Friday, June 10th, 2016

Mitski – Happy

“Happy” with these results.


[Video][Website]
[7.75]
Taylor Alatorre: I had this thought a couple weeks back while attending a mandatory session on college loan repayment: “I’ll probably never be happy, and I’m okay with that.” Maybe someday I’ll look back at this as just another cheap avoidance tactic, but it seems to be what I need right now — I felt better, if not necessarily happier, once I accepted it. Mitski’s music is this kind of radical acceptance given the big-screen treatment. By placing the Happiness Industrial Complex in human form, she undercuts its invisible authority over our lives. By associating happiness with food and sex, she defines it by its impermanence. The key word in the song’s key lyric is not “clean,” but “again” — we’ve all suffered this cycle of disappointment before, and it will go on forever if we let it. All this might come across as heavy-handed if Mitski were taking on the role of therapist or sage, but she knows better than that. She’s right down here in the bullshit with us. There are no fearless leaders in this battle, only fellow soldiers digging trenches for reasons that were never made quite clear. Listen to that strident saxophone outro, equal parts threatening and liberating, and imagine it were possible to simply crawl out of the trenches, dust ourselves off, and quit the battlefield altogether. For our sake, it has to be.
[10]

A.J. Cohn: Interestingly, it is while Mitski is singing about being happy that the instrumentation is at its most nervy and spare — just a terribly insistent drill gun of a drum line. When happiness leaves her, however, the backing track expands, becoming more sonically rich — offering a moving suggestion of the true source of beauty.
[9]

Tim de Reuse: A personification of positive emotion visits our hero: “I told him I’d do anything to have him stay with me / so he laid me down and I felt Happy come inside of me.” I mean – listen to that! Listen to that awkward rhyme, with the voice all modulated and creaky. Listen to the single drum machine tom stuck on repeat every sixteenth note that keeps everything unbalanced. I was all ready to think about conceptions of happiness as a thing that happens to you violently and suddenly, or happiness as something that only makes you feel as good as it makes you feel unstable, preparing mentally for a chill down my spine — until the song sandpapered its own edges off a third of the way through. As soon as Happy leaves Mitski’s living room after their little tryst, the song falls into more mundane instrumentation and more mundane subject matter to accompany it. It’s not bad, I guess, but it’s underdeveloped and indecisive, stifling its own emotive potential under instrumentation that takes just enough risks to make you wish it took five times more. Mitski doesn’t sound nearly as engaged with the song’s central conceit when she’s lazily going on about empty cups of tea under a feathery indie rock two-chord verse. The itchy, electronic percussion fades back in at the end as if to say “Hey, remember how this song seemed like it was going to be a punch to the gut?” I do, in fact, and I wish you’d committed to it!
[7]

Joshua Copperman: Somewhere between “Sorrow” and “Summer Highland Falls” are these lyrics, Mitski graphically personifying happiness as a one night stand before wondering if it’s better to just not feel at all. The John Congleton-esque production, filled with synth sax and double-time “Frankie Teardrop”-esque drum machines, seems to distract at first, but repeated listens reveal its beauty. Between this and the big blowout of “Your Best American Girl,” it makes me even more interested in the rest of Puberty 2 to see what kinds of sounds Mitski will blend next. Also, the video is perfect.
[9]

Alfred Soto: From the sax and sequencers to the outro sax, an inhabited ecosystem of a track. I’m not sure what Mitski is on about even after listening to the track three times, and she’s supposed to make me care about such things.
[7]

Crystal Leww: “Happy” starts with an isolated, thunderous drum pattern that fades into the texture of the rest of the song as Mitski adds in vocals, a kick, horns, synth, guitar, etc. The drum pattern feels like an undercurrent of tension, anxiety, and frustration that runs throughout the track. It underscores Mitski’s point well; sometimes that anxiety is minimized but never quite disappears, even when we feel happy. That thunderous drum pattern returns here at the end as her happiness disappears yet again.
[7]

Iain Mew: Asking departing happiness to take the train isn’t the most obvious image, but Mitski’s chugging guitar riff as “Happy” comes out of intimate contentment helps it make sense. Your life may be running away from your control leaving you disassociated from how you were, she illustrates, but at least that powerful a rumble will remind you that it’s happening.
[7]

Claire Biddles: My favorite thing about “Happy” is the inside-out ambiguity and strangeness of it. The introductory Xiu Xiu-like monotonous terror is accompanied with lyrical optimism, but when the atonal brass becomes tuneful, the lyrics project pathos — cookies become empty wrappers while the music becomes more inviting, more like home.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: A drum machine? Horns? “Happy” doesn’t reveal itself as a Mitski song right away but you just have to trust her. While the song unfolds as mere seconds of her life, the weight of her voice tells more than enough of her story. It carries an impression that this isn’t the first time she has been left, and she’s aware this will be far from her last. So it’s not her giving up her heart that hurts most but when she sighs and mumbles, again, that she has to clean up the mess. I don’t know her past just from this song, but I somehow can tell that much from these three minutes.
[7]

Natasha Genet Avery: Over a relentless drum machine, Mitski sounds muted and disaffected: she’s being broken up with. She relays her tragedy in a mere couplet (“He laid me down and I felt Happy…come inside of me/ He laid me down and I felt happy”) and I am floored by how succinctly she captured how sex with someone you love can feel like a bargaining chip or a peace offering, shallow and exploitative. Happy is an asshole, but I recognize him. Mitski has always excelled at blending detail (“cookie wrappers and the empty cups of tea”) with nihilism and melodrama (“take this heart!” “take the moon!”), and when “Happy’s measured verses explode into those bari sax interludes, I welcome the burst of emotion as a reminder that it’s OK to grieve in hyperbole.
[8]

Cassy Gress: Rolling into my ears significantly more clearly than our last outing with Mitski, this starts off her album with relentless hammering tension and lo-fi vocals, and eventually metallic drums and squawking saxophone. The whole thing reeks of “recorded in her bedroom” until the second verse, at which point this explodes into the faded angry sunlight streaming through the windows into the hallway on an overcast day.
[7]

Brad Shoup: As ever, her vocal lines are ambitiously architectural: they scale. She limits the fretwork to a few rhythmic tacks, letting a bari sax provide an unsettling timbre that mirrors her thematic limbo.
[7]

Reader average: [9.3] (10 votes)

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One Response to “Mitski – Happy”

  1. This also has an incredible music video that has irrevocably changed how I listen to this song

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