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15 Great Songs About Happiness And Good Times - Part Two

9. Stevie Wonder - 'For Once In My Life'

Although some philosophers or psychologists  may criticise Stevie Wonder's idea of happiness, or at least that he sings about here, as being too dependent on that which is outside himself (i.e. "love" and "someone who needs" him) , he has plenty to say about his inner life as well as other people and perhaps other external things, making his conception of the good life far less shallow than those of many, and arguably very substantial. The classic from the film The Pursuit of Happyness [sic.] gives us the golden soundbite, "For once in my life I can go where life leads me" as well as a backdrop of typically grand Motown-grade soul.
10. Nirvana - 'Lithium'

This song's musings on the state of happiness go far beyond the opening lines "I'm so happy cause today I found my friends / They're in my head", but that quotation sets the tone pretty well, at least until the unstable, crashing-through-the-ceiling freakout of a chorus comes in. And lets not forget the lines either side of the refrains, "I'm not gonna crack". Lithium may be the name of a mood-stabilising drug (also sung about by Evanescence) but arguably this song is anything but tranquil. It remains essential listening like so many other tracks from Nevermind and Nirvana's eponymous greatest hits record. 

11. The Velvet Underground - 'We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together'

Lou Reed, the man behind 'Perfect Day' and the classic solo album Transformer, would have made his name with Velvet Underground first, had anyone paid significant attention when he was in the band, and the rapid-fire guitar rhythms provide evidence of his guitar prowess even in such a supposed anti-rock outfit that some would argue actually exemplifies that which it ostensibly hated: the spirit of rock 'n' roll. While many of its more blissful numbers are slower, this song which appears on the brilliant three-disc set The Complete Matrix Tapes and elsewhere creates a more frantic, foot-tapping kind of emotional high.

12. Queen - 'Don't Stop Me Now'

Possibly the greatest ever song that screams the word 'happiness' as loud as the squealings of Brian May's overdrive-laden guitar solo, few vocalists this side of Freddie Mercury could have turned in such a grandiose performance, one arguably as good as the band's earlier masterwork 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Despite an arguably questionable comparison of the ecstatic lyricist to "an atom bomb", this is still a bona-fide classic. Its overall mood and message shows happiness in two extremes: bursts of power which threaten to overwhelm, and the more sedate but equally blissful up-in-the-heavens kind of joy.   

13. Chic - 'Good Times'

Chic describes its title subject as "a new state of mind" which was arguably the antithesis of the "stress and strife" spoken of in reggae, punk, and metal during that decade and others, trouble to which Chic's lyrics called for an end. The song was sampled liberally for the equally joyous 'Rappers Delight' by hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang. Quotations like "why hesitate?" and "Don't be a drag, participate!" are a call to action (or, perhaps more accurately the dancefloor), while this is just one track on which lead guitarist Nile Rogers made his name, laying the foundation for his reprised role as funk guitarist extraordinaire on Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' in 2013.

14. R.E.M. - 'Shiny Happy People'

This R.E.M. hit featuring the B-52s' Kate Pierson on vocals alongside lead singer Michael Stipe and usual backing singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mills has been said to be about propaganda. Indeed many posters have featured 'shiny, happy people' and many lines in this song evoke an idea of a nation joined together in harmony where "there's no time to cry" and in which "tomorrow shines". One could say that this is about as happy as it gets lyrically, a view that the musical backing does little to undermine. However, some would say  behind the apparent joy lies a sinister reality. Indeed one can think of several, hardly idyllic societies which have put out propaganda idealising their part of the world with their posters and other media full of imagery like that employed here by R.E.M.

15. James Brown And The Famous Flames - 'I Got You (I Feel Good)'
That which Presley suggested was arguably made more explicit by Brown with his screams and grunts. Also in Brown's arsenal were even better dance moves and much better music that blurred the line between rhythm-and-blues and a new kind of music, funk. Although Brown did not have the nicest upbringing if his biopic Get On Up's portrayal of his early life is anything like reality, he certainly knew how to make a song not just pleasant (like, say, 'Unchained Melody' by The Righteous Brothers) but oozing with pleasures some would call forbidden. Only Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson can legitimately contend for the title often given to James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, and this song is evidence supporting the argument that Brown deserves that song as much as, or more than, those two.


The Hot Five - July #3

  • Published in Columns


The Hot Five – My favourite new tracks of the week, usually rounded off with a classic, obscure or alternate track from my music collection.

Track of the week: VOLCANOES – ‘Up In Smoke’

VOLCANOES’ brand of indie folk is both refreshing and authentic, qualities that are summed up in their latest single, ‘Up In Smoke’. With two lead vocal lines whose harmonies naturally compliment each other, the track is a stimulating listen complete with chiming guitars and elegant bowed cello. Fans of Fleet Foxes need to take a listen to this, there’s plenty of vocal harmony and a combination of electric and acoustic guitar parts that work together only too well; all in all, a great track here.


Benjamin Booker – ‘Have You Seen My Son?’

New Orleans’ Benjamin Booker was recently hand picked to support Jack White in a series of shows, and it’s clear to see why. The energetic garage sound of this track is made more interesting by the evident blues influences in Booker’s songwriting. ‘Have You Seen My Son?’ is the second single from Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut album, which will be released on August 18 via Rough Trade.

The Weeknd – ‘King of the Fall’

After a small break, The Weeknd has announced his musical return with two free download tracks. Recent release ‘Often’ has been followed by ‘King Of The Fall’, a darkly heavy piece of R'n'B with fantastic production and vocal hooks. ‘King of the Fall’ shares it’s name with The Weeknd’s latest US tour, which starts in September and will feature Jhene Aiko and Schoolboy-Q. This might not be the type of song I’d normally go for, but the vocal work of The Weeknd is definitely something to appreciate in amongst the track’s clever arrangement.

Weezer – ‘Back To The Shack’

When I think of Weezer, I think of early noughties tracks like ‘Beverly Hills’, or ‘Island In The Sun’, so it was a pleasant surprise to be impressed by the band’s comeback single ‘Back To The Shack’. Chosen as the lead single from new album Everything Will Be Alright In The End, ‘Back To The Shack’ is a classic bit of American rock music that encompasses the traditional crunching guitar and “nerdy swagger” that Weezer are known for. The track was premiered on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show on Monday, and Everything Will Be Alright In The End will be released on September 30.

Hidden track of the week: Queen – ‘Brighton Rock’

It’s been a bit of an eclectic mix this week, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting something completely different in this spot either. Having purchased Sheer Heart Attack on vinyl last weekend, an album regarded by many as the best album that Queen released, ‘Brighton Rock’ really was an obvious choice for hidden track. It’s a classic song, and there really is nothing quite like hearing Freddie Mercury sing “It’s so good to know there’s still a little magic in the air”.

You can follow Tom on twitter @tom_fake

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