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From Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love to U2’s Beautiful Day: 12 irresistibly happy songs to lift your spirits

We’ve come through a long, dreary, Omicron-dominated January and yet summer feels like such a long way away. But fear not, these dozen songs deliver aural serotonin by the lorry load…

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Florence Welch

Florence Welch

Bono

Bono

Singer Beyonce Knowles and rapper Jay-Z perform during the Fashion Rocks show in New York in 2006.

Singer Beyonce Knowles and rapper Jay-Z perform during the Fashion Rocks show in New York in 2006.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, performing at Slane Castle in 1986. Photo: Part of the Irish Independent Newspapers/NLI Collection.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, performing at Slane Castle in 1986. Photo: Part of the Irish Independent Newspapers/NLI Collection.

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Florence Welch

12 Crazy in Love (Beyoncé)

Could Beyoncé make it on her own in a post-Destiny’s Child world? Too right, she could. What a song with which to announce your solo career to the world. Featuring a rapped cameo from then boyfriend Jay-Z, it’s a song that’s in thrall to love, happiness and the possibilities of the world. From the opening notes, it bootiliciously grabs your attention. Once ubiquitous, it’s hard to imagine there was a wedding in the 2000s that didn’t feature the euphoric track in the DJ’s set. Beyoncé and Jay-Z had their marital problems later on, but in 2003 they seemed genuinely crazy in love.

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Singer Beyonce Knowles and rapper Jay-Z perform during the Fashion Rocks show in New York in 2006.

Singer Beyonce Knowles and rapper Jay-Z perform during the Fashion Rocks show in New York in 2006.

Singer Beyonce Knowles and rapper Jay-Z perform during the Fashion Rocks show in New York in 2006.

11 Brass in Pocket (The Pretenders)

Know that feeling when you’re all dressed up, when you feel you’re looking good, when you’ve some cash in your pocket and you’re going to have a great night? There mightn’t have been too many of those of late — but they will come again — and nobody captured how special that feeling is quite like Chrissie Hynde. Brass in Pocket was The Pretenders’ third single, and in November 1979, it topped the UK singles chart. It made the band superstars overnight, but while there was a rosy future ahead for Hynde, the guitarist James Honeyman-Scott was not so lucky. He was just 25 when he died from heart failure, caused by an intolerance to cocaine.

10 HoppÍpolla (Sigur Rós)

It’s a track without lyrics and its title is derived from ‘Hopelandish’, the language of sorts that was dreamt up by the Icelandic band. But this is instrumental music that’s machine-tooled to lift the darkest of moods. Epic in scale and building to a stunning crescendo, Hoppípola might just as easily have been dubbed Seize the Day. It has been used in countless TV shows, especially when producers want music to evoke hope or wonder. You’re likely have heard it while watching slow-motion replays of epic sporting moments, like that time Johnny Sexton launched a last-minute drop-kick to secure a famous win against France.

9 Lovely Day (Bill Withers)

In possession of one of the greatest vocal abilities of the 20th century — listen to the extraordinary Live at Carnegie Hall album if you’re not sure — Bill Withers sang about every facet of the human condition. Lovely Day is among his most emblematic songs and is, in essence, a celebration of those nearest and dearest to us. The song acknowledges the tribulations that can pockmark our existence, but the very sight of a loved one makes the difficult times bearable. The song is a timely reminder not to take love for granted — and is notable for Withers’ 18-second sustained high E note at the end, one of the longest in chart history.

Video of the Day

8 Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen)

Freddie Mercury and friends often teetered dangerously close to naff, as they do here, but if the song doesn’t put a massive smile on your face, what will? It’s an ode to joy that invites the listener to embrace their inner Freddie — just try not to sing along when it comes on the car radio. Brian May’s guitar — as on so many Queen tracks — might have been built for air guitarists everywhere. We Are The Champions runs close in the joie-de-vivre stakes. Cheesy, you say? Just imagine how great it would sound blaring out as Gavin Bazunu raises the FIFA World Cup trophy in 2030? We can dream, right?

