Friday, June 03, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 3: A Song That Makes You Happy

The whole process of choosing today's song was like a little gift from the Universe. I've spent most of my time since yesterday ONLY listening to "songs that make me happy" in order to make my selection for the 3rd day of the 30 Day Song Challenge. Seriously, what a fantastic way to spend 24 hours. I should do that more often.

Come to think of it, one of the best things about this Challenge is that (even only 3 days in!) I've realized just how "happy" listening to music-- and thinking about why I listen to the music that I do-- makes me. I'm one of those people who absolutely cannot sit or work or think or exist in total silence. I almost always have something playing in my home, my office, my car, in the shower, even when I sleep. And if I can't listen to something-- as happened a few times during tornado power-outages in the last couple of months-- I still have a few guitars sitting around my place that I can pick up to fill the void. I've realized that it really doesn't matter if what's playing are sad songs, or pensive songs, or angry songs, or even songs that I don't particularly like, I'm always happier with music than I am in silence.

In trying to decide on the song that makes me happy, I had a very simple strategy. I plugged my iPod into the stereo, hit "play" on 3 or 4 of my favorite playlists, and then waited to see which one made me smile as soon as it started. There were, of course, many which did. But as soon as the one below came on, I felt my shoulders relax, I sat back in my chair, a warm glow washed over me, and I felt the stretch of a big, goofy grin forming on my face. Now, the philosopher in me compels me to say that I'm not settled about what "happiness" really is. I want to think that it looks and feels like something more than a well-fed Cheshire cat. But whatever it was that I was experiencing when this song came on was good. So, I decided: This is it. This is the song that makes me happy.

It's Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" from his 1987 album Bad. (Note: this video is one of MJ's theatrical-- read: long-- videos. The song really starts about a minute in.)

Okay, okay, so I realize that choosing a song entitled "The Way You Make Me Feel" as an example of a song that makes me feel happy might be a little annoyingly "meta-"... but, in a way, that emotional meta-commentary is a big part of the brilliance of the song. I mean, the whole thing is about little more than the sentiment: the way you make me feel is [insert good feeling]. Michael's girl makes him feel turned-on, knocked off his feet, un-lonely. He likes the feeling she's giving him. He likes the move of her walk, her talk, her dress. What's more, all that good feeling ain't nobody's business but his and his baby's.

That's enough sweetness to make anyone happy hearing it. It's almost enough to give you diabetes.

I've been accused of only liking (and, for that matter, writing) sad songs. And it's true, even the "happy" songs that I like tend to have at least a hint of an unhappy subtext. Several years ago, one of my friends challenged me to write a song that wasn't a sad song. I finally did write one, but it was hands-down the hardest thing I've ever tried to do in terms of songwriting. It's just not that easy to produce something like "The Way You Make Me Feel," with all of its unadulterated joie de vivre. It's a song that makes you want to feel the way MJ feels.

That is, happy.

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