May 1, 2014 at 9:04 AM ET
These days, Pharrell Williams has a lot to be "Happy" about. But as he revealed to Howard Stern in a radio interview Tuesday, his smash single actually was meant to make someone else's year: former "Voice" coach CeeLo Green's.
"(Green) did do it," Williams told Stern after being asked if he'd considered passing the song along to another singer. That wouldn't have been out of line for Williams: Prior to "Happy," he had specialized in songwriting and producing for other hitmakers.
"But ... how do I say this diplomatically?" continued Williams. "The powers that be, at the time, did not see it fit for him.... He wanted to do it. But I think some folks on his team just felt that the priority should have been on (his) album at the time (2012's "CeeLo's Magic Moment"), so they elected not to do that song."
"Happy" wasn't an instant success for Williams, either — released on the soundtrack for "Despicable Me 2" last November, it was reissued the following month. The track didn't really catch fire until early 2014, hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart the week of March 1. The song has now sold over 4 million digital copies worldwide.
On TODAY Thursday, Carson Daly revealed several other hits that were initially offered to another artist, including Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" (turned down by Janet Jackson) and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" (passed over by Pink and Hilary Duff).
That just goes to show that a pop hit isn't just about great hooks — it's about a particular singer at a particular time and place. Williams says Green doesn't seem bitter about getting passed over. "He was one of the most gracious people about it when ('Happy') came out," the singer revealed. Not that Green has any reason to feel professional jealousy, Williams noted: "(Green) sounded amazing on it. He burns my version, totally."