In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in celebration of Mardi Gras, we’re picking songs we think could soundtrack our personal parades.
I haven’t followed Pharrell Williams’ career very closely, which is probably not a bad thing for an artist who’s often shooting so squarely for the mainstream. When he participates in a song—as an artist, producer, guest, whatever—that hits every beat just right, it’s bound to infiltrate the public consciousness. In other words, I don’t have to look for the Pharrell songs that I’m going to like, because those that I’m bound to like will come to me. Case in point: “Happy,” which has been out in the world since November of last year, but that I think I only heard for the first time about a week ago, just flipping through the radio. It’s apparently peaking at the moment after being nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar (for Despicable Me 2), and finding its way to the charts in various countries. But none of that is important—what’s important is the whimsical, wonderful earworm of the song itself, which recalls both great soul music of the past and recent classics, such as “Crazy” and “Hey Ya!” But unlike those two songs, there is nothing lurking beneath the surface of “Happy”—it’s simply an uptempo, catchy exclamation of joy: “Because I’m happy,” proclaim the assembled backing singers, while Pharrell exhorts anybody who’s listening to clap along if they’re happy, too. (He even warns bad news, if it should rear its head, that it needn’t bother.) The video was released both in four-minute and 24-hour versions is a series of one-person parades, including plenty of celebrities. (Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t look that happy, but he’s the exception.) For the deeply depressed, “Happy” might feel like ear-daggers. Then again, it might just have the power to help turn things around. It’s that good.