Earlier this year, Grammy Award-winning Pharrell Williams urged songwriters to buck the trend toward sad-sounding songs by writing more tracks designed to make people feel happy.
Pharrell showed the way himself with his chart-topping song ‘Happy’ which was nominated for an Oscar after featuring in the animated comedy movie Despicable Me 2.
Now, leading music streaming service Spotify has unveiled a list of the world’s 10 happiest songs, based on the listening choices made by many of its 40 million active users across 56 countries.
After analyzing thousands of users’ playlists from around the world—and assessing the emotional positivity of each track—Spotify has identified the songs that feature most frequently on feel-good playlists titled ‘Happy’.
‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams takes the crown as the happiest song this summer, followed by ‘Best Day Of My Life’ by American Authors, ‘The Walker’ by Fitz and The Tantrums and Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’. Other top ‘happy hits’ include Calvin Harris’s ‘Summer’ and ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille.
If you’re looking for a successful song structure and benchmark for your own ‘happy’ songs, try dissecting and analyzing the shape and form of each of Spotify’s Top 10 Happiest Songs:
1. Happy – Pharrell Williams
2. Best Day Of My Life – American Authors
3. The Walker – Fitz and The Tantrums
4. Rather Be – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynn
5. Digital Witness – St. Vincent
6. Safe and Sound – Capital Cities
7. Summer – Calvin Harris
8. Sponge Won’t Soak – Wild Moccasins
9. Come Home – Chappo
10. Pompeii – Bastille
By putting a greater focus on ‘happy’ songs, these songwriters and artists are actually going against the tide of the last five decades.
In 2012, an academic study found that pop music has grown progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous since the 1960s. The number of minor chord hits has doubled since 1965, the study found, and fewer hit songs are now being written in major chords.
Music psychologist Professor E Glenn Schellenberg and sociologist Professor Christian von Scheve analyzed the tempo (beats per minute) and mode (major or minor) of more than 1,000 American Top 40 songs that charted between 1965 and 2012. Their study found that in the second half of the 1960s, about 85% of songs that reached the top of the charts were written in a major mode, but by 2012 that figure had fallen to only 43.5%.
“Just as the lyrics of pop songs have become more self-referential and negative in recent decades, the music has also changed—it sounds sadder and emotionally more ambivalent,” Schellenberg and von Scheve stated in their study. They suggested that emotional ambiguity in a song is a way for some acts to convey their seriousness and complexity.
But Pharrell Williams insists that songwriters and artists should not forget about the happier side of things. He believes there’s a growing need to lift people up emotionally.
“Through the connectivity of the internet,” says Pharrell, “people are becoming so desensitized to all the tragedies and travesties [in the world], that we all need to take audiences to a lighter place.
“There’s something to be said for making music that is jovial,” he says. “Songs for people who need a break. Songs to bring joy.”
You can listen to some of Spotify’s Happiest Songs here …
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