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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.


Mark Ronson - Uptown Special

  • Published in Albums

A new venture for producer/musician Mark Ronson as he finds himself hanging up his headphones and winding down with a glass of scotch and a cigarette in a ‘80s L.A. jazz club. Uptown Special is the fourth album from Ronson and was intended to sound like a night time musical mix in New York City and it does just that. The 13 track album blankets funk, R&B and soul.  

Track ‘Uptown Funk’ featuring vocals from Bruno Mars has an infectious beat. Its curvaceous groove makes it difficult not to dance along to. Not only does it add a refreshing pop twist to an old school funk bassline, it holds the record for having over 2.49 million streams online in a week. The success of the song along is enough to grab any listener’s attention for the much anticipated album release.

A third of the way in, the album changes pace. It slows, the guitars become moody like the Sun is setting on the beautiful L.A. skyline. The multi-layered album is streaking with abundant of gutsy vocals from Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. It is clear to see the influence some of the vocalists have had on each track. ‘Summer Breaking’, ‘Leaving Los Feliz’ and ‘Daffodils’, all featuring Kevin Parker, drips with intoxicating licks of psychedelic imagination that spill into contemporary pop; infected by guitar fuzz like it was created in the dirty backstreets of the Sunset Strip. 

Mark Ronson is nothing without collaborators; his middle man-like disposition brings together impeccable artists such as Stevie Wonder and Andrew Wyatt. He intertwines a unique blend of poignant vocals and airy guitar solos that feature throughout the album. ‘Heavy and Rolling’, featuring Wyatt, has a cool dynamic yet carries an allusive approach to poetic songwriting. ‘I Can’t Lose’ starts off sounding like a Spotify advert. Keyone Starr’s soulful voice sits on funk grazing, piercing trumpets and phony police sirens. Sounds odd, yet it kind of works, the repetitive nature ensures that it is instantly recognisable. Unfortunately, ‘I Can’t Lose’ may fall forgotten against the other more esteemed tracks like ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Crack in the Pearl’.

Uptown Special on a whole only scratches the surface. With all the great artists featured on the album it is kind of hard not to expect just that little bit more from it. Each song stands alone and has its own identity but having no running theme throughout makes it difficult to pin down. Whilst this is certainly not a show stopper it would be interesting to see how the album sounded if it had one point of focus.

Uptown Special is available from amazon & iTunes.

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