Monday, June 29, 2009

"H" is for "Happy"

I had a philosophy professor in college who claimed Plato called music "magic" because it can alter one's mood with no reference to prior experience. You are walking down the street and hear a song you've never heard before and all of a sudden you feel good. What is that, but magic?

My alphabetical sojourn through my Ipod has been stalled lately, but I'm up to the letter "H" and in honor of Plato, I say "H" is for "happy."

There are 90 songs beginning with the letter "h" in my Itunes, list. What follows are the songs from my list that tend to make me happy when I hear them--songs that put me in a good mood or that I enjoy hearing when I am in a good mood:

5) "Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick.
Okay, the bizarre thing about music is that sad songs often make you happy and happy songs often are just depressing (often, because they are insipid). It doesn't hurt that this song came out right around the time I was a junior or senior in high school, so it perfectly captures the overwrought emotional romanticism that is young adulthood. There is, perhaps, some nostalgia driving the engine--ah, to be young and to feel each nick and cut as an epic tragedy--but there is something self comforting in the song, too: "Get to the morning and you never call / Love should be everything or not at all." Of course, its always happier nostalgia because, in retrospect, one knows that the greater love was yet to come.

4) "Have a Heart" by Bonnie Raitt
Like Warwick, Raitt is able to sing about heartbreak and make it sound down right enjoyable. Still, while Warwick's song is overwrought, there is a fiestiness in Raitt's lyrics and voice that I just love. Lot of pluck. Glad I've never had to have that sort of spunk in love, but I wish I could have it in all areas of my life:

Shut up.
Dont lie to me.
Mister, how do you do.
Oh pardon me I thought I knew you.

I mean, that's perfect.

3) "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira

I discovered this song after reading an interview with some athlete on where they asked him, "What's the most embarassing song you have on your Ipod." When he said he had the music video for this song I had to look it up. "I never really knew that she could dance like this / She makes a man want to speak Spanish..." Okay, I was gonna say that's positively Donne-worthy, but I'll settle for Byronesque (he who rhymed "intellectual" with "hen-pecked-you-all." Besides, goofy is fun, isn't it?

2) "Heart and Soul" by T'Pau
Actually the lyrics of this song are pretty damned depressing. Good thing one can't hardly decipher them. Love the music, though.

1) "Hymn to Her" by the Pretenders
Doesn't hurt that I discovered this song when I was falling in love for the first time. Never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Honorable mentions: "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, "Holding Out for a Her" by Bonnie Tyler, "Heaven is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle; "Human Wheels" by John Cougar Mellencamp; "Head Over Heels" by Tears for Fears.


Peter Waldron said...

But you just got through quoting "Hungry Heart." Bruce doesn't make you happy? Why do you hate America, Ken?

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

You get a quick lift in the first two bars of a Springsteen song...usually with the recognition. But they are usually more melancholy than happy.

Kenneth R. Morefield said...

Having received an e-mail from my brother about "Hips Don't Lie," I was thinking about this song and realized it reminded me of Emily Dickinson's "I like a look of Agony" ( which I am apparently alone amongst my colleagues in thinking is about...well, what it's about.

"Men do not sham convulsion / Nor simulate a throe--"

Yeah, the hips ain't the only things that don't lie.