26 Happiest Albums of All Time
Listening to music releases dopamine, that feel-good chemical, into the brain, so turn it up and get the juices flowing. Discogs reached out to bands, artists, and music experts across the world and asked them a simple question: “What do you think is the happiest album of all time?” The following records represent the best happy music, the ones to put on when you need something upbeat, uplifting, and uptempo.
“Music is a way to bypass our rational side and to get in touch with the emotional life we often keep hidden,” Dr. Alan Turry, managing director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, told Time in an interview about the health benefits of music. “If people are having trouble, there’s usually a way that music can help.”
Dance, relax, sing along, simply smile — whatever you do, we hope these tunes help you feel happy.
Cosmic Thing by the B52s is the happiest album of all time. The band blends early rock and roll, Motown, new wave, punk, and alternative to create an iconically delightful artistic-rock gem. Celebrating self-expression and togetherness, “Love Shack” will go down in history as the ultimate party anthem. After you spend all your jukebox money, there’s another adventure right around the corner. In the song “Roam,” the world is your oyster to claim, but only “if you want to” that is. If the future isn’t looking so bright, you may also find happiness in your past. Even the album’s instrumental outro manages to explicitly encourage attainable joy, with the title “Find Your Bliss.” In other words, do what makes you happy. And gosh darn it, we’re going to try.
3 Feet High And Rising
De La Soul
Even the artwork is happy. Bright, yellow with cartoon flowers between three rappers. There’s not even a right way up to sit this record — they ain’t doing anything conventionally. It’s playful and sets the tone. This record for me is the sound of happy, a positive lyrical concept rap record made by oddballs in a time of macho gangsta rap. God, I love this record. If ESG is the sound of the South Bronx, this is the sound of Sesame Street! “Me, Myself, and I,” “The Magic Number” — these tunes put a smile on my face. A cultural masterpiece, hippy hip-hop — whatever you wanna call it, it makes me wanna get up on my feet and dance. Amen.
Sings The Great Diva Classics
Every song on that record is feel-good GOLD. From “Rolling In The Deep “(with a sneaky “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” moment towards the end) to the “I’m Every Woman/Respect” mash-up, this record is one of my favorites to listen to while I power walk through the streets of NYC. It makes me so happy, mostly because Aretha is SO FREE singing these songs, with her voice and her soul. You can just feel how at ease and a diva (in the best way) she is when listening to this record. This one will make you dance in the streets, for real. Aretha is mostly remembered for the songs that were written for her, but in this record, she pays a beautiful homage to other, sometimes younger and newer divas and I love how egoless this act of respect is.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Elton’s got the chops. Elton brings you on an emotional journey that always ends up with you dancing in a field of flowers. At one point, you’re dancing to “Bennie and the Jets” while wearing a sparkly top hat. The next moment, you’re swaying amongst the stars to “Candle in the Wind” and then you’re driving away feeling the electricity of leaving a manipulative lover while listening to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
Got this album on an upswing. Had lived the lines, “I spent years being called out my name, living under my greatness.” First glimpses of things in life turning around and opening up. I’d put Malibu on, drive home down PCH from San Francisco, roll the windows down, feel it. This vibe that balances effortless mastery with grit and heart in the production. This insistent kind of assuredness and relentless positivity that serves well: “My mama caught the gambling bug … My papa was behind them bars/ We never had to want for nuthin’/ Said all we ever need is love.”
Come To My Garden
On Come to My Garden, Minnie Riperton’s stunning solo debut, her vocal genius is paired with simple, life-affirming lyricism. The songs celebrate ordinary love in the context of the natural world. Recorded in 1969, the album eschews the saccharine insincerity of some of its Summer of Love contemporaries and draws the listener into a world so vivid you can smell the earth and its flora. Charles Stepney achieves perfection with lush, nuanced instrumental and choral arrangements. The band includes legends Ramsey Lewis on piano and Maurice White on drums.
Whipped Cream & Other Delights
Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
When it comes to the happiest album of all time, nothing beats Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass. The album has become Starwolf’s official ping-pong time theme music. If sitting on a beach in southern California with a piña colada in your hand in the year 1965 had a soundtrack, it would be this album. It is the quintessential, classic, summertime, feel-good album. So if it’s a steamy summer night, pour yourself a glass of your favorite drink, put this album on, and try to forget that the world is rapidly descending into a nightmarish hell.
Roy Ayers Ubiquity
Listening to Mystic Voyage brings me joy from beginning to end. The arrangements are impeccable and the songwriting is flawless. “Mystic Voyage,” “Spirit of Doo Doo,” and “Life is Just A Moment” (parts one and two) are standout tracks but listening to the album as a whole completely elevates my mood. That makes it a really powerful record and why I think it’s one of the happiest albums of all time.
Forever Your Girl
Nostalgia is a mixed bag, and best avoided. Some memories are pure, though: I’m on the PATH train going home from the mall with my father and a cassette of Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl. I didn’t know what New Jack Swing or an SP-1200 snare were; I just knew “Cold Hearted” was the best song I’d ever heard. I’m a very small boy but I’m so grateful for my friend Paula Abdul’s suggestion that I avoid this cold-hearted snake who doesn’t play by rules [sic], delivered with her signature friendly confidence. The whole album feels that way, an old friend singing directly to me, underscored by chaotic ’80s exuberance.
