There's no two ways about it - 2020's been a bit rough, for obvious reasons. However, people are continuing to write some amazing songs about being happy. For example, Dua Lipa dropped her second album, Future Nostalgia, this year and it's a much happier album than her first, bringing joy to countless living room dancefloors the world over.
Speaking about the album to Variety, Dua said, "(2020's) been definitely a weird time, and you never really know what the right thing to do is at times like this. But I’m really excited to put this album out now to give people time to live with it and listen to it when they’re at home. I hope it will brighten people’s day. We’re all staying at home, or the majority of us are, and hopefully we can get the rest of the people to stay home too."
Music is a great way to escape
Music is able to remove us from one situation, and put us into another like no other form of art can. Think about your favourite song. Chances are that every time you listen to it, you're taken to the first time you heard it, or a period in your life where you were listening to that song a lot.
Music is great for escaping reality, even for a moment, and we've all needed a bit of that this year. Some of our favourite artists like Charli XCX, Dua Lipa and The Weeknd have released the best albums of their career, which has really helped. It's felt like there's been more great music than ever coming out in 2020. If you've wanted to immerse yourself in the music world this year, then you've been in luck.
Speaking to VICE about music being a form of escapism, Dr. Mel Borins suggested that humans struggle with change, and music helps them to deal with it. "Music is a wonderful escape and there's nothing wrong with that.
"What we have difficulty with as human beings is change, and any loss is a change. I don't have anything against distraction… escapism is a good thing, and on the other hand, music has a way of uniting people."
Music is also great way to become more in tune with your emotions, so it works both ways. It just depends what kind of mood you're in, and how you're wanting to feel. If you're looking to work out why you're feeling the way you are in 2020, then music can help with that. Looking to completely ignore the way 2020's made you feel? Music can help that too.
Fake it until you make it
When you fake a smile, you start to feel better. Try it - it really works. It makes sense, therefore, it makes sense that writing songs about feeling happier is a great way to make yourself feel better. There's science behind faking a smile, too.
Speaking to NBC, Los Angeles-based ENT-olotaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) says the brain gets tricked by the muscles in the mouth engaging. “What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity," Dr. Grossan explains. "When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”
It's not from this year, but Paramore's 2017 song Fake Happy goes a long way to explaining how musicians fake emotions, when they're actually feeling completely different. Lead singer Hayley Williams sings, "I been doing a good job of makin' 'em think I'm quite alright / Better hope I don't blink / You see, it's easy when I'm stomping on a beat / But no one sees me when I crawl back underneath." Fans get a false sense of how artists are feeling - for better and worse. Sometimes, this fake feeling can actually inspire both musicians and fans alike to feel a different way.
There's never been a better time to release
How much music have you listened to this year? Chances are, it's quite a lot. Not every artist has been able to make a whole album in quarantine like Charli XCX's how i'm feeling now - instead, they've had music up their sleeve. People need something to do, and musicians are helping to keep their fans entertained.
Not all the happy songs that we've heard this year will have been written in 2020, and that's okay. Artists will have held onto songs for a variety of reasons, but now that a pandemic's happened, knowing that they have the power to make people's day a whole lot better can urge them to drop the songs. Sometimes, it's as simple as that.
It's probably not fair to say that 2020 has to be remembered as a totally negative year, however. Artists are people too, and they've had things happen in their own life that are worth celebrating. For example, Charli XCX's track claws is a celebration of her boyfriend - and love is something she's sung about a lot in the past.
Artists don't always need to capture the feelings of society at large, because that's not always the way they write. Like everyone, they draw from what they know. After all, if you're with someone you enjoy spending time with during lockdown, things will be a lot easier than they otherwise might be. It's not just overseas artists writing happy songs, too. Can't Help Myself, written by Australian pop artist Kita Alexander, is one of the best happy songs we've heard this year, despite everything that's gone on in the country in 2020.
Happy music might be harder to write, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Back in 2017, Beck summed up the difficulty of writing happy songs, telling the NY Times, “It’s much easier to go out and get really down. There’s a multitude of things that will oblige you in misery in the culture and there’s only so many that will produce true happiness. It’s like comedy. Comedy is harder in that only certain things are going to make you laugh.
"I think it’s closer to the child nature in us, which the culture, for a lot of reasons, will discourage or crush. Or you mature out of it in other ways. I see it with kids. There’s that age where if you let that personal joyous side of yourself out, it’s almost more vulnerable than being emotionally vulnerable, like if you’re going through something difficult. It’s not the most clever, sophisticated part of you, but it is the most joyous.”
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It's an interesting statement, and something worth keeping in mind next time you're listening to a happy song. Artists are putting themselves out there, and it's a lot easier to write about sadness with the risk that you'll be happier in the future, rather than writing about happiness and having sadness come your way. Whatever is the reason that artists are writing happy songs in 2020, we're just glad that they are. It's given us a great way to get through the year, and we're finding ourselves turning to music more and more to lift our mood.