Diary

Where are all the Happy Songs? Obama's America, Part 1

If there is one think I’ve noticed out in the culture that really seems to have reached its apogee in the Era of Obama is the bleak, minor-chord, heavy-waltz, steel-gray, ersatz character of pop music.

Camilla Paglia had a jaw-dropping and bullseye-accurate profile of Steffani Germanotta (aka “Lady Gaga”) that brushed up against this phenomenon. Evidently, consuming music has become an activity which requires muscling through, in order to appreciate the angst, the sublimity. Songs are not to be enjoyed, but rather, endured.

Like everything else in the Era of Obama, the pop music has a palpable sense of counterfeit sophistication. Just like the “gourmet” chocolate that some idiot laced with jalbenro peppers, or the bone-dry $90 bottle of thin Merlot that we’re all supposed to love, the music is either painful to listen to because of its discordance, vulgar, or jarring in its production value. That, and the breathless, monotonation of the singing.

Unless, of course, you are listening to “country” music, which has become almost unlistenable in the last ten years (-it having devolved into just another soundscan category with hard-driving rock ‘n roll power chords and banal lyrics), in which case most all of the songs seem to be crafted by some computer program in which word play, extermely cheap sentimentality and booze seem to be the input data.

And I won’t even go into hip-hop.

I am not sure what is driving this, but I remember a certain soulessness creaping into pop music as we got into the heavy Carter years (-think “Escape”, the Pina Colda Song by Rupert Holmes), or any of the interchangeable BeeGees songs of the late 1970’s. The same thing is happening now, in a sense.

This got me to thinking again: What ever happened to “happy” songs? And I’m not talking about novelty songs like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, or “The Streak”, but up-tempo, happy-themed songs that burst into the mainstream because, well, it’s a good thing to be happy?

I put together a list of just plain old, happy songs. Nothing particularly deep here. But, as for myself, I would wager that just about anybody could put these on their MP3, and they could feel at least, well, happy when one or more of them played. Some will scoff, saying “Eeew. Sugary Bubblegum”. But, that’s the point. What’s wrong with being happy, and enjoying it? In spite of the hard, grueling work ahead in the next month-and-a-half, we are still blessed beyond our deserving, and we should rejoice in these blessings even in the midst of the toil. Especially in our music. I’m sure there are ten thousand others I’ve missed, but, feel free to pass along any suggestions…

15 JUST PLAIN HAPPY SONGS…

The Rain, The Park and Other Things -The Cowsills, 1967

Still The On-Orleans, 1974

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) -Simon & Garfunkle, 1968

Walking on Sunshine -Katrina and the Waves, 1985

Top of the World -The Carpenters, 1972

More Today than Yesterday -The Spiral Staircase, 1969

I Feel Fine -The Beatles, 1964

Timber, I’m Falling in Love -Patty Lovless, 1990

I Got You, Babe -Sonny & Cher, 1966

New York, New York -(performed by) Frank Sinatra, 1978

Heatwave -(performed by) Linda Rondstadt, 1975

Your Smiling Face -James Taylor, 1975

Come Monday -Jimmy Buffet, 1974

Another You -The Seekers, 1965

Walk On Faith -Mike Reid, 1993