And this winter’s feel-good song, which is up for an Academy Award, has spawned a craze for copycat videos made in cities all over the world, including here in the UAE.
Pharrell Williams’s Happy gets the Abu Dhabi and Dubai treatment
One version with more than 30,000 views on YouTube was made at the Eastern Mangroves Suites and features 31 cleaners, valets and receptionists dancing while they work. The facility's chief executive, Nehme Imad Darwiche, came up with the idea after seeing the original, while the marketing director Kathrin Reinthaler, who also appears in the video, recorded and cut it together in just one day. “The purpose of it was to make something together as a team,” she says. “And we did have a lot of fun making it. But not everybody is a born dancer and behind the camera we would dance for them, to put the dancers in the mood. But some of them have it in their blood.”
Another offering from We Are Dubai shows various locals and expatriates dancing on balconies, in parking lots and the beach (with the Burj Al Arab in the background, drawing more than 70,000 views.
When Leslie Mallart, who runs the site Dubai Confidential, decided to shoot a Dubai version, the end result featured 29 nationalities and has gathered more than 140,000 views on YouTube.
“We loved this song and saw a trend of people recording their own version of the video in Paris, Berlin and Barcelona,” she says. “So we thought, why not do something that looks cool and professional? We hired a video company and ran a social media campaign, inviting people who wanted to be featured in the video to come on three Thursdays, at three different locations around Dubai. We also had one couple who just happened to see us filming and wanted to join in. They were happy together and in love, so we thought they'd be perfect! We worked very hard and it was expensive to make, because we wanted it to be good quality. I'm very pleased it's been so successful. We tried to coach people not to be self-conscious when dancing. But we did get funny looks from onlookers, especially on JBR walk when Tim Jolly was dancing – he's the one who looks and dances like Justin Timberlake!”
Jolly acknowledges he does regularly get mistaken for the US singer. The IT manager is also a DJ and a big fan of Williams's song.
“I think the song's videos are fantastic, the way that different cultures join together for one unified moment,” he said. “It's quite magical, really.”