I had planned to write this blog with some critical observations about the hugely popular song “Happy” (from the movie Despicable Me 2 soundtrack by Pharrell Williams, aka “Pharrell”). Numerous mock-ups and imitations of his original music video have posted on YouTube from groups all over the U.S. and around the world, from colleges to Congressmen, and everybody else in between. It seemed like easy prey for my critical eye (and typing fingers) to point out how superficial were all these unfortunate, child-like, overly-optimistic, too-easily-entertained Internet wannabe sensations.
As mentioned, I had planned to blog thusly, until, having watched a few of these amateurish, low-production-value vignettes,
I caught the bug!!
Sadly, it only took a few minutes of online viewing, and I had an raging case of “Happy” fever. I simply couldn’t help but enjoy the positive, unassuming faces and unpolished choreography. I began to take greater and greater delight in the carefree, no-strings-attached, boundless joy exhibited by the participants whose uncomplicated yet contagiously sincere joy seems motivated by nothing more than swaying to the catchy rhythms of Pharrell’s redundant melody, easy-to-sing lyrics, and uplifting tone. There is something magnetic about the smiles and unrehearsed moves that makes one want to “catch” whatever they’ve got going for them!
To be fair…
you should start with the “official” music video by Pharrell. Then feel free to click on and watch some of the takes on Pharrell’s video below (a small fraction of those available online):
- Great Lakes Institute of Management (U.S.)
- Syracuse University
- Children in China
- People in Santiago, Chile
- People in Prague, Czech Republic
- People in Kampot, Cambodia (disabled citizens)
- People in Laval, France
- People in Rome, Italy
- People in Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) (about 40 nationalities shown)
- People in Jerusalem (mostly teenagers)
If I have any critique about the “Happy” song’s message, in my melodically-induced-dopamine joie de vivre, it would be to remind folks that happiness is, in fact, not the truth. Jesus is the truth–and way and life (John 14:6), as he himself has also reminded us (see also John 8: 31-32). Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring us genuine and enduring happiness, as well as peace and hope. If our happiness is based merely on the transitory pleasures of this fallen world, no matter how innocent or noble, it will surely not last. Rather, we will experience the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs on our journey through this time side of life as do those who don’t know the Lord at all. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB). And the apostle Paul, even though in prison, writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4, NASB). Perhaps most memorable are what have been referred to as the Beattitudes, 9 prescriptions for happiness direct from the Lord’s mouth in his hillside sermon. (As you read these, remember that the word “blessed” may also be translated “happy.”) Therein, we should find the greatest fulfillment for our souls, as well as our minds. (see Matthew 5:1-12) (Tweet This)
What’s the take away for mass comm students?
Bastien (2009) showed us that music has the ability to foster productive dialogue on important issues. I’ve recently covered this in my Senior Seminar (capstone) class at ETBU as we discussed the dibilitating effects of the stigma of being diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations (including some in Africa and Latin America). Bastien believes that African popular songs may be an effective use of mass media, in that they may help overcome resistance and help push back some of the barriers to effective discussion and get people talking. Specifically, Bastien expects this will happen in three distinct ways:
- Helping correct risky behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS
- Helping correct misunderstandings about how HIV/AIDS is spread
- Providing context and appeal for popular social issues (through allegories and themes in songs)
King David, who frequently made time to worship the Lord in song and verse, found happiness in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. The psalms he was inspired to write can help us do the same. For example, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:10-11, NIV)
So… why not lower your defenses and try to “catch” a little of the “Happy” bug? And then…?