The party was an arty crowd. The finest wits were stepping out. The champagne flowed, the laughs were loud, till someone asked “Are you happy? Really happy?”
I wish I had your confidence. I fear your sharp intelligence. I’m jealous of your elegance and yet I wonder, are you happy? Really happy?
He went to church to save his soul. He bought the family jelly-roll. He’s climbing up the greasy pole and he will tell you he is happy, really happy.
Notes on: Are you happy? (2012)
The first verse describes an actual event that happened to a friend of mine, and I just made up and tacked on the other two verses. I like the simplicity; it’s only two chords. The hook “really, really, really hap-hap-py” is one of those things that you dream up and can’t immediately see a use for, or at least that’s how it came to me. When I sat down to work on it I played through a tape I have of ideas that I had put aside and there it was. I’d actually written that hook about three months earlier but given it up, and then somehow it gestated in my mind and the verse structure welled up. Not that it was opaque or difficult; it just didn’t occur to me straight away.
That second verse is intended to be oh-so uncool, a statement of envy, fear and jealousy, but which all comes to nothing in the end because even those among us who appear to have it all, don’t really. They struggle too. Yes, I’d prefer their struggles to some of mine, but not at the cost of not being me. So it’s a little Faustian, and it’s acknowledging that the folks at Hillsong don’t get it all completely wrong.
The final choruses are supposed to up the ante a little; We are happy! You are Happy! It’s a bit Nazi, or Brave New World, like, “Ve haff vays off makink you appy!” Then the final query – yes, you know about these things, but, beneath it all, are you happy? And of course none of us really are, for that’s the human condition. As Freud described it, “Much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common human unhappiness.”