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Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, performing at Slane Castle in 1986. Photo: Part of the Irish Independent Newspapers/NLI Collection.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, performing at Slane Castle in 1986. Photo: Part of the Irish Independent Newspapers/NLI Collection.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, performing at Slane Castle in 1986. Photo: Part of the Irish Independent Newspapers/NLI Collection.

7 Silly Love Songs (Paul McCartney and Wings)

Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary series depicted a close and hugely respectful working relationship and friendship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but it wasn’t always like that. As The Beatles splintered and recriminations fizzed, Lennon reportedly dismissed his erstwhile songwriting partner as an author of “silly love songs” and “sentimental slush”. Wounded, Macca got his own back with a perfect pop song that also doubled as a love letter to his wife Linda. Sentimental? Yes. Silly? Maybe. Joyful? You bet.

6 Friday I’m In Love (The Cure)

Cureheads will tell you that there are far superior songs in Robert Smith’s substantial oeuvre — and they’d be right — but for gloriously unadulterated pleasure, it’s impossible to beat this one. Smith described the song on its 1992 release as “a ‘throw your hands in the air, let’s get happy’ kind of record” and it does so in a way that never grates — unlike the Shiny Happy People misstep from R.E.M. the year before. The song and playful accompanying video put paid to the daft idea that The Cure were constantly morose.

5 Dog Days Are Over (Florence + The Machine)

Whatever happened to Florence Welch? A decade ago, the flame-haired English belter was inescapable and with good reason — those first two albums were first-rate. This defining song enlivened many a music festival. “Happiness,” she sings, “hit her like a train on a track, Coming towards her, stuck still no turning back.” Everything about the song is supersized — the vocal pyrotechnics, the sonic arrangements, the emotions — but its promise of better times is irresistible, now more than ever.

4 Beautiful Day (U2)

It would be churlish to exclude the four lads from the northside of Dublin and while early songs like Gloria certainly uplift, and it’s impossible to listen to Angel of Harlem without getting a pep in your step, there’s a giddy thrill to the first U2 single of the 21st century. It’s a veritable call-to-arms to celebrate the great things that are all around us; to seek wonder in the everyday. The song has been a staple of U2 shows ever since its release and when 80,000 voices are roaring it back, word-perfect, at Croke Park, you can see why.

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Bono

Bono

Bono

3 Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves)

There are feel-good songs and then there’s this effervescent pop classic. Is it possible to listen to Katrina Leskanich’s joyous vocals about finding love and not be utterly uplifted? Every second of the song is upbeat, but it’s never cloying or saccharine — a tricky feat to pull off. A version of the song first surfaced on the band’s self-titled debut album, but the one we know and love was completely re-recorded by a team of producers who would go on to produce several of R.E.M.’s biggest albums.

2 Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)

One of the greatest soft-rock anthems of the 1980s is the aural equivalent of 100 self-help books rolled into one. It acknowledges that, sometimes, hope can be in short supply and dreams appear unreachable, but it also urges the listener not to give up on themselves, to strive for more, to go after those dreams no matter what. The choruses are joyous — whether it’s in the Journey original or in that inspired version sung by the cast of Glee in the all-singing, all-dancing finale of the first season opener. “Don’t stop believin’, Hold onto that feelin’.” It’s as good a mantra for 2022 as any.

1 Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles)

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter,” sings George Harrison on one of the final songs The Beatles recorded. More than half a century on, it’s a line with special resonance in this pandemic. We’ve been through two very tough winters, but the promise of better days — of normality — seems tantalisingly close. Harrison’s song isn’t just about the harsh English winters he was tiring of, but it is also inspired by wanting the increasingly strained relations in the band to be mended. It’s one of the most hopeful of all Beatles songs and, remarkably, it’s the band’s most streamed track on Spotify globally.


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