You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
Admittedly, I don’t think I listen to a lot of happy music. When I think about albums that have made me smile, I think about You’ve Come Along Way, Baby by Fatboy Slim. It reminds me of being in high school and being innocently naive about what a rave was. Everything about this album is sort of absurd and ridiculous, to a point where you’re not sure if you should be liking it as much as you are. It’s catchy and dancey, nostalgic and weird. It’s a very self-aware record; like your awkward relative busting out dance moves at a wedding knowing they suck at dancing but wanting everyone to get a laugh out of it. Like the music video for “Praise You,” the album doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s in on the joke and wants to make you smile.
Mr. Soul of Jamaica
Whether it’s “Breaking Up” or hooking up, meeting for a first date, or running from one teary-eyed, Alton Ellis, on his 1974 classic, Mr. Soul of Jamaica, causes the sun to shine radiantly, even up here, in the miserable Calder Valley. Made up of entirely simple, catchy love songs that get straight to the point, straight to the heart, it’s clear on this record that both rocksteady and romance go hand in hand, never letting go, together. For Ellis, and for those listening in, falling in love should be easy, a never-ending process of pure, sensitive emotion that touches every nerve, warming up the soul.
Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
When I was a kid, I would turn on this record and it would always put me in a good mood. Countless times, I’ve played 50 Cent in the car with my mom on the way to school and on the way back home from school when she’d pick me up. And then when I’d wanna fall asleep in a good mood, I’d put on something more mellow and relaxing like 21 Questions. [Get Rich Or Die Tryin’] reminds me of really innocent times when I’d come home from a long day of skating with my friends and turn this album on my CD player and zone out. 50 Cent is underrated and motivated me to get rich or die tryin’ even as a youngin’.
Los Angeles, United States
@eyedress on Instagram
Exile On Main St.
The Rolling Stones
This record f****** rocks. Period. Don’t even try and tell me otherwise. I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU. It has such a carefree, louche feel about it. “Rocks Off” and “Rip the Joint” get things nice n’ loose at the start, uptempo yet still slinky, with the horns on the first track really adding a bit of spice. “Tumbling Dice” is one of my all-time, top-10, end-of-year-list, decade-retrospective tracks. It makes me laugh and cry and fist-pump the air. Moving on, we’ve got more hot cuts like “Loving Cup” and the Keith-led “Happy” keeping things hot and heavy. Then, one of my favorite cuts off the album: “I Just Want To See His Face.” Psychedelic gospel that was clearly made in a sweaty basement in the south of France. YOU’VE GOT TO LOVE THIS STUFF. Then, my friends, “Shine a Light.” ‘Nuff said.
Happiness And Surrounding Suburbs
Ball Park Music
Firstly, the people in Ball Park Music are the nicest people in the world, so that’s a very good start. Secondly, if you listen to “Literally Baby,” “It’s Nice To Be Alive,” and “Sad Rude Future Dude” all in a row, it will definitely be a good start to taking you to happy town. Thirdly, there are so many great sounds in the whole album, lots of great percussion and fun piano, guitar, bass, synths, and drums and other random bits and bobs that promote happiness. Fourthly, the songs are so well written; Sam and Dean are brilliant songwriters, and all of the songs’ lyrics are so detailed and fantastically real, and funny, and beautiful. Fifthly, there is a song called “Alligator” about an alligator, which should definitely sell it to you.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Every song on this album feels like a different ride at the county fair; Alec Ounsworth’s vocals hit you with the velocity of a rollercoaster, while the buzzing, shimmering synths, fast strumming guitars and impressive, sometimes clunking, percussions propel him in loops. This album awakens a horrible dancing beast within me, and I cannot be stopped. It’s musical sunshine that’s reminiscent of the happiest summers of my life and smells like hot grass and blood and will make me feel 22 forever. Listen to this album start to finish; spin and scream and maybe accidentally break a vase.
Heavy Rockin’ Steady
Beatchild & The Slakadeliqs
The record Heavy Rockin’ Steady is an uplifting force of positivity, light, and optimism. I mean, it opens with birdsong, giving way to Beach Boys-esque harmonies on “California Coastin’.” As the records moves along we get wrapped up in warmth and energy with tracks like “Giants and Monsters” (banjo and all!) and “The Good Life.” It gets better — “Bottom Of You” has a soul clap that can’t not be clapped along to. This is sunshine music with influences spanning the best of feel-good music from the past five decades. For me, the fireball of happiness on the record is right in the heart of it: ‘The Only Difference.” I could walk over water listening to that. There are so many beautiful tracks on here that make me smile wide and fill me with pure, blissful joy. The track names alone light me up: “In My Arms,” “The Remedy,” and “Beach.” How can I fully describe how happy this record is? I’m even happy and enjoying life just writing about it, and I hope you felt that from reading this. If you’re having a difficult day, no matter what’s going down, put on Heavy Rockin’ Steady by Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs and that will set you right. You’ll see.
