This towering pop ballad is the first single from British pop singer Leona Lewis' second album, Echo.
The song was co-written and produced by Ryan Tedder, the man responsible for Lewis' international hit single Bleeding Love. The songwriter/producer blogged on his MySpace site: "I honestly feel it is the most beautiful song I've ever been a part of. My goal when I started working on Leona's new album was to "NOT" chase or be influenced by any of her previous hits—or any songs I've ever done with anyone else—including 'Bleeding Love.' True artists do not look back to previous successes they look forward to creating new moments and songs the world can connect with in a different way. And that is what Leona has done with 'Happy.' I hope you like it as much as we do, and I hope the lyrics hit you as hard as they hit me."
The message of the song is that chances need to be taken, which might involve temporary pain in order to be truly happy. In this instance the risk appears to be about breaking off a relationship.
Lewis has received plaudits for her moving interpretative vocal performance. She said: "The vocal was totally spontaneous. I sang it as soon as we finished writing. Sometimes it's better not to over-think things."
Lewis told Mesfin Fekadu of the Associated Press about this song: "It's a contradiction of song because, yes, it's named 'Happy,' but the song's kind of dark, a bit sad, sombre." She added: "In my songs I want people to go on a journey, and (to get to) happiness, you go through a lot of pain and sadness to get there sometimes and that's what we wanted to convey on the song."
Lewis said in publicity materials it was hard to think of a title for the album straight away, but when it finally came it made absolute sense. Echo not only reflects the record's 'epic and ethereal' sound, but also appeals to Leona's innate love of fantasy and otherworldliness. "Echo was a nymph in Greek mythology and she fell deeply in love with a boy who didn't return her love," she recounted. "But she loved him so much that she pined away till only her voice remained. That's a really sad and beautiful story."
This song featured prominently in the trailer for the movie Precious. In an interview with Canadian newspaper Sun Media Lewis said the song has "got a great message in it. I'm just so proud of it 'cause I wrote it, obviously, and to be associated with a film like (Precious), which is about trying to overcome troubles and trials in your life. I'm glad that someone got that message."
Tedder told The Daily Mail that record company executive Simon Cowell wanted him to change the drum sound on this song. He added: "But I told him that changing it would mean the song not getting played on American radio - so he backed off."
"Happy" failed to break into the American Top 20, a fact that did not greatly surprise Tedder. He explained to Digital Spy "I know exactly why and I actually told the label what was going to happen. In the US, unless you're Justin Timberlake or Beyoncé, you cannot put out a song and not be in the country when it comes out. Leona was gone for six weeks when 'Happy' came out because she was promoting the record in other countries - it wasn't her fault; she just couldn't be two places in once. I had radio stations telling me that they thought 'Happy' was the single biggest ballad they'd come across in ten years, but that if Leona didn't come over here and promote it, it was going to fall. On top of that, America's consumed with Lady Gaga and dance music right now, so it's not the best time for ballads anyway. When everything on the radio is blasting out at 120 bpm, a song like 'Happy' almost sounds out-of-place." Tedder added that he asked the record company to release "Happy" later. He said: "I asked them to do what they did with 'Bleeding Love'. They should have waited until it became a proper hit in loads of different countries and then put it out in the States. For whatever reason, it had already been decided that the release was going to be simultaneous. From the day 'Happy' came out I never felt completely confident. It was very disheartening because I've never put so much time into one song."