Happy songs? What is a happy song? Well, since it is a term I coined myself, a dictionary is not going to help! But as you might guess, it refers to a song which brings back happy memories of some pleasant event in the past every time you hear it. Most of time the songs that trigger the memory do not have too much acoustic merit to them but I still like my happy songs because of the memory it recalls. It similar to smells which evoke memories. The scent of the first rain on a muddy road, smell of dinner cooking as you enter home...
Maybe having a song associated with a memory is not all that uncommon. But, I first noticed the happy song phenomenon when I realized that listening to some songs made a bad day better. There is this particular set of Tamil songs - whenever I listen to them I am transported to the wonderful trip to Mt. Shasta that I made with my friends. We did not have any CDs to play on the car stereo system except this one CD full of Tamil songs and we listened to it throughout our journey to Shasta and back. So when I listen to those songs, I can still see the picture post-card worthy snow-covered, white mountains looming in front of me. I can see the 4 of us in car, so tired out from finishing a stressful quarter, yet filled with enthusiasm to go snow-shoe-hiking. The snow-fight, which ended prematurely when one of us literally got buried in the snow under a relentless assault from the other 3, still brings a smile to my face. And then I remember how we spent the night in a cute cottage even though we did not want to, just because we paid for it and how we went to the movie-theatre because that small town with two main-streets did not have any other entertainment. Thinking of this on a hot summer day, sitting in front of my monitor makes the workday a LOT more bearable.
Then there is this other bunch of songs - which recalls a hike to a scenic lake like it happened yesterday. Five of us this time, water-less, food-less, nevertheless full of adventuring spirit setting off to finish a 4-mile strenuous hike. Reaching the top after a long-winded struggle and seeing a beautiful lake that made the upward trip worthwhile. And then the unending descent back to our car - when the anticipated 45 minutes trip dragged on to an hour and then an hour and half. Finally reaching the car and finding no place to buy a drink - pulling over at the first gas station and downing ice-cold Gatorade at such speed that we started shivering - man!
Not all of my memorable experiences have happy songs associated with them. And not all songs I like have a memory associated with it. But having a song subconsciously connected to a memorable experience is like finding a treasure when you aren’t looking - its an ordinary day and then, some strains of music and you are transported to a whole new world!
There are the bittersweet songs. There are a set of songs to which I can never listen to without feeling nostalgic and yearning for the experience to happen again. Those are mostly songs from my childhood - they bring back sweet memories of home but also the painful realization that I am no longer there. I guess that’s the case with every memory - depending upon the circumstance they either bring back wistful thoughts of possibly not experiencing it again or happy thoughts of adding on more such memories.
Happy and bittersweet, can sad be far behind? At least for me, yes, sad is very far behind. Maybe subconsciously, I don’t want to associate music with sad memories - bittersweet maybe, but not completely sad. So there is no antonym for happy song.
A happy song for me is like finding forgotten money in a jeans pocket, getting a hand-written letter or drinking hot chai on a rainy day. And it’s the closest I can get to paradise from my office cubicle, through my earphones.