The Top Ten Happy Songs That Make Me Cry
’ll admit it: I’m one of those slightly worrisome people that cries at the drop of a hat. I cry during arguments, I cry when I’m happy, I cry on public transport, I cry when the duckling sits in the tissue box on the Kleenex ad and I bawl like Nancy Kerrigan when the old lady next door gets a Hallmark card from the little boy over the street, and then he brings a jar of marmalade to his mother and says “it’s from the old lady next door, and she was crying”… oh, god, it’s too much. My friends and relatives have variously described me as being like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, Emma Thompson in Sense & Sensibility and Victor Garber in Sleepless In Seattle when it comes to sobbing; in fact, the females of my family are known as ‘champion criers’ and it has been suggested that we be hired out to weddings or anywhere an emotional speech needs to be made and appreciated.
As such, music being a particularly emotional—or at least evocative—art form, it’s not unusual to find a song reduces me to tears. But here’s the odd thing: even though I’ve been known to flood my pillow with salty water when pulling out ELO’s “Telephone Line” or Jackson Browne’s “Late For The Sky” for a time-honoured routine of mourning (generally a lost relationship, a sense of existential ennui or perhaps losing a bidding war on eBay), and of course, terminal tearjerkers like Glen Campbell and Tom Waits are always on hand for a moment of primal scream therapy, but it’s the happy songs that really open the floodgates. Now, the jury’s out on what particularly defines a song as “happy” or “sad,” and I failed music theory enough times to not get into discussions of minor versus major keys etc, but it’s safe to say that some songs—Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking On Sunshine,” for instance—are just happy songs. Keep it simple, stupid. Nevertheless, they trigger something inside me that means an attack of the Emma Thompsons is on its way. So, sit back, put on a spray jacket and prepare for tears as I present to you… The Top Ten Happy Songs That Make Me Cry.
10. Daft Punk - Digital Love
Here’s one of those songs that slipped into my subconscious, perhaps through some peripheral airing in a clothes shop, and my love for it was reawakened by VH1’s frequent use of the staccato-strummed breakdown in their many features on The Fabulous Life Of… or the Top 40 Greatest Whatever. Whoever it was, whenever that jaunty interlude played, it felt like the happy, resolution-of-the-movie-but-not-the-closing-credits-yet type joy that regularly accompanies movie previews or teen romance comedies. My brother was convinced that the song was “something by Daft Punk,” so with tracks appearing on my cheeks, I went on a random Daft Punk downloading frenzy. Finally, at 1am, I discovered “Digital Love.” Now, I’ve always found robots immensely moving (blame it on a childhood spent reading Isaac Asimov’s syrupy droid tales), so there was something about Bangalter and de Homem-Christo’s ESL robot lyrics (“I wish this dream comes true”) that inspired an attack of the sobs. And that Supertramp-esque organ breakdown followed by that skyrocketing synth/guitar solo sealed the deal. They might as well have ended the song with a Speak & Spell saying “I win”—by then I was on the floor anyway.
9. The Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang
There’s something about Chrissie Hynde’s wobbly low voice that just sounds like she’s been crying all night, the way you sound when you float from the bedroom to the kitchen for a glass of water and, in a monotone murmur, assure everyone “I’m fine” before floating back again for more misery. And there’s no doubt that The Pretenders have recorded some shameless tearjerkers (hello “I’ll Stand By You,” animal lovers), but it’s “Chain Gang” that works its unwitting magic on me. I think it’s a combination of Hynde’s delivery and the chiming riff, but all I know is that classic hits radio stations are dangerous listening for me, in public, lest I be forced to get back on the chain gang and have the tears start flowing. Mercifully for me, and all around, I’ve taken to wearing Ashley Olsen-style giant sunglasses—now I can sob anywhere I like, with dignity intact!
8. Del Amitri - Roll To Me
This one should, for all intents and purposes, have been destroyed forever by a local car advertisement that ran for ages with this song as its soundtrack (of course conveniently forgetting the line “When the engine’s stalled and it won’t stop raining” as the happy-faced consumers fairly orgasmed over their new five-seater hatchback); after all, one of my favourite songs of the past few years, New Order’s “Slow Jam,” has been forever dinted by its association with smug Ford drivers. But Del Amitri’s cheery song sung from the perspective of the long-suffering best pal who witnesses his secret love continually be brutalized by romance gone wrong… well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
7. Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald - Cheek To Cheek
Okay, sometimes I’m prepared to admit that good old sentimentality gets the better of me: my first high school boyfriend and I once danced around the living-room to this song. There! Are you happy now?
