There’s no getting around it at this point; 2019 has been the year of the surrealist in pop music, and among the more energized artists to emerge from its woodwork has been AV Super Sunshine, whose latest music video for the Candyland, Vol. 1 hit “Are You Happy (Radio Mix)” is out this month following the hot reception that the track, and the record it was cut from, received earlier in the year. “Are You Happy (Radio Mix)” is as postmodern as they come, but that doesn’t make it any less of a groovy slice of hard pop/rock that many of us have been waiting for this season.
This single isn’t nearly as slothful in style, nor tempo, as its counterparts to the right of the American underground have been this year. For many of the major label-backed indie bands making music similar to AV Super Sunshine’s, equating surrealism to a slowed-down stylization hasn’t just been the norm – it’s been the expected standard, from the EDM and pop crews to the hard and heavy rock groups and beyond. Instead of following suit, AV explores the existential intricacies of his synthesized harmonies here, and keeps the energy maxed out alongside his melodic swagger.
The vocal is crisp and powered by a lot of bass-driven force in the master mix, and it contrasts significantly with the streamlined nature of the synths in the background. It isn’t enough to render the harmonies rigid or inaccessible, but it does create some much-needed chaos beside the flowing nature of the instrumentation. If AV didn’t spend some extra time adjusting this element in the song to get what we hear in this video, it wouldn’t just come as a big surprise to me; I flat-out wouldn’t believe it. I might have made it more of a focus in the grander scheme of things, but I really respect the concept behind the structure of the serenade in this track either way.
Despite the electronic faceting, “Are You Happy (Radio Mix)” has an undeniable rock n’ roll pulse that is tough for anyone to resist when its bearing down on us in the chest-pounding chorus. AV’s vocal embeds itself into the instrumentation surrounding him, sending chills through the implied crowd before us here, and like the Lego-portrayed race car drivers in the music video for the song, it’s always the thrill of the chase pushing him more than anything else does in this track. When we take the pomp and pristine production value out of the picture, this is raw, aggressive music that was inspired by emotions that are just as visceral as the beats are – if not a little more so.
AV Super Sunshine has made some really awesome music in the past, but he’s just outdone himself yet again with the video for “Are You Happy (Radio Mix),” and I think that it has the potential to be one of his most popular releases to date. He uses some thinly-veiled enigmas to open up a serious discussion about the very design of happiness in our modern world, and moreover, its torturous absence from our individual lives. This isn’t the FM-style surrealism that you’ve grown used to in the last half-decade; this really is cerebral songwriting on a whole different level.