Happiness (Taylor Swift song)

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"Happiness"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Evermore
ReleasedDecember 11, 2020 (2020-12-11)
StudioLong Pond (Hudson Valley)
GenreAmbient
Length5:15
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Aaron Dessner
Lyric video
"Happiness" on YouTube

"Happiness" (stylized in all lowercase) is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, taken from her ninth studio album, Evermore (2020). She wrote the song with Aaron Dessner, who produced it using an instrumental track he had written since 2019. A midtempo ambient ballad, "Happiness" has piano, guitar and synthesizer instrumentation generated by a slow drone that build up. Its lyrics are about a narrator finding happiness after a divorce.

Critics gave "Happiness" generally positive reviews, who praised it for Swift's songwriting, lyrics, and the production. Some picked the track as a highlight from Evermore and one of Swift's best songs in her entire catalog. Commercially, "Happiness" peaked at number 33 on the Billboard Global 200 and entered the charts of Australia, Canada, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It received a gold certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

Production and release[edit]

On July 24, 2020, the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, Folklore, to critical and commercial success.[1] On November 25, Swift and the album's co-writers and co-producers, including the first-time collaborator Aaron Dessner, assembled at Long Pond Studio in Hudson Valley to film a concert documentary titled Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, which was released on Disney+.[2][3] They continued writing songs at Long Pond, with Swift penning lyrics to Dessner's instrumental tracks, a process that was present on much of the songs they had worked on Folklore. Their sessions resulted in a project that was a natural extension of the album, which became Evermore.[4][5][6]

"Happiness" was the last song written for the album.[3][7] Dessner had been working on the song's composition since 2019 and believed it would be a track for Big Red Machine, his band with Justin Vernon. Swift, however, admired the instrumentals and ended up finishing its lyrics.[4] She and Dessner wrote the song days before the album was finished, and it overlapped recordings with "You Belong with Me (Taylor's Version)"—a track for her first re-recorded album Fearless (Taylor's Version) (2021)—on the same day.[3][8] The song was recorded by Dessner and Jonathan Low at Long Pond, and the vocals were recorded by Robin Baynton at Scarlet Pimpernel Studios in the United Kingdom. It was mixed by Low at Long Pond and mastered by Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound in Edgewater, New Jersey.[9]

Evermore was released on December 21, 2020, by Republic Records. In the track-list, "Happiness" is placed at number 7 out of the 15 tracks.[9] It reached the countries of Canada (24),[10] Australia (37),[11] and Portugal (142).[12] In the United States, the song debuted and peaked at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it extended Swift's total entries to 128.[13][14] On Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, "Happiness" peaked at number nine and stayed for ten weeks.[15] It appeared on the chart's 2021 year-end at number 58.[16] On other charts, the song peaked at number 66 on the United Kingdom's Audio Streaming Chart[17] and number 33 on the Billboard Global 200.[18] It received a gold certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) after reaching 35,000 units.[19]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Happiness" features references to the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby

"Happiness" is a midtempo[20] ambient[21] ballad.[22] At five minutes and fifteen seconds long, it is the longest song on Evermore.[23] The production incorporates piano, guitar, and synthesizer instrumentation from a soft, building drone.[24] The song includes "churchy organ tones", according to The New York Times critic Jon Pareles.[25] It also features acoustic, bass, and electric guitars, drum kit, keyboards, violin,[3] programmed beats, and hi-hats.[26] Sarah Carson of i[27] and Ilana Kaplan of i-D both described the song as "hymnal",[28] while Claire Shaffer from Rolling Stone thought the production was reminiscent of the American electronic band Chromatics.[21]

The lyrics are about a narrator finding happiness after a divorce.[26][29] Stereogum's Tom Breihan said that the narrator on the song is in a "mid-breakup". The narrator tries to console someone else, while also doing it to herself: ("There'll be happiness after you / But there was happiness because of you / Both of these things can be true / There is happiness").[24] The lyrics incorporates gothic and macabre imagery: ("Past the blood and bruise / Past the curses and cries / Beyond the terror in the nightfall / Haunted by the look in my eyes").[30] Elsewhere in the lyrics, it features themes of forgiveness, personal histories, and looking at a perspective of another person.[21] The song also contains references to the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.[31] In a Pitchfork review, Sam Sodomsky said that "the uncharacteristic retraction" on some of the lyrics "suggests she's striving toward more stoic, distanced writing".[32]

