In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: A four-piece group out of Seattle, Chastity Belt blends DIY sounds with references to John Carpenter and feminist theory. The group’s latest record, Time To Go Home, is out now on Hardly Art, and it’s both compelling and compulsory, with tracks like “Joke” and “Cool Slut” bringing the (relative) heat.
For this HateSong, The A.V. Club talked to Julia Shapiro, the group’s singer.
The A.V. Club: Why do you hate “Happy” so much?
Julia Shapiro: There was a period of time where it was the only song I heard on the radio or anywhere. It just was taunting me. It’s the most repetitive song. I feel like maybe if it were a third the length, it wouldn’t get to me as much, but it just seems like it goes on forever.
It really does seem like it’s taunting me or something, because it’s like “You need to be happy listening to this,” and I hate it so much. I do love Pharrell, but I don’t know, some of his recent choices, like “Blurred Lines,” have also been so bad. That song is insane. I mean, I guess “Happy” is a more positive song than “Blurred Lines.” It has that going for it.
AVC: Well, it was for Despicable Me 2.
JS: I think that it’s a good song for kids, but I don’t want to hear it.
I actually just watched this YouTube video of Pharrell on Oprah. Oprah showed him this video of people around the world dancing and singing to the song, and Pharrell starts crying. That’s how sincere he is. So, I do appreciate the sentiment, you know?
AVC: What do you think the message of the song is?
JS: It’s like, everyone around the world, join together and be happy.
AVC: A little easier said than done.
JS: Yeah. And I do love how sincere Pharrell is. He’s super earnest, and him crying on Oprah was really cute, I guess. But I still, at the same time, hate that song. It’s right on the edge of a song I would like as a joke, but I can’t even like it as a joke, you know? That’s how horrible it is.
AVC: What songs do you like as a joke?
JS: Almost every pop song. Nickelback. I love how awful they are. They have this new song that’s like disco. Have you heard that song? I think it’s called “She Keeps Me Up.” It’s insane. Stuff like that, I can get down with that.
AVC: If Pharrell is crying, he obviously believes the message of the song. He must feel “Happy” very intensely.
JS: Yeah, totally. I think that it’s sweet, but it makes me feel like an asshole for hating the song.
I don’t think anyone really can actually like that song, unless you’re under the age of 10.
AVC: There are definitely grown-ups that like it.
JS: People have the worst taste in music.
AVC: That song has sold 14 million copies, so who are we to say anyone has bad taste? Maybe the market is speaking, and our taste is bad.
JS: Maybe, yeah. I don’t know.
I really like Pharrell’s old stuff. That song he did with Snoop Dogg, “Beautiful.” That’s a really good song. But now all he does are pretty awful things. Everything I’ve heard from his new album is pretty awful. And he’s always wearing that stupid, big hat.
AVC: He wore it once and got positive reinforcement, so now he won’t take it off.
JS: It looks so stupid. I don’t know if he’s trying to get it to catch on like he wants it to be a trend, or if he’s just like “This is my thing, my hat.” I don’t think it’s going to catch on.
AVC: Have you seen the “Happy” video?
JS: Yeah. No avoiding it. It has those stupid Minion things in it. I haven’t seen that movie, but those things are everywhere. I don’t know, maybe if I saw the movie, my entire perspective would change.
AVC: According to the always-accurate Wikipedia, more than 1,500 videos have been made of people singing “Happy” around the world in different countries and locations.
JS: I think those are the videos that Oprah played him. I don’t know, maybe those would make me cry.
AVC: People in Iran were arrested for one of the videos, so maybe that would make you feel like you had some degree of power or musical strength.
JS: It’s just a bummer that it’s not a better song.
Maybe it’s just a very accessible song to people who don’t usually listen to music. They’re like, “Oh, this is a note over and over again.”
AVC: It’s only four minutes long, but it is a long four minutes.
JS: Any song that has clapping in it—
AVC: You don’t like clapping?
JS: No, I don’t like clapping in songs. I listened to this other Pharrell song on that same album, and it also had clapping in it. You can’t use that again.
Do you like the song?
AVC: It’s alright. I would never put it on just for fun, but if I’m at a Target or whatever, I’m not upset if it’s on.
JS: It is always playing in Target. That’s where it would play.
AVC: That’s the target market for “Happy,” for sure.
JS: I was going to change my pick to “Blurred Lines,” but then I was like, “People probably already did that.”
AVC: It feels like the moment for hating that song is gone.
JS: Yes, definitely. I forgot it happened, and then I was thinking of other things Pharrell had done, and I was like “Oh, yeah.” Let’s not remember “Blurred Lines.”
AVC: Would you call yourself a happy person?
JS: That’s not one of the adjectives I would use to describe myself, but I don’t think I’m an unhappy person. I’m just not very jovial. I’m not the kind of person who would dance to “Happy,” and I wouldn’t clap my hands.
AVC: It seems like the type of song that would score a “dancing in the kitchen” scene in a movie.
JS: “Dancing in my underwear,” yeah. I definitely wouldn’t do that.
AVC: What? You’re not like all girls in every movie?
JS: Yeah, all girls do that. [Laughs.]