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Why Do Some Songs Make You Smile?

By: Brooks Bass

We all have those songs that we love. The songs that make you feel like you’re on cloud nine. These songs take you back to some of your favorite memories, or there is just something about the chorus that hooks you. But why do these songs make us so happy? One word: dopamine.

Dopamine is basically the chemical that your brain releases that makes you feel good. When you turn on your favorite tune and it gives you absolute euphoria, you can thank your brain.

But what makes a song a “happy” song? As someone who has played the guitar for the past eight years, I can tell you that one of the first things that you learn is that major chords sound “happy” and minor chords sound “sad.” For example, “Don’t Stop Me Know” by Queen is arguably the happiest song of all time, and it is played in the key of F major. However, whether a song is played in a major or minor key doesn’t necessarily correlate with its happiness level. For example, “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga is played in the key of C# minor.

Often times, what determines whether a song is happy or not is the tempo. Songs with a fast, upbeat tempo are usually considered happy, whereas songs with a slower tempo are typically considered to be sad songs. People usually judge a song’s happiness on the key and tempo though, rather than lyrical content. For example, “Hey Ya!” by OutKast, which is arguably the catchiest song ever created, is actually about staying in a relationship with someone even though you aren’t happy being with them. One of the lines from the song says, “Are we still in denial when we’re not happy here?”

But regardless of the meanings behind the lyrics, don’t be afraid to turn up the music and jam out to tunes that make you feel on top of the world! Whether it’s the beat, the lyrics or the melody that get you going, allow yourself to enjoy your dosage of dopamine for the day.

If you’re interested in hearing some upbeat songs while hanging out in your home during quarantine, I recommend the “Feelin’ Good” playlist on Spotify.

298 thoughts on “Why Do Some Songs Make You Smile?

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