Happiness Is an Option

Writers - Tennant/Lowe/Clinton/Rachmaninov
First released - 1999
Original album - Nightlife
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

The Nightlife album's fourth track was the last one recorded, reportedly in an effort to mold a single specifically for the U.S. market. An amalgam of music from sources about as divergent as one can imagine—a George Clinton sample combined with a background melody based on a fragment from Sergei Rachmaninov's 1915 composition Vocalise—this number features Neil "rapping" (if you can call it that) in an unusual manner, more conversational than rap's usual declamatory style. The message is clearly optimistic and perhaps even a little didactic, insisting that people can choose for themselves whether to be happy in the face of the troubles life has to offer. (Note the similarity in this respect to "Miserablism.")

In his 2018 book One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem, Neil describes this song as "A simple message about one's ability to create the circumstances in which personal happiness will thrive." He goes on to note that, to this end, he employed "a stream-of-consciousness monologue of autobiographical references: a bad acid trip I had in the early seventies; falling in love; self-hate; war looming in Iraq."

Interestingly, Neil borrowed the line "I don't think I suit my face" from a diary entry by one of Brian Eno's daughters. And listen closely near the end and you can hear the only audible occurrence of Chris's undistorted voice on the album as he repeats the title phrase.


List cross-references