMA performance of 'Freedom,' a new country was born … We call it Freedom," said MTV in a statement. "A place where people are safe from violence. Where families stay together. Where no one is afraid. Where futures are possible and every single child, woman and man belongs. A place we build together that can never be destroyed. A place that knows no boundary, because Freedom is big enough for all of us."
Williams told AFP that he did not consider himself an activist but that "We should use our platforms where we can."
"We have to be open. And it's a tough conversation, but America is built on immigrants. We wouldn't have a country" without them, he said.
Asked whether that applied to the situation in Europe, which is facing an unprecedented wave of migrants from Syria and other conflict-laden countries, Williams said, "Absolutely."
Recently named artist-in-residence at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the 42 year old spoke at length about his twenty-year career as a songwriter and producer for artists such as Madonna, Snoop Dogg and Britney Spears.
He only began singing on the 2013 Daft Punk album, and remains genuinely surprised at the global success of Happy, which fans made into homemade videos of themselves dancing to the track all over the world.
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