The Sounds of Happiness

Roxane Gay: “Hypnotize,” by the Notorious B.I.G. It’s just a great song—great lyric, great beat. You know, I’m a Gen X-er, and so ’90s hip-hop is really my wheelhouse. And so even though I wasn’t necessarily having a great life back then, I still think very fondly of the music. And I know all of the words…“Poppa been smooth since days of Underoos.” [laughs] It’s just so clever; it’s the wordplay of it. You automatically know what he’s talking about: He’s been smooth since he was a little boy wearing Underoos. So great, just so great.

Anthony Hopkins: There’s a wonderful Louis Armstrong…what was that? “What a Wonderful World”? And Tom T. Hall, a great country and Western singer, had a wonderful one: “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” I like that contentment: old dogs, little children, watermelon wine.

David Lynch: Oh, man, so many songs just thrill me to the core, so many songs. Music is a huge emotional rush, sometimes a thrill beyond the beyond. Richard Strauss’s song, the first one of the Four Last Songs, it was in Wild at Heart, I can’t remember the name of it [“At Sunset (Im Abendrot)”]—just put that music on loud and I could start crying, it’s so beautiful.

Goldie Hawn: The song “Happy,” by Pharrell. It’s not just that it’s about happiness. It’s that he actually created a sound and lyrics, and in every way, shape, or form, the song embodies happiness, and makes you want to dance and fly and feel good and enjoin with others. It embodies exactly what the song says.

Phoebe Bridgers: Tons of songs make me happy. I like “If It Makes You Happy,” by Sheryl Crow. It’s like just enough of a guilty pleasure—I feel like it’s as popular as it should be, but ironic enough to make me laugh too. The verses make zero sense, but I feel like I know what it means. Whatever gets you through the day, you know.

Drew Barrymore: Ethel Merman. Let’s see, what is the song called? [starts singing] “I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night…” Every time I hear that song, I’m happy.

Samantha Bee: There’s so many ones that make you feel like you want to cry. I reach for music when I’m sad or alone. Not really when I’m at my peak of happiness. In the car, as a family, we listen to lots of really cheesy pop music. And that really makes me happy. We put on Sirius Hits 1 and just scroll through music. We listen to a lot of BTS.

David Lynch: Adagio for Strings, by Samuel Barber, André Previn’s version.

Roddy Ricch: Pharrell, “Happy.” The fact that Pharrell could make a song like that was crazy. It was mind-blowing to me—it showed me that he was far past his years. At the same time, the song is talking about being happy all the time, so how could you not be happy, listening to that?

Phoebe Bridgers: Every Cure song, pretty much. I think it’s the idea of a bunch of people who’ve experienced sadness having kind of a party. “Lovesong” and “Friday I’m in Love” and “Just Like Heaven”—you kind of can’t be sad and listen to that stuff.

Chelsea Manning: I listen to a lot of melodic trance music from the late ’90s and up to the mid-2000s whenever I want to just feel happy: Ibiza beach echoey electronic sounds, like with seagulls making seagull noises. I have these old CDs of trance music from that era, because I’ve been listening to this stuff since I was a teenager. I’ll listen to a set of maybe Armin van Buuren in the early 2000s.

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