Song of the Week

Happy by Pharrell Williams



What I love about this song:

First of all, the subject of this song is positive and the words are totally appropriate for any population. That is a rare quality for such a popular mainstream song.

Clinical Application:

As far as the music, there are so many layers to this song it can be done as simple or as complex as appropriate for a session. For instance, you can lead by singing the main lyrics of the chorus and have clients sing the “happy”s. Or have each member of a group take turns leading the main part of the verse.

“Clap Along if…”
This has SO MUCH potential for body percussion and can be easily adapted to fit clients’ needs/strengths. You could even take it a step further and rewrite the lyrics: “Shake along if…” “Tap along if…” “Strum along if…” This is pretty much a modern version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.

I love using ASL in sessions. It adds a kinesthetic level of coordination to singing a song that produces really healthy cognition! This song repeats the word “Happy” so often, that would be a great word to learn to sign. Here is an awesome video that I find very inspiring:

There are a lot of videos on youtube of ASL interpretations of this song that are fun to watch. 

Video Project
The music video for this song offers a huge potential for a dublication  It depicts different people doing things to express “happy” during the song. I particularly love the ballerina on the sidewalk and the dancing man in the airport. This could be a fun project to duplicate with a group of clients.

Lyric Discussion:
This song could lead to great discussions about moods and how they effect our lives. I love that this music video shows people being happy doing normal every day things. Isn’t it great when you are in such a good mood, you find ourself smiling and singing at work? (Well, that may happen more often when you are a music therapist!) Some questions to inspire conversation about this song:
What makes you happy? How does being happy effect your daily life? How do you express being happy? How does it make you feel when you see someone else happy? etc. etc…

Song Parody/Song Writing:
Write your own verse after discussing some of the questions mentioned above. Song parody projects can be so fun and so easily done. When it’s written out, it gives people such a sense of accomplishment, regardless of their level of musical experience.

I have to be honest, I was pretty annoyed with this song on the radio this past year. But after taking a few minutes to study it and think about its clinical potential, I am actually really excited to use it in a session some time. So here is your challenge, learn Happy by Pharrell Williams till you can play it with your eyes closed. And if you get a chance, use it in a session and let us know how it goes! Everyone can use a little reminder to experience happiness in the middle of winter. Any other ideas for clinical uses of this song? Please share in the comments so we can learn from your creativity!

Be Musical,


One thought on “Song of the Week

  1. “Happy” was a song that brought about much happiness this year. I have to be honest, every time I heard it on the radio, I found myself tapping the steering wheel, bobbing my head, and singing lightly, “Because I’m happy!”

    What I love about the song is that it isn’t over the top. It is mellow, and positive–not sickeningly enthusiastic or over-excited. It has a great beat, uses body percussion (clapping), and uses an interesting, novel chord progression (C# – Cm – Bb – F in the refrain). You rarely see anything outside I IV V in pop music. Ever.

    I sang an a’capella version of this song with my choir, which was a lot of fun–beat boxing, scatting, and just plain ‘ole singing. 🙂 But I also used this song in session a fair amount and I found it to be positively received. One of the ways that I brought this song to session was through a slight modification. I changed the refrain to, “When (client) is happy, s/he ________.” This enabled me to meet goals relating to communication, reciprocal turn taking, and increased emotional awareness. Clients stated what they did when they were happy, communicating an awareness of their emotions, and also their preferred activities. This intervention can be used in groups or with individuals.

    I heard from one person this week who joined us on this challenge–she and her boyfriend learned the song, and switched it from major to minor! Crazy, right? She sent me a quick recording of her singing in a free-form, jazz style, and her boyfriend was playing the guitar. It was amazing! If you have a little extra time to yourself, I challenge you to give it a try! Switch the key from major to minor, or just learn the song in the original key. And maybe brainstorm a little about what makes you happy, and how you can bring happiness to your life this year.

    best wishes,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s