Caroline Shaw and Attacca Quartet
Caroline Shaw’s Orange is an ecstatic record. It makes me happy for the sheer enjoyment of playing, you hear in every note of Attacca Quartet’s performance. Each instrument and player is treated like a gymnast, an athlete at peak fitness sprinting for the finish line, already knowing they’ve won. A huge influence on my thinking and ambitions, their 2019 performance at kings place was a masterclass in squeezing and savoring every drop of joy from the music, the instrument, and the moment. Returning to the record, there’s a powerful sense of each note being chosen not only for the music itself but also for the individual it was given to. A grand architectural lattice, part outsider sculpture, part Eiffel Tower.
Some part of me longs for a Lacuna, Inc.-type service to help erase all memory of DJ Shadow’s debut LP from my memory, if only so I can experience it anew. Even after 100-plus listens, Endtroducing can still spark a primordial thrill within my lizard brain as this DJ/producer managed to connect so many of my various musical loves (jazz, hip-hop, electronic pop, shoegaze) into this inescapable web of head-nodding, headphone-shredding joy.
Robert Ham, Writer
Portland, Oregon, United States
@roberthamwriter on Twitter
Yes! This album is my go-to album when I (want to) feel carefree, happy, and relaxed. This whole album feels like an effortless collection of great songs, and even though they are gloomy in nature and despite the band name and album title, this album always makes me intensely happy. The sound, the feel, the lyrics, the singing, the ideas, feel like a warm hug to me. Simple and true.
Such a positive track, lively with driving guitar and an awesome drum break. The upbeat lyrics seal the happy vibe too:
Throw away your troubles and leave your blues behind
Free your frustrations and have a jamming good time
Come on and clap your hands now and let yourself unwind
Everybody together in a universal mind
Get off of that ego into a higher place
Check out my music dig my magic space
The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death
It was very difficult to choose. I was between Soda Stereo, Queen, and other very big bands, but I took the criterion that the entire album was the happiest album ever, so I pick up this one. I really like this record and causes a feeling of happiness in our record store. Especially the song “Bow Down.” It conveys a feeling that “everything is fine.”
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
It has such an uptempo and fun psychedelic sound. It’s full of energy where both production and performances just sound like everyone was having such a good time. Lyrical themes don’t ever seem to be too serious even when not directly about something “happy.” “Lazy Sunday” is a particularly good example of why this record sound is the happiest. The second half of the record for me is impossible to not smile and laugh at as the narrative storytelling aspect bookends some songs and is sewn into others. It tells quite an absurd story using plenty of made-up words and undoubtedly the result of a more than reasonable level of psychedelic substances. It’s a beautiful energetic collection of happy melodies, happy lyrics, and just all-round happy feelings for me.
I’ve got to be honest: This album actually kind of annoys me. The album cover, the production, a number of the compositional choices … they’re not my thing. So why is Spilt Milk a perennial listen for me? Because of my sheer love and respect for Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Jon Brion. Also, because if you can get through the weird saccharinity, you’re treated to bona fide magic. Exhibit A is “Sebrina, Paste and Plato” — I’m not sure whether I dislike the intro or the outro more. But in between is intoxicating, “Penny Lane”-style sunshine-pop. I guess I’m attracted to music where you’ve got to do a little digging. When the key change on “Sebrina, Paste and Plato” hits, you know you earned that moment of feeling so serene.
Morgan Enos, Writer
Hackensack, New Jersey, United States
@otherhouses on Instagram
Saves The World
It’s one of the most masterful bodies I’ve ever witnessed! It brings me so much joy and cathartic release. Truly my number one!
Los Angeles, California, United States
@VINCINT on Instagram
When I was training for the Junior National swimming competition in high school, I would get up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to start training. Kick was pretty much the only album I listened to during that time — on cassette, of course. Whenever I hear it now, it reminds me of believing in yourself, that anything is possible and how hard work can have huge rewards. I swear, it gets better over time too.
Dr. Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, Writer
United States/United Kingdom
@jenniferotterbickerdike on Instagram
The Brothers And Sisters
The question, “What is the happiest album ever?” has infinite answers, but a vinyl LP I’ve carried around since the ’80s relates directly to my joy when the Resistance Revival Chorus lifts its collective voice and sings. On The Brothers and Sisters’ “Dylan’s Gospel,” the mutual admiration acknowledged between these artists is a great example of the power of music to bring people together. Dylan’s lyrics were in correspondence with the Civil Rights Movement in real-time and the spiritually uplifting voices of the choir elevate the familiar songs to rousing new heights.
Moist Paula Henderson
@moistpaula on Instagram
Shane MacGowan, singer and songwriter for Irish punk band the Pogues, passed away November 30, 2023 at 65…
Paul McCartney has been approached numerous times over the years about writing an autobiography, but he has always…
A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle all…
Although Outkast never officially broke up, when the singularly iconic Atlanta duo went quiet after 2006’s Idlewild, speculation…