Rod Stewart's "She Makes Me Happy" Is The Worst Love Letter Ever Written
Guess how many people it took to write this song.
Think adult contemporary music is merely wuss rock? Think again. Each ad-co song that burns up Bose Wave® AM/FM radios in kitchens across the country is packed with hidden messages about what it means to be a contemporary adult. Steal your kids’ weed and lock the den door—things are about to get heavy.
Song: “She Makes Me Happy” by Rod Stewart. 12th on the Adult-Contemporary chart after 10 weeks.
What it teaches us about being a contemporary adult: No matter how old you get, self-doubt makes it hard to express yourself.
Rod Stewart’s “She Makes Me Happy” is an example of how demoralizing it can be to write a love letter, and how the end result can be as embarrassing as a talent show pants-wetting.
Composing a love letter is extremely difficult, but no one goes into it thinking that this is the case. The words are supposed to pour from your engorged heart, and the most taxing thing should be finding a piece of paper that can hold all your sweeping sentiment. But it soon becomes clear that the damn thing isn’t going to write itself, and this mental block starts to bring into question not just your skills as a writer, but also the feelings you thought you had in the first place.
This is bunk, obviously, but it’s at this moment the love letter stops being about someone else and starts to become an agonizing exercise in self-conscious buffoonery.
You try to be cool, but this doesn’t work because the love letter is now 50% ironic quotation marks and sitcom references. It’s too late to be sincere because you’ve already imagined breaking up and having the love letter posted on your ex’s Tumblr. So you play it safe and write a laundry list of nebulous dim-witticisms like, “She makes me happy on the coldest day, she makes me happy when the clouds are gray, every day like Christmas when she's in my house, she makes me happy and I wanna shout.”
You end up writing “She Makes Me Happy,” by Rod Stewart.
This is why I originally found it hard to hate “She Makes Me Happy.” How endearing is the image of Rod Stewart--someone who has been cool for half a century--sitting with a pad of paper in front of him and scratching his bleached mane in frustration because the words just won’t come? I wanted to root for it, I really did.
But then I found out it took six people to write “She Makes Me Happy.”
I know that songwriting credits encapsulate more than just the lyrics, but it still means that at least six people read these words and thought, “Yes.”
Plus, it’s fun to imagine the songwriters--Rod Stewart, Chuck Kentis, Don Kirkpatrick, Conrad Korsch, David Palmer, and Paul Warren--each taking a single “She makes me happy” couplet home to work on and then hashing out the remaining four in the studio.
Chuck, did you find anything that rhymes with, “She makes me happy with her downtown style?”
“She makes me happy with her crooked smile?”
These kinds of lines are delivered in rapid succession and it’s quite dizzying; the song sounds like “Solsbury Hill” if it had to pee really bad. Like “(My) Rainy Day Girl,” last week’s foray into adult contemporary, “She Makes Me Happy” probably gets a lot of airplay in stores, restaurants, and plenty of coffee chains. I can only pray that some poor barista with an undiagnosed heart murmur doesn’t hear the frantic ukelele of “She Makes Me Happy” after finishing their fifth gratis latté as they’ll suffer a myocardial infarction right there in Caribou Coffee.
Also like “(My) Rainy Day Girl,” I found a window through which to view this song that is completely impervious to cynicism: The YouTube comments. Specifically, the person who noticed a lyrical change in the non-VEVO version of the video:
Apparently, there was some dispute over the line, “Now I'm working out daily and I'm watching my waistline, I'm knocking in paradise.” Did he originally want it to be “Now I'm working out daily and I'm watching my waistline, no more burgers and fries?”
Paul McCartney loves to tell the story about how he came up with the melody for “Yesterday” by singing its original lyrics, which were, “scrambled eggs.” This story ruins “Yesterday” for me, even though I readily admit it’s one of the best songs ever written. He knows he’s being cute and so very Paul, but I refuse to believe he ever seriously considered singing about eggs.
In contrast, the “burgers and fries” line seems to be the subject of an actual dispute during the songwriting process of “She Makes Me Happy.” Did Chuck, Don, Conrad, David, or Paul nix this during rewrites? Did Rod think it would sound silly? Either way, he recorded both versions and probably cringes when he hears one of those two lines.
I don’t think Rod Stewart produced this song as a flippant money-grab. If he wants to collect some cash, he’ll press another album of Christmas covers or do a duet with Tony Bennett for the next Pokemon movie. “She Makes Me Happy” is the lead single off of Time, which is Stewart’s first album of original songs in over a decade.
During that period, he remarried for the third time. And here comes that image of Rod again, sitting with a blank sheet of paper in front of him. He’s wearing a technicolor leopard-print blouse unbuttoned past his sternum and is wondering what this writer’s block means. Suddenly, it’s no longer it took six people to write “She Makes Me Happy,” but rather, Rod Stewart needed help from five people to write a love letter to his wife.
Unfortunately, his efforts contain the lines, “She makes me happy when the day is done, she makes me happy about the summer of sun.” But cut him some slack. Love letters are hard.
Nick Greene and six other people once wrote a love letter to David Lee Roth. He's on Twitter — @nickgreene