Sunday, July 10, 2016

Music To Be Cheerful By: A List of 15 with Video Links

When someone asks me a simple question like "What music do you like?" I find myself stumped. The best answer to that question is something like "I have eclectic tastes." I can't say, as I've heard others say, that "I like everything," because I don't like everything indiscriminately. I would probably need to talk to you for hours before you'd really know the answer to that question. I do like music from multiple genres including a lot of older music from decades that predate me.

I also like different styles of music for different moods and activities, one sort of playlist for exercise, another sort of playlist for relaxing, etc. For this post, I've compiled a list of fifteen songs to be cheerful by.

One category of music I have been exploring a lot lately is acapella music, including Youtubers who do multitracking videos, overdubbing their own voices, singing the full range of parts. Acapella music may sometimes be classified as a genre, but really that category can cover a wide range of styles, sometimes by the same group or artist. Styles can range from Renaissance madrigals, turn of the century barbershop music, doo wop, Broadway, movie soundtracks, today's pop, almost any style.

I was really impressed with Youtuber Sam Robson's mult-track version of Disney's "Everybody Wants To Be a Cat" with 120 overdubbed voices and percussion and instrument voices all made with the human voice or claps.

1) "Everybody Wants To Be a Cat" from The Aristocats -- Sam Robson

I couldn't include the first song in the list without "I Want To Be Like You," because I like them equally well. Jungle Book soundtrack is special to me. It was one of the first albums I had as a child, and I still think the music is great. 

2) "I Want To Be Like You" from Jungle Book -- Sam Robson

3) "Lemonade" -- Alex Boye

I first discovered Alex Boye through a viral video of him performing an African tribalized version of Disney's "Let It Go" from Frozen. Boye is an American musician born in England of Nigerian parents. I've explored many of his other songs, and I'm really enjoying his Africanized covers of popular songs, giving known songs a very different interpretation with his own unique flavor. The uplifitng "Lemonade" song, however, is his original.

I also love his rendition of Pharrell Williams' "Happy," collaborating with the One World Children's Choir. The fun colorful video with child mermaids and Boye as Gru from Despicable Me was filmed at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Utah. He worked with the same choir on "Let It Go." I noticed a commenter on that video asking why there was a choir of white children involved in the Africanized rendition of the song, and seeming to suggest some sort of prejudice was at work. A second commenter pointed out that Boye had creative control over his project and must have chosen the artists with whom he'd work. If he doesn't mind, why should we? With all the recent race conflicts, it's nice to keep in mind that not everyone is racist and that there are artistic partnerships like this and melding of different cultural sounds.

4) "Happy" (Pharrell Williams) -- Alex Boye

I love Boye's version of "Royals" as well, and I was not particularly enthused about the original. This one seems to have even more of a traditional African sound than in these other samples, so you may want to check that out also.

On the African theme, after having a Kenyan Maasai man visit with me in May, I very much liked seeing this video of violinist Lindsey Sterling filmed in Kenya. I think I recognize Maasai people in this video too, the people in red doing a jumping dance. 

5) "We Found Love" (Rihanna) -- Lindsey Sterling

I find the "Brave" song by Sara Bareilles very moving. It has an uplifting message, and it brings  to my mind young people standing up to bullying. This rendition is sung by a very pregnant Evynne Hollens, wife of Peter Hollens, a multitracking Youtube star.

6) "Brave" (Sara Bareilles) -- Evynne Hollens

7) "I See the Light" from Tangled -- Claire Ryan

You will fall in love with little three-year-old Claire Ryan singing with her father in this beautiful reenactment from Disney's Tangled

8) "Ou est ma Tete?" -- Pink Martini

Although this song by Pink Martini may seem to be a song about loss, the lyrics are clever and fun, the music is playful and the accompanying video makes it a love song between a man and his dog (with a happy ending.) The French lyrics are fun. Here's a translation, "I lost my head in St. Honore Road. I searched for it here and there. I did not find it. Tell me. Where is my head? I lost my arms in the Place de l'Opera. I did not find them. I searched here and there. Tell me. Where are my arms? Since I lost you, I am in pieces on the avenue, and I can not pick up the pieces of myself. Repair me, my very dear, because I am not whole. I need you, only you, and what's more, I love you. I lost my nose in front of the Bon Marche. I searched here and there. I did not find it. Tell me. Where is my nose? Return to me, darling. My nose doesn't matter. It's you who can complete me.  ,,, I lost my feet at the Saint-Germain-de-Pre. I searched here and there. I could not find them. Tell me. Where are my feet? ... "

9) "Istanbul Not Constantinople" (They Might Be Giants) -- Julien Neel

This song's playful rhythm and fun lyrics always helps put me in a good mood. One of the better known recordings is the 1990 by They Might be Giants, but the original version came out in 1953 by the Four Lads. Julien Neel of France has a variety of multi-track videos and collaborations with other singers and musicians.

10) "Mister Ed theme song" -- Julien Neel

When I'm in a truly happy mood, extremely goofy songs come to mind, like camp songs from childhood. I was delighted that Julien recorded this silly song, and I appreciate all the personality that comes out in his expressions in this video. 

I remember a time in my college years when I was visiting my brother and his wife. My sister-in-law and I would sit up watching Nick at Nite until midnight and it was time to pack a lunch for my brother who worked a night shift. "Mister Ed" came on at that time of night, and there was something about the late hour that made the show seem exaggeratedly funnier than it would at some other time. Each night, I got the giggles every time the horse (supposedly) sang, "I am Mr. Ed."  

Not only do I enjoy many different varieties of music, I sometimes like unusual meldings of styles or reinterpretations of well-known songs in new styles. Some of these may qualify as parodies. I've loved Brahms' "Hungarian Dance Number Five" ever since a duo from my high school played it for competition. This duo below play this Brahms piece in its original version and in a Latin jazz arrangement. 

11) Brahms' Hungarian Dance Salsa Style, Piano Duo -- Tal Zilber and Eyran Katsenelenbogen

12) "I Want You Bach" -- The Piano Guys

Then there is this interesting mash up of the 1770s and the 1970s in a fun new version of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" ... with a harpsichord?

Very often, I prefer Postmodern Jukebox's reinventions of current or moden pop hits, reworking them as 1920s jazz or 1960s surf rock or 1950s doo wop, or, in this case, Motown.

13) "Shake It Off" (Taylor Swift) '60s Motown style -- Postmodern Jukebox

14) "Good Old Days/New Songs Medley" -- Main Street barbershop quartet

In this medley, you hear a variety of 2015 hits as you've never heard them before, with a lot of humor worked into the act. 

15) "In Christ Alone" -- Caleb Hyles 

This may be a bit of a mood change from the earlier goofiness, but this is still a song to be cheerful by, for me, in a much more meaningful way. Caleb Hyles sings a variety of styles, Broadway, Disney, songs from movies and TV, but I was very happy to hear him sing this spiritual song.  It is partly a tribute to Christina Grimmie, the "Voice" contestant, who was killed in Orlando. If this seems sobering in a list of cheerful songs, I'm reminded that, if this message is true, and I believe it is, her pain is gone and replaced by great joy. Hyles links to a site where you can donate to help Pulse Club victims and Grimmie's family.


  1. I, too, have eclectic musical taste ranging from classic music to classic rock to country, and anything else that sounds good to my ear.

    1. So you can relate. :) I haven't listened to Pandora Internet radio in a while, but I would often shuffle my stations and the mix was sometimes unexpected.

  2. This post was so refreshing Susan. I haven't heard a lot of these songs but I love music so I'm always open to new things. I am amazed at the acapella songs. I can't even imagine the work that goes into them. I have heard of In Christ Alone and it's always been a favorite. Great selection and I enjoyed watching all the videos.

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    2. Thanks so much, Diane. I was hoping to include some songs/performances that were not all that known. I agree with you about the acapella videos, particularly the first two, being a lot of work. It must have taken hours to do all of the separate vocal tracks, the video (probably with lip syncing?), the video and sound editing, etc. I certainly hope these guys find their work rewarding. Yes, I love the last one too. I may see about singing that one as a solo in church.

  3. Such a wonderful, cheerful list to keep our spirits high! I have heard almost half of all of the songs and I enjoy discovering new songs especially. My all time favourite would have to be "I see the light" by Tangled. I am obsessed with Tangled so much!!
    Lauren xx

    1. Thank you, Lauren. "Tangled" does have some great music. I thought this very young singer was sweet, and it seems the creators worked so hard to recreate the scene from the movie with the boat, the lanterns and even the little chameleon. I'm glad you enjoyed. :)