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Grace Gaustad – Are You Happy Review

Three words and daring to pose a question as simple and strong as that are bold moves for any artist to make. Grace Gaustad is far from a creative set to back down, though, as their latest track, Are You Happy, proves. Yes? Somewhat? No. Who knows. Are You Happy, before even hitting play, gets the mind in overdrive. It is then up to Gaustad, naturally, to pounce on that feeling, or lack thereof. How a listener perceives their own happiness, as Gaustad turns it on its head, is an incredible and impressive experience. A necessary one too, in understanding your own happiness, in figuring out what the next steps are. Are You Happy is a coming-of-age delicacy for all ages.  

Happier still after finishing Are You Happy, that question still burns on. At a time of media domination and the split of time and focus, Gaustad has no trouble cementing a track worth paying full attention to. Difficult, especially when your phone notifications keep flashing because it’s time to BeReal. Everything out there is set on pulling you out of the moment, but Gaustad’s work here is nothing short of essential pop brilliance. Live the lies, as Gaustad warns against. Everyone has experiences and as broad and ranged, sometimes as awful as they are, Are You Happy has a firm momentum to it which always staggers toward realising the potential of the person listening. Optimism of that kind is frequent, but the heart and soul within the strong dance-ready beats are the real winner here.  

Momentum like this steadies itself on the thump of assured electronics, the rise and build which Gaustad has, the lyrics filled with self-respect and personal lives before other people, is resounding. It settles well in an age when those lyrics are needed, and Gaustad helms it with care and desire behind them. Meaningful tones taken, and their vocal presence right at the core of it all. Rightly so. Wondering with fear and hoping for the anxieties to subside yet never quite receding. Music like Are You Happy is rare in scope and rarer still when it can connect with the worries or troubles of a listener. Gaustad still charts their own path, still pursues their own reasons for enlisting an emotive range, feeding the ever-burning core within Are You Happy. 

Dedication keeps that flame burning and Are You Happy is a tremendous success for Gaustad and their ever-growing listening audience. Rightly so. There is much to love about this recent track, as there is for their earlier works too. Committed to a style which works for them and their listeners, Gaustad has maintained a powerhouse electronically navigated experience. Are you happy? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Living your life through the lens of a protagonist in Pulp’s Common People is a reason to be cheerful, we all latch onto the lives of our favourite songs and art. But Gaustad questions the implementation of art into experience and experience into the real world. Are You Happy is a searing question which does not back down.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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