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Track Review

Not all endings are happy, no matter how desperately we might wish otherwise.

And that's doubly true when you know that you're the reason that someone you care for deeply is unhappy—which is pretty much the whole story in "Happier," a collaboration between American producer Marshmello and the British synthpop duo Bastille.

So what do you do then?

Happy Sad

This upbeat, synth-driven song starts out sounding pretty sunny. "Lately, I've been, I've been thinking/I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier."

Well, that's a nice thought, right? And a seemingly selfless one at that.

It is. But the twist, as I hinted at above, is that the guy voicing that sentiment knows he's in a (perhaps cohabiting) relationship that's plunging into a death spiral: "When the morning comes/When we see what we've become/ … Every argument, every word we can't take back/ … I think that we both know the way that the story ends."

The guy in this doomed couple genuinely seems to want the best for his partner. "I want to raise your spirits/I want to see you smile."

But …

"Know that means I'll have to leave."

The next verse uses the metaphor of a shipwreck to further describe their disintegrating relationship. "Now if we jump together at least we can swim/Far away from the wreck we made."

Does it have to be this way? Does it have to end so sadly, so badly? Indeed, second thoughts do creep in: "Then only for a minute/I want to change my mind/'Cause this just doesn't feel right to me." But in the end, the guy resigns himself to the only path toward future happiness he can see for either of them: "I want to see you smile/Know that means I'll have to leave/ … So I'll go, I'll go."

It's melancholy stuff for a song that paradoxically sounds quite buoyant, quite … happy. Even if the ending of this story obviously isn't.

As for how we think about this song, if the couple in question is married (though there's no indication that they are), the ending isn't just sad, it's tragic. If they're not married, perhaps this guy's decision to leave is a selfless one, the right one, even though it's hard. (Difficulty, I might add, that's multiplied many times over if they are in fact living together, as the song perhaps subtly suggests.)

Either way, though, there will no doubt be grief before the hoped-for smiles return—for either of these two people.

A Girl's Life … And a Dog's

The song's official video (not counting a lyric video and a performance video, which both came earlier) doesn't deal with romance at all. Instead, we watch as a young girl who often seems sad herself begins to grow up.

We watch as she gets a puppy for her birthday, a beloved friend who's always there to lick away her tears throughout the mean moments of adolescence. (We see her being bullied by other girls for wearing braces, for instance.)

And we watch as she and her father make the difficult decision to put the dog to sleep a few years later, as tears roll down her face. (And probably the faces of anyone watching this video, for that matter.) This is a seriously bittersweet story, as a young woman has to say goodbye to the furry friend who's always wanted her to be happy when she's sad.

The end of the video features a lovely "circle of life" moment. It flashes forward a couple of decades, and the young girl is now a middle-aged mother herself, watching with joy as her own daughter receives a puppy for her birthday.

More tears fall. In the video, and perhaps from us, too, as we're reminded poignantly of both the power and, at times, the brevity of love that helps us make it through life.

Positive Elements

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Reached No. 3.

Record Label





August 17, 2018

On Video

Year Published



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