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Why are you not “Happy” Like Pharrell Williams Wants you to Be?

There is a reason for why you either love or hate Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” song, as much as an earworm as it is. As he sings about being blatantly happy only for the sake of being happy, the listener subconsciously asks if they themselves share his happiness, or if his level of happiness is even attainable. Then there’s the question of what happiness is, why it’s such a shallow yet deep concept that is always overlooked by those who never ask themselves if they are indeed “happy.” It’s kind of like John Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love,” where literally he states “love is all you need,” and nothing more. However, these statements of being “happy” and only feeding off pure love for survival are certainly not enough.

These ideal lyrics of balanced emotions create a musical utopia for the listener, creating a form of artificial ways of escape. This “escape” theory can be applied to any type of song, but “happy” stands out in particular because of the demand of positive emotional feedback from the listener, backfiring at times depending on one’s mood. Pharrell continuously states how “happy” he is. Okay, good for you Pharrell. Is there anything else you would like to say or contribute to this song? But nope. There is a safeness to this song’s subject matter that almost seems too safe. Everyone has felt happy at some point in their lives—it is a basic inevitable emotion. It tells you to ignore your troubles and “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” If I was a room without a roof, I’d be pretty chilly.

Being purely happy and being loved unconditionally seems pleasant in concept, yet there are always other elements of life that are necessary to experience besides the two emotions. Happiness and love are not something you can only gain through just stating that you are “happy,” or have all the love in the world. They cannot be viewed as tangible or seen as a goal to reach in terms of levels of love or happiness. Some things cannot be measured as such, but can be experienced as long as there are no expectations. Maybe I’m looking to deep into finding a reason for the song’s existence, or maybe I will just try to feel like a room without a roof, and let a little sunlight in.

~ Shannon Donaghy


2 Comments on Why are you not “Happy” Like Pharrell Williams Wants you to Be?

  1. “Happy” is a cute song, and the accompanying video is fun and uplifting. I believe the song celebrates the simple joy of being alive. But yes, your point is well taken, the message can also sound superficial, and the song has been given a lot of air time! Still, I love the song, and I love the Minions.

  2. FINALLY someone else articulates at least one (okay, two, as the roofless room bugs the hell out of me — HOW is that “happy”?) reason this song bugs me.

    The pop psychology of “positive thinking” is this kind of simplistic. So is the dominant narrative of adoption. My life and my psyche are complicated. I prefer acknowledging that to pretending everything was okay. If I want that, I don’t need Pharrell — I have some family that will play that game.

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