In the music videos of Pharrell Williams' hit "Happy" and The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", the artists walk the streets in an attempt to reach for what it means to be alive.
The streets connect us in ways beyond just being a path to move from one destination to another. The streets are where we meet, where we observe, and where we share. The streets define us, and the streets are unplanned. The main stage for both these videos is the side walk.
Pharrell's "Happy" is not just about being happy, but also declaring happiness. The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" is a little less optimistic. For some reason, I find far more comfort in the lyrics of Bittersweet Symphony, and this is probably because happiness is hard to pin down. I see more in the fleeting moments of so-called happiness than I do trying to find the "truth" of it.
"Happy" is about letting it all go for the length of a song. Pharrell did an excellent job of creating a daydream within a song, and an escape within a beat. If a few minutes is too little, and you need more time in musical paradise, there is a 24 hour version as well. The verve on the other hand, is like that realistic friend, reminding you that life is about ups and downs, and there's no shame in being down.
The Verve's lead singer walks down the center of a sidewalk while people pass him, and push up against him. He doesn't move an inch for anyone. It has this feeling of moving against the flow of things, but also represents the inability to change your path. There is a loneliness and loss of connection.
On the other hand, Pharrell's story is about connection. It's not about moving against the grain, it's about dancing in unison with everyone else. He even draws the viewer in with eye contact, smiles, and pointing directly at the camera.
Pharrell wants to bring people in. He knocks on doors, holds his arms open, and dances with other people. Richard Ashcroft (Verve lead singer) moves through the streets ignoring everyone else except for the camera.
Happy has all different kinds of people singing the lyrics to the same song, and sharing a line of thought. Richard Ashcroft sings alone, and for most of the video we can't even see the mouths of the other people. Is happiness the feeling of community? Or does The Verve have a better grip on reality?
One is about the freedom in brushing things off and declaring happiness, while the other is also about the freedom in breaking the boundaries life has built around you.
Both these videos/songs touch on the bigger questions about life and what it means to be human. They are questions of where happiness really lies, how it can be kept, and if it really exists beyond our constant re-creation of it.
In both music videos the camera is head on, making the viewer feel as if they're on some kind of journey with the artist. The viewer is being called upon.