Saturday, February 22, 2014

C'Mon, Get "Happy"!: 10 Musical Testaments to the Power of Positive Thinking

Look, I'm no eternal optimist. I'm a hardened realist: I like to keep it real and realistic. Life is tough, and then you die. The end.

That said, hope does spring eternal -- at least it does for me. Just because the glass is half empty doesn't mean you can't fill it up again. As Meryl Streep's Clarissa Vaughan discovered too late in The Hours, happiness is being open to possibility. It's the hope that what dreams may come might actually come.

I can't help but shine a ray of light on my fatalistic world view. I can be contradictory like that. I am, after all, a slave to fitness and minimalism and a Dionysian bon vivant, a homebody who can still party until dawn, a reclusive extrovert, a congenial grump, confident yet thoroughly insecure, and quite possibly borderline bipolar.

Am I happy and melancholy, too? Not exactly. I don't believe that happiness is a sustainable state over an extended period, like, for instance, a lifetime. Happiness if fleeting. Good times, like storms, never last, and the spaces between our moments of pleasure make up the aforementioned tough life before death. Mostly, I'm melancholy and blue, but there's always a flame of hope burning within, a little bit of bouncing joy, for I'm no dour pessimist either. Things can't only get better, despite what Howard Jones promised in his 1985 hit, but they might improve.

When it comes to music, I tend to gravitate toward gloom. If I were a singer, I'd specialize in loneliness. I'll take songs about rain over "Sunshine on My Shoulders," Jones's "No One Is to Blame" over "Things Can Only Get Better," anything over "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Sad songs, after all, say so much. Still, sometimes the ones that offer hope say what we really need to hear.

"Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof/Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth." -- Pharrell Williams, "Happy"

Yeah, blind faith can bring disappointment, too, but for Pharrell Williams, it's given him the biggest pop hit from a movie in years (the Despicable Me 2 track is currently No. 2 with a bullet on Billboard's Hot 100), a UK No. 1 single, and a Best Original Song Oscar contender at the March 2 Academy Awards.


Pop doesn't get much happier than that, but these 10 songs certainly succeed in making positivity sound equally appealing, even when they're wrapped in shades of moody musical blue.

"Every Day Is Yours to Win" R.E.M.
"I cannot tell a lie/It's not all cherry pie/But it's all there waiting for you/Yeah, you!"



"Optimistic" The Sounds of Blackness
"You can win/As long as you keep your head to the sky"



"Grand Canyon" Tracey Thorn
"Everybody loves you here"



"Face Lift" Joni Mitchell
"Happiness is the best face lift"



"A New Season" The Church
"Sensory gifts to all who come/Soak up the stars and setting sun"



"Apocalypse Dreams" Tame Impala
"This could be the day that we push through/It could be the day that all our dreams come true"



"Faith" The Cure"
"Perfect moments wait/If only we could stay"



"Faith" George Michael
"I gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith, I gotta have faith, a-faith, a-faith, ah!"



"Life's What You Make It" Talk Talk
"Celebrate it/Anticipate it/Yesterday's faded/Nothing can change it"



"Happiness" Ali Campbell
"Happiness is seeing all the stars in your eyes/Happiness is knowing you are loved"


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