Critical reception[edit]

"Happiness" received generally positive reviews from critics, some of whom regarded it as a highlight from Evermore[a] and one of Swift's best in her catalog.[b] Many praised Swift's songwriting. Tom Breihan of Stereogum labeled the song "a masterful piece of recording and songwriting" and selected it as an example of how Swift can make personal songs sound huge.[24] Nina Schaarschmidt from Atwood Magazine said she conveyed "heartbreak and its mixed feelings at its finest" on "Happiness".[33] Patrick Ryan from USA Today said that the song has "the kind of elegant simplicity that makes Swift's songwriting so continually astonishing".[22] Konstantinos Pappis of Our Culture Mag similarly stated that the sentiments of its lyrics "made [her] storytelling so compelling".[37] Angela Morrison of Exclaim! wrote that the song had one of Swift's most mature lyricism to date,[38] while Shaffer thought it was a more mature direction for her.[21] Lauren DeHollogne from Clash said that the song's "maturity level [...] makes the track all the more devastating".[35] The Hits writer Holly Gleason opined that the track strayed from Swift's bitter sentiments in past songs.[39] The Guardian music journalist Alex Petridis believed "Happiness" was a song that showcased her skill at character studies and thought the song's bitter lyrics were more edifying than those she wrote for her 2017 album Reputation.[40]

Several critics also praised the song's lyrics. Jon Bream of the Star Tribune described it as a "haunting, hushed reflection" on a fading romance.[34] Lowndes Schaarschmidt from Atwood Magazine considered it a lyrical standout from Evermore: "The song as a whole is a hopeful one, a beautiful reflection of what once was and a bold look forward at what might be".[33] Saloni Gajjar of The A.V. Club said the track is one of the most crushing on Evermore because of its "oddly hopeful" lyrics.[41] Also from The A.V. Club, the music journalist Annie Zaleski selected "Happiness" as one of the album's "most poignant" tracks.[42] Jason Lipshutz from Billboard remarked that it is one of the album's most "brutal breakup songs".[26] The Slate writer Carl Wilson found the lyrics mixed with Swift's vocals to be "awfully damned right".[43] On a less positive note, The Ringer's Rob Harvilla believed the song was one of the album's "clunkier" tracks,[44] and Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic criticized the lyrics for how Swift mixes its metaphors until they are condensed together.[45]

Some critics commended the production and its soundscape. Sodomsky thought that the song is where Swift departs from the album's thorough narratives and instead takes the music to showcase its emotional resonance.[32] Likewise, Lipshutz picked "Happiness" as one of Evermore's songs that serves its production as the emotional hook and found that it had one of the album's most "ornate" arrangements.[46][26] Ellen Johnson from Paste viewed the song as one of the tracks to represent Evermore as a peaceful, intimate album.[47] Gajjar said that it had a "mature, melancholic spirit" which was "elevated by Swift's ethereal vocals".[41] Allaire Nuss of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the chorus best "capture[d] the album's essence",[48] and Harvilla said the song featured a "striking serenity" to it.[44]

Personnel[edit]

Credits are adapted from the liner notes of Evermore.[9]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter
  • Aaron Dessner – songwriter, producer, drum programming, keyboard, synthesizer, piano, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, recording
  • Bryce Dessner – orchestration
  • JT Bates – drum kit, recording
  • Kyle Resnick – recording
  • Ryan Olson – Allovers Hi-Hat Generator, recording
  • Thomas Bartlett – synthesizer, keyboard, recording
  • Yuki Numata Resnick – violin
  • Robin Baynton – vocal recording
  • Jonathan Low – mixing, recording
  • Greg Calbi – mastering
  • Steve Fallone – mastering

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Year-end chart[edit]

Year-end chart performance for "Happiness"
Chart (2021) Position
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[16] 58

Certification[edit]

Certification for "Happiness"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[19] Gold 35,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Attributed to Atwood Magazine's Emily Algar and Nina Schaarschmidt,[33] Consequence's Mary Siroky,[30] and the Star Tribune's Jon Bream[34]
  2. ^ Attributed to Clash's Lauren DeHollogne,[35] Slant Magazine's Jonathan Keefe,[36] and Stereogum's Tom Breihan[24]

References[edit]

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