Sad songs made happy: The amazing art of turning minor-key songs major

What if The Godfather were a romantic comedy? Or REM were happy about losing its religion?

(Image credit: YouTube)

"In Western music, there's nothing that says 'sad' like a minor key," explains the Exploratorium science museum. You don't have to be up on your music theory — or have synesthesia — to recognize when a song is written in a minor scale, and the difference between major and minor is pretty clear when you hear a minor song transposed into a major key. (Without getting into too much complex music theory: Songs in major keys often sound like The Sound of Music's "Do-Re-Mi," while minor keys are more in the vein of Fiddler on the Roof's "Sunrise, Sunset.")

Now, through the magic of technology — probably a program called Celemony Melodyne, if you want to spoil the magic — some musical enthusiasts are doing just that, with the original versions of famous songs. Here are some of the better examples, for your (happy) listening pleasure:

1. The Happy Godfather

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"Do you remember The Godfather, the heartwarming 1972 comedy about one family's struggles to hold its family business together?" says Forrest Wickman at Slate. No? You might just be able to imagine this alternative-universe film by closing your eyes and listening to this modified version of Nino Rota's iconic Godfather theme, tweaked by Ukrainian musician Oleg Berg, who uses the handle Major Vs. Minor:

2. Regaining My Religion

This version of REM's moody "Losing My Religion" from MajorScaled TV is "uncanny," musician Michael Pulsford tells Boing Boing. "The song is just as familiar as always but the impact is utterly different. Kind of like finding a color print of a film you'd only known in black and white." Not everyone is a fan: "This rescaled version is so wrong; it ruins one of REM's best songs and completely missing the point," says Matthew Linder at Patheos. "The change in tonality whitewashes the sorrowful song and brings in the pollyannaism of REM's much derided 'Shiny Happy People.'" But critics and fans at least agree that REM sounds much happier. "It's like dipping your iPod into a vat of liquid Prozac," says Summer Beretsky at PsychCentral.

3. Beat It ("It" Being Anger)

Not all minor-key songs are sad. Here, Major Vs. Minor's Berg takes Michael Jackson's pugilistic "Beat It" and makes it sound much less angry:

4. Nothing Else Majeur

For moody gloom and despair, it's hard to beat this downer from Metallica. Here, MajorScaled TV turns "Nothing Else Matters" into a happy, Zen-like meditation on letting go of material possessions. It's like somebody gave Metallica a whole mountain of bacon:

5. Smells Like Delicious Teen Spirit

Nirvana fans are still sad about the death of lead singer Kurt Cobain, who killed himself not long after the band achieved international stardom on the back of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Thanks to Major Vs. Minor, with the lights out, it's now a little less dangerous:

6. Sweet Dreams

This Major Vs. Minor version