6. Chuck Jackson - Hand It Over
I discovered this song completely by accident recently. I was mid wallow, moping around the house in fluffy boots and chain-eating coconut biscuits and bemoaning the odds being stacked against me (etc, etc), when all of a sudden my maudlin CD of choice finished up and the 5-disc CD player decided it was time for my flatmate’s northern soul mix CD. Enter, stage left, Chuck Jackson! “Will you let me have all of your loving and affection? / Will you give me your heart, and leave it under my protection? / If you will, I want you to be my wife! / If you will, I want you for the rest of my life! / Hand it over / Hand it over / And give your love to me.” Exit, stage right, self-righteous moping—and cue tears! I’ve detailed how much I like it when normally tuff male vocalists betray their softy side many times within my Top Ten history, so you can imagine how appealing Jackson’s open-hearted declaration of love and need was to me. As for the tears, maybe they were shed in the hope that one day a gruff-voiced bloke will shout something similar at me.
5. Harry Nilsson - I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City
Come on! Who hasn’t cried during this song?
4. The Darkness - Friday Night
The brothers Hawkins have a knack for magicking up “Reeling In The Years”-ish harmonized guitar solos, and while it’s “The Best Of Me” that really drives that baby home, it’s “Friday Night” that wins the medal for the most adorable, enjoyable and—yes—happy song that rock‘n’roll has birthed since, oh, I dunno, Nelsons’ “Love And Affection.” Perhaps its Justin Hawkins’ admission of childhood nerdom that is so appealing (after all, rock stars—particularly frontmen—are meant to be paragons of cool), but the way he squeaks “Hey you! Do you remember me? I used to sit next to you at school” speaks of the often pointless hopes we cling onto in love; after all, do we really think she remembers sitting next to him? But by the time he trills “Oh, see the lady I adore / Dancing on the dancing floor / Dancing on a Friday night,” then hollers some yelp of joy and then launches into one of those aforementioned solos, we know she remembers him! Ain’t love grand?!
3. Racey - Lay Your Love On Me
This one’s a bit of an enigma to me—not because the song is bad, because “Lay Your Love On Me” is 110% pure ‘70s comedy cheese gold!—but because I’m honestly at a loss as to why it might turn the waterworks on. I’ve thought about it many times (generally in a state somewhere between ecstasy and agony) but still can’t work it out. I guess, as they say, it’s a mystery. Love, and a bit with the dog, and all that.
2. Ben Folds - Adelaide
While secretly I wish Folds had written such a joyous and unabashed song about Melbourne, us being the better city an’ everythin’ (but I guess Paul Kelly has already delivered us ten or so of them), “Adelaide” is extraordinary because the very fact that someone could pen and perform a song so buzzing with love and energy about a city most Australians consider to be the arse end of the universe is spectacularly, well, moving. As Folds talks about “the bogans at the motor race” (one of us! One of us!) and how he’s now “A fixture down Rundle Mall,” I’m filled with patriotic joy by proxy and tears tumble down my face as I thump my hand to my heart and wear an ‘I [heart] Australia!’ t-shirt with pride. And yes, I do own one.
1. Supertramp - It's Raining Again
Here’s a tricky one, a happy song that masks its sad content with jolly brass and schoolyard rhymes; I mean, really “It’s raining again / Oh no / My love’s at an end”—tragic! (And there’ll be no jokes in the back about how Supertramp are just plain tragic, full stop, thank you very much.) But also, strangely comforting, as though the upbeat nature of the song suggests the first precious moments, post-break-up, where you finally feel as though your life isn’t ending and there is hope for the future. To wit, “It’s only time that heals the pain / And makes the sun come out again.” And, of course, there is that heartbreakingly gorgeous saxophone-solo-and-children’s-choir combo that rounds out the song. When it rains, it pours—and how!
By: Clem Bastow
Published on: 2005-08-12