Posted by: Nathan | March 8, 2009

The Happiest Song in the World

There is a lot of music out there, and I think it’s a fair bet that most of it isn’t happy. Our pessimistic, sarcastic era is especially skeptical of happiness and contentment. I’d wager the ratio of break up song to love songs is somewhere in the neighborhood of three-to-one. Anyway, in this vale of tears there are a few ditties that cannot help but make one happy. I’ve listed my top three below. Which do you think deserves the title of Happiest Song in the World? Of course, write-in candidates are welcome also.

Contestant #1: “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. This is a soft-rock radio station staple that I’ve heard countless times over the years.

  • Pros: That lady wondered if her guy actually loved her, but now she’s sure. She’s super happy about it! In fact, she’s so happy that she’s developed a supernatural ability to ambulate on top of waves of light! Now that’s happy. Let’s not overlook the fast-paced tempo of this number and the bright intro with the brass instruments. Add to that all the all right nows and yeahs and whoos, and you’ve got yourself one happy song.
  • Cons: This song is pretty annoying after one or two listens. There’s also a repetitive grammatical error of agreement (“and don’t it feel good!” Clearly we need “doesn’t” here). And, strangely, the music video was shot on a cloudy day in London. Um, that’s either ironic or stupid, and I don’t think this song is complicated enough to use irony. Of course, music videos don’t matter in the end, but I found it odd.

Contestant #2: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. Another soft-rock staple that’s bound to make you feel better no matter how crappy you feel.

  • Pros: The cheeriness of this song comes from weather-related symbolism. Not only is the rain gone, he also can see clearly now that it is gone. He’s been in a fog; he’s been down. Here’s that rainbow he’s been praying for! It’s going to be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day! The tempo here is a little slower, but the instrumentation is adequately happy. For me, most of the optimism comes from the lyrics and Nash’s delivery. This is one uplifting number.
  • Cons: Sure, he can see clearly, but there are still some obstacles in his way. I suppose one could turn this critique on its ear by saying this song is so powerfully optimistic that even though there are obstacles, everything will be okay. Wow, Johnny, you’re one happy dude.

Contestant #3: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. You know you love this one!

  • Pros: McFerrin isn’t after subtlety here; rather, we have the repeated imperatives to cease our worrying and become cheerful. The joy from this one is its infectious melody and sing-along lyrics. You’ve got to be impressed that McFerrin is every instrument on this song—seriously. Indeed, when you worry about trouble is does make everything worse, so there is a good point here. McFerrin looks happy and awesome in his well-groomed beard and white suit. Plus, Robin Williams is in the very silly music video.
  • Cons: Sure, it’ s a happy song, but we don’t have much reason to stop worrying. I don’t have any money, my landlord is about to evict me, and I’m just supposed to let it go? Sounds a little unrealistic to me. The only rationale for this forced happiness is that it may make others sad and the trouble will soon pass. I’ll grant the latter reason has some merit.

So which is the happiest? After listening to them all again, I think I’m going with Nash and “I Can See Clearly Now.” There’s nothing objectionable about it, and the song always gives me a mental image of a beautiful valley stretching out before me as the sun comes out. So, who you got? I’ll provide a poll for those who just want to vote, but it will be more fun if you make your case in the comments section.

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Responses

  1. Out of the three songs I would go with “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash you can’t beat that smile however, if we were going non-secular I’d have to vote for Oh Happy Day!

  2. I went for ‘Canada’ by Andy Osenga. I defy anyone to listen to that song without becoming measurably happier. Seriously, it’s my go-to ‘I need to take a quick break and improve my mood’ song. I would also suggest Best of What’s Around;’ a great mood changer. Good post!

  3. I have to go with “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. The words could be “Yes worry, there’s trouble” and it would still be fun. Bobby McFerrin’s great.


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