Heaven knows we’re miserable now – Guest blog from Carina Martin
Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ is a nonsense song with nonsense lyrics (“clap along if you feel like a room without a roof”). But that doesn’t matter. It’s a huge, huge hit. Why? Well the genius of the song boils down to one single word. Happy. He could have used Snappy or Dappy and the song would still have worked, but by building a song around just a simple expression of joy he’s created an international anthem of positivity.
Happy is an inclusive word used by everyone, regardless of age, sex, race or religion. It was a smart choice of lyric. And, it turns out, a lucrative one. To date he’s sold over 25 million copies.
So can a song’s lyrics predict its commercial success? According to researchers at North Carolina State University, the answer’s “yes”, thematically at least. They analysed the lyrics of number one songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 and discovered, rather depressingly, that the most consistently popular theme is ‘breakup’.
Cultural influences of the time also play a part:
1960s: Nostalgia, Pain, Rebellion
1970s: Nostalgia, Rebellion, Jaded
1980s: Loss, Aspiration, Confusion
1990s: Loss, Inspiration, Escapism
2000s: Inspiration, Pain, Desperation
Sadly it seems as though ‘Happy’ is a blip. Savvy lyricists should sharpen their 5Bs and delve into the dark side. The biggest selling single in the UK since January 2010 is the lyrically dubious Blurred Lines (featuring Pharrell) followed by Adele’s beautiful but heartbreaking ‘Someone like you’. I hate to admit it but maybe Morrissey was right all along.
About the Author
Carina Martin is a freelance copywriter and screenwriter based in Oxford. Most recently she was Head of Copy at Dare. Prior to that she traversed the client:agency divide many times with her parallel career in marketing. In 2011 she achieved an MA in Screenwriting for TV and Film and is now working on a TV drama serial. You can find more about Carina at www.carinamartin.co.uk.