Folks, there’s something I need to get off my chest.
It’s “Happy Birthday.”
THIS SONG IS A GARBAGE NIGHTMARE DISASTER.
Think about it. If you were writing a song that all kinds of people would be obligated to sing several times a year, regardless of their background in music, wouldn’t you pick something that was, say, easy to sing? Something with notes and intervals that were easy to hear and mimic?
Well, we didn’t get that. We got this monstrosity.
Here’s why “Happy Birthday” is absolutely the worst song ever written.
First of all, it doesn’t start on do. Try to write this thing down, or accompany it on piano or guitar, based on what you think you know about simple children’s melodies every freaking person in the Western world has known for a century and GET READY FOR THE ACCIDENTALS BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.
So the first note: crap.
The second note: also crap. Sol-la is one of the hardest intervals to sing in tune. You can fake your way through “Happy,” but “Birth” is always going to sound like your dog just died. Always.
“Day” is back to sol, but hold onto your cheap paper hat, because “to” jumps all the way up to “do,” and then “you” lands on “ti.” Wanna know what the other hardest interval to sing in tune is? SURPRISE IT’S RIGHT HERE.
We’re four words in and this song is already a nightmare. Not least because the shape of that line puts the emphasis not on any word that ACTUALLY MATTERS. What’s the most important thing about this event? Not happy, birthday, or you. Oh no. It’s TO.
Oh good, at least the lyrics repeat! But wait…
THE MELODY DOES NOT REPEAT EVEN THOUGH THE LYRICS DO.
You think it’s going to. You even get a second try at that crappy sol-la interval. But instead of going back up to “do,” you need to push even higher, to “re.” I hope you practiced your sixths haha just kidding of course you didn’t.
Again, the most important thing in this song, according to the melody, is that it is TO someone. Who they are or what day it is or what kind of day you wish them to have is irrelevant nonsense.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Quick: Name a song that forces you to jump an octave and that is easy to sing. You can’t. But you’re about to do it anyway, because the next leap between “birth” and “day” is one.
Why is this melody so unsingable? Ah well, it’s not like anyone will ever need to sing this in public OH WAIT.
Next up is do-la-do, an absolutely astounding set of intervals. It’s definitely not just close enough to do-sol-do, THE ONE EVERYONE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR, to royally mess with everyone’s feeble attempt to sing it. You can’t even remember who you’re singing to at this point anyway, so mumbling their name wildly out of pitch is for the best.
Also, you are now mumbling a tenth lower than you were forced to sing earlier. Sure. Fine. Whatever. 1000 years of Western music went home drunk four measures ago.
And the chord structure. Dear God, the chord structure.
I’ll accept I-V-V-I, which are the first two lines. Uninspired, but at least it sounds okay.
Then we skip to IV, which is a nice way to indicate that something new is going on. Okay.
But then. BUT THEN.
I. We’re back on I. But it’s not just any I; it’s do-fa-la, not do-mi-sol. And it lasts only two beats before we’re back to IV, aka fa-la-ti.
I would accept this in a normal song, but “Happy Birthday” is not a normal song. It’s a toxic hellbeast bent on making every human with a functioning set of vocal chords sing out of tune. TWO BEATS ON THE ROOT AIN’T GONNA CUT IT.
Now, normal chord structures for simple songs repeat. Does this one? OF COURSE NOT. Have two beats of IV, then V, then I. You haven’t seen this pattern before or since!
HAVE A COMPLETELY BIZARRE AND POINTLESS CHORD STRUCTURE ON THE HOUSE. IT’S SOMEONE’S BIRTHDAY APPARENTLY.
The only good thing – I repeat, the ONLY good thing – about this song is that it resolves on do, in a nice solid I chord, allowing everyone present to clap heartily that this overrated vocal nightmare has finally ended.
Birthday songs are terrible; birthday coffee is awesome.
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