It’s our highest-rated song to feature an AMC Pacer in the video!…
Alfred Soto: A beautiful chorus sitting atop a corpse of a dance track (is it a dance track? Someone tell me).
Katie Lewis: Oh neat. I’m going to see Deadmau5 on Friday. I had no idea he could sing like that! Oh, wait…
Josh Langhoff: Stupid research. I made the mistake of looking up “Brazil” by deadmau5, and now I don’t really like either song. The deadmau5 repeats itself without changing (OK, with admittedly great chord changes) for way too long, and “Happiness” sounds like an awkward lyrical paste over an entirely serviceable track. It’s like when Kurt Elling does a vocalese to a Shorter solo — impressive attempt, but the words are always a little icky. Bumped a point to compensate for my overthinking.
Katherine St Asaph: Seldom have vocals seemed so pointless.
Asher Steinberg: The hook is stunningly prosaic, in the sense that the words are actually prose, the sort of prose in which you might write a rejection letter to a job applicant or a clinical write-up on a schizophrenic patient. It may be the clunkiest, most awkward hook in the history of American pop music. Also stunning is how devoid of any actual urgency is the “quick, quick, quick” bridge. One gets the sense that a computer put the song together from snippets of current hits and gave it to a robot to sing. But what’s even worse about the song is the Stargate, deadmau5-sampling production. Nothing about this song or singer calls for house. And yet there it is, and it’s fairly analytic, cold house at that. So inappropriate.
John Seroff: “Happiness” has a vivid and lively pulse, vaguely reminiscent of the chugging locomotive belly of Underworld’s “Born Slippy” but washed clean of grime and gothic insinuation in disco rosewater. Jordan’s delicately insistent multitracked voice flashes from between the strobe lights with an older diva’s strength. Her humming is a string trio and the “hurry hurry hurry now/quick quick quick” chorus is utterly charming. In a landscape scattered with message songs and more complex didacticism, Jordan finds the sweet spot on a bit of simple, undecorated pop and hits that underhand pitch out of the park.
Zach Lyon: Oh, this sneaks up on you. Jordan isn’t necessarily a quality here, and her part could’ve been executed better by a more experienced performer, but she doesn’t detract. The lyrics sound like they’re coming from a QVC salesperson (“You don’t wanna miss this offer!” “You’ve got to be out of your mind not to try this out!” “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”) and the chorus is trite and awkward. But that hurry hurry now/quick quick quick sounds like it was ripped out of an old Girls Aloud or Sugababes track (I was surprised to learn she was American), and that’s always a positive. The kicker, though, is Stargate’s production. They’re masters, and they turn a generic beat into something amazing just by knowing exactly when to change the volume, when to drop out, when to blast it back in. It’s impressive work.
Tyrone Palmer: What a surprise, Stargate actually do subtlety rather well! Here they deliver a glacial, Kompakt-esque banger (the song that this instantly reminded me of was Superpitcher’s remix of MFA’s “The Difference It Makes”). The verses slowly crawl into an absolutely jubilant chorus. On paper the lyrics are kind of eye-rollingly basic, but Alexis Jordan’s sprightly delivery here is spot-on and saves the song from overbearing sappy-ness.
Michaelangelo Matos: Everything about it bubbles invitingly, from the “hurry, hurry, hurry”/”sorry, sorry, sorry” backing vox to the keyboards (of course). Maybe too arty or uneventful for the pop-inclined on here, but it hits the spot for me.
Jonathan Bogart: I’m guessing purely from the sound that she’s a British pop-idol contestant; the overly-mature vocals, the thin house backing, and the big unearned sweep of the chorus give it away. I might like the song with a less anonymous vocalist; as it is, I dig the falsetto “happiness”es and only endure the rest of her attempts to belt. (And it turns out she’s not British, but I got the rest right.)
Anthony Easton: The woman can sing, love that scaling up when she says “happiness”, and the little grunts are always a nice touch, but too much excess noise.
Jer Fairall: So determinedly mild that it comes and goes without leaving any impression whatsoever, but in the moment it is easy to smile and nod along with a production that opts for a percolating lite-disco approach over the kind of garish muddle of so much current dance pop. Likewise, Jordan’s vocals emphasize warmth and melody over diva showboating; she actually can sing but doesn’t make too big a deal of it, which is rare for a TV singing contest participant. Small favours, perhaps, but favours nonetheless.
Martin Skidmore: Maybe her nasal tones and standard R&B vocal moves fail to convey any great amount of happiness, but it’s enjoyable if you ignore that.