The Science of “Happy”

What makes the mega-hit “Happy” by Pharrell Williams so darned….happy?

Been wondering that question myself, so it was nice to see a story in the Guardian that puts the question to a number of prominent music-industry types….as well as a wedding DJ named “Peepshow Paddy:”

I think part of its big impact has been that it sounds so inviting, as nowadays everyone from indie boys to Beyonce are trying to make music that sounds weird and alien. But Happy is stripped back with a good groove and a cool-sounding 60s Motown feel, so its success is down to the fact that it is pop music in its most fundamental state.

With 350 comments plus, here’s a story apparently touches a nerve, too. I especially liked this one:

9 Apr 2014 11:26

as someone who was some basic experience of writing (crap) songs, it’s really easy to write something sad that sounds ‘deep’. U2, coldplay and a thousand other sub-radiohead acts have proven this. Am, C, G, Em, and F in some combo, hey presto, you’ve got a typical rock song.

writing a catchy, happy tune that isn’t bubblegum pop crap is much more challenging. whilst it borrows from genres (as everyone does), no one can say it is a direct rip-off of another specific song. therefore, it should be applauded.

nice one, Pharrell.

I think the incredible growing number of covers of the tune are another indicator…like this one by the a Capella choir the Pentatonix. Released on March 17, it’s already north of 5 million views!

This story also reminded me of the weird similarity between Williams’ voice and the late, great Curtis Mayfield. I remember selling a ton of copies of this Curtis classic when I was working in the late, great Melody Record Shop in DC…


Meanwhile, it seems that Pharrell is trading in the Smokey the Bear look for something with a little more of an…ummm…Mozart effect?

Pharrell Williams Mozart

A Frosty St. Paddy’s Day from The Chieftains

For St. Patrick’s Day 2014 in the still-snowbound Northeast (and even the Mid-Atlantic, thanks to last night’s storm), a performance by the Chieftains in the WGBH Fraser studio…

“The praties are dug and the frost is all over
Kitty lie over close to the wall”

Hold Fast to Dreams – MLK Day 2013


With Anthony Trecek-King, the Boston Children’s Chorus, special guest Melinda Doolittle of American Idol fame, and our intrepid host Laura Carlo…

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., with the Boston Children’s Chorus

Alberto Gonzalez, meet Peter Gabriel

Strange is your language and I have no decoder
Why don’t you make your intentions clear

With eyes to the sun and your mouth to the soda

Saying, “Tell me the truth, you got nothing to fear.”

Stop staring at me like a bird of prey

I’m all mixed up, I got nothing to say

I don’t remember I don’t remember
I don’t remember, I don’t recall

I got no memory of anything at all

I don’t remember, I don’t recall

I got no memory of anything
Anything at all

— Peter Gabriel, “I Don’t Remember,” from Peter Gabriel (III), 1980