Monday, October 31, 2005

Switchfoot: Happy is a Yuppie Word

The third song on Switchfoot’s new album is a “slow” song. No, I don’t mean one you are supposed to slow dance to. I just mean slower in rhythm compared to the previous songs. Jon (the lead singer) says this song is the heart of the record and gives life to the band. Also, this song contains the line from which the name of the album was taken, “nothing is sound.”

First, let’s talk about the title. “Yuppie” refers to a group of people viewed as spoiled and rich. Here is the definition of “yuppie” found on Wikipedia: “short for "Young Urban Professional," describes a demographic of people comprising baby boomers as well as people in their late twenties and early thirties. Yuppies tend to hold jobs in the professional sector, with incomes that place them in the upper-middle economic class. The term "Yuppie" emerged in the early 1980s as an ironic echo of the earlier "hippies" and "yippies" who had rejected the materialistically oriented values of the business community. Although the original yuppies were "young," the term now applies as well to people of middle age.” “Happy” obviously refers to a shallow emotion that ignores the reality of pain and suffering in the world. This kind of happiness is weak and fleeting.

I’ll be honest and admit that I do not understand all of the lines in this song. Often, I feel like these songs are written in code and the key is thrown deep into the ocean. I wish at least they would explain the words on their website. Anyway, “Happy is a Yuppie Word” is another example of Switchfoot’s pessimism. The only drop of hope comes in the phrase, “I’m looking for the kingdom coming down.” The dominant message of the song is that everything is meaningless (i.e. nothing is sound). This is an echo of much of Ecclesiastes.

The verses of this song seem to be just a random collection of phrases untied only in that they are equally hopeless. For example, “everything fails,” “nothing is new,” and “when will all the failures rise.” I do see and appriciate the contrasts this song presents. I really want to know what the “now” in the chorus refers to (why can nothing fail you “now” when you just said “everything fails?”).

Musically, I like “Happy is a Yuppie Word” and I applaud the illusions to Ecclesiastes. However, my opinion is that “Happy is a Yuppie Word” is “Lonely Nation” only slower and with different words. My favoirte line is “Blessed is the man who’s lost it all.” Certainly this is a reference to the Biblical paradox of true happiness. Jesus taught that true happiness can only be found in losing everything for His sake.

I do not like the title of this song or the Bob Dylan quote it is based on. Here is the reason why: I want to redeem the meaning of the word “happy.” I don’t think “happy” is a yuppie, shallow word. Certainly people use it to mean a shallow, emotional feeling that disregards suffering and we must be sensitive to what people mean by the words they use. However, the Bible says God is a happy God (1 Timothy 1:11) and the Bible promises happiness to those who seek Christ. Happiness in God through the death of Christ is what I desire. So, let’s reclaim this great word and not give in to the world’s definition of it. I think I’ll start a movement:


Brent said...

I actually clicked on the web link at the bottom of this segment. Justin, thanks for keeping me humble.

justin said...

Sorry Brent, was just a joke. I'm sure you won't be the only one curious enough to see if I was being serious.

Rob Tombrella said...

i was dumb enough to try it too!

robert said...

i wasn't yippeee!

yeah i agree with you trying to redeem "happy", and it is used in to shallow of terms these days, but the song does point out, alot, that 'nothing is sound'


Anonymous said...

I realize this is a really old post but nothing ever dies on the internet.

I really want to know what the “now” in the chorus refers to (why can nothing fail you “now” when you just said “everything fails?”).

When you give up on finding happiness through material things and find true joy, those material things can no longer fail you.

Anonymous said...

i think the happiness that Jon is referring to is a 'fake' happiness that never lasts. The sort of happiness that people seek as a quick fix that will keep them satisfied for the moment, and just like everything else, its gonna fail and eventually fade away.

Anonymous said...

"A year ago I had a late night talk with a friend who stated the quote: "Happy is a yuppie word." I stayed up after he left, turned off the TV war and wrote a song about our happy, yuppie world. Turns out, Bob Dylan was the one being quoted.

"In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. 'You know,' he said, 'these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.'�

For me this song is the heart of the record, pumping blood out to the limbs and fingers and mouth and such. And maybe every lyric on the record might be needed and true, still this song has kept everything alive for us. We had the privilege of opening for Wilco a few years past- I would like to dedicate this song to the incredible music that they have given all of us down through the years."

-quote from Switchfoot

Dalf® said...

i also clicked the link at the I liked the quote, when Jon talks about "happy" in the song... is refering on the perspective Dylan talked about, what the interviewer meant with "happy"