C'mon, Get Happy!
Hey, everybody! Before you all convince yourselves by reading our angry streak that we're earning a permanent installation of the banner below, let me bring the room back up a bit. Because, though we here at Smarty Mommies are a critical bunch, we are also a wild bunch that likes to cut loose to some sweet grooves from time to time. So, to balance last week's double OTPBS, let's take some time to sharpen our oyster knives and get happy - scientifically and musically happy!
If you aren't buying yourself (or me!) treats from Unicorn Parade's Etsy shop, you are (or I am!) really missing out.
Pajiba's Kristy Puchko reported recently on the work of Dutch cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Jacob Jolij, who claims to have scientifically deduced the happiest, most feel-good playlist. That's right, music-lovers, Dr. Feelgood exists, he is Dutch, and he made you a mix tape! What a dreamboat!
Jolij's top 10 most happiness-inducing songs are, from least happy to happiest:
10. "Walking on Sunshine" - Katrina and the Waves
9. "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor
8. "Livin' on a Prayer" - Jon Bon Jovi
7. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" - Cyndi Lauper
6. "I'm a Believer" - The Monkees
5. "Eye of the Tiger" - Survivor
4. "Uptown Girl" - Billy Joel
3. "Good Vibrations" - The Beach Boys
2. "Dancing Queen" - Abba
1. "Don't Stop Me Now" - Queen
Now, I would easily agree that some of these are absolutely ecstatic and wonderful in their absolute joy (Particularly #1. Holy shit. That song makes a supersonic man out of me every time I hear it. Smack my ass and call me Ms. Fahrenheit!), but some I question. "I Will Survive" totally bums me out. I know that the speaker in the song will survive (duh), but how incredibly sad that that bastard had to leave for outer space with the speaker's keys (rude!) in order for him/her to realize that he/she would, indeed, survive. I think the reception of that song mirrors that of It's a Wonderful Life in that Frank Capra, the movie's director, intended the film to be uplifting, but initial audiences, who had just weathered World War II and expected Frank Capra's film about a small-town Christmas starring Jimmy Stewart (a holy trinity of feel-good, wholesome Americana if I ever heard one), just found it to be a huge bummer. So it goes for me with "I Will Survive." I know I'm supposed to throw a fist and celebrate survival, but, damn, do I have to hear about interstellar romantic abandonment on the way there? Because that makes me all frowny-face and wonder where the nearest snowy bridge is off of which to throw myself.
I feel similarly about "Livin' on a Prayer," which is essentially the same story as Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," but with more foolish idealism and sicker guitar riffs. The song's chorus is cheery and chipper and hopeful and fun to sing... and highly unlikely to pay off by the end of the song. People living on prayers tend to starve to death. Gina knows this; it's why she cries in the night, Tommy! It occurs to me as I write that this song, with its cheerful, triumphant chorus and absolutely bleak verse is a clear predecessor to the cheery/violent, catchy/dark marriage in Nirvana's "In Bloom." Is Tommy the one who likes all the pretty songs, likes to sing along, likes to shoot his gun, and knows not what it mean? If so, Gina, run! Tommy is armed and desperate! Run away! Shit's going to get worse before it gets better! RUN!
It's hard out here for a Smarty. We think about things, and in thinking about them are less able to enjoy them mindlessly. Jolij's happy music formula may have let these two dirges slip through, but I didn't. So, Dr. Jolij, readers, friends, music lovers, let me humbly suggest some additions to this jubilant list of delightful music. These songs may not be scientifically proven to elevate your mood, but if the results I've found in my home laboratory can be extrapolated to a larger sample of subjects, they will certainly get you shaking your ass.
1. "You! Me! Dancing!" - Los Campesinos
It's got goddamn exclamation points in the title, and it's about dancing. If you really need me to make this argument, there's a descriptor in the title of this wepbage that does not apply to you. So either you move your body in sheer exuberance, or you move along.
2. "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" - Built to Spill
Again, the song's very title demands that you dance, which is always a good sign. So are the lyrics "And all the signs of your life/ You're making all time alright/ And all the lines of your life/ You make it fine." Reassuring, yes? Yes! Even the uncertainty in the repetition of the word "maybe" is gently comforting when couched in such a cheerful melody. Maybe we don't know "absolutely, positively," and it's cool! Maybe it's OK to admit that we don't know it all, and that's as it should be! (Plus the line "You're a radar/ built to scan the deeps of outer space" - IS THAT HOW THEY FOUND GLORIA GAYNOR'S DICK EX-BOYFRIEND? See? Much more proactive than just walking in on that B&E SOB with his feet up your coffee table.)
3. "Re-Fresh" - Common Market
Listening to this song is as close to feeling religious ecstacy as I get, and that's why this song begins every running mix I've ever made. If you don't find some happiness in listening to this, then you're dead to me, Mr. Henry F. Potter, and can just go join Tommy and Gina in weeping into your bottle of gin while you listen to "I Will Survive."
Because, perhaps what we need at times is not the kind of chipper happiness that a formula or an algorithm can deduce for us by measuring beats per minute or the catchiness of a chorus. Maybe what we need instead is something a little more raucous, a little less predictable, or a little more meaningful. Maybe what we really need to be happy is to "Take a deep breath/ release stress" and "be blessed/ by the beat and the essence of these texts," to fly around in optimistic uncertainty, and to dance with all exclamation points billowing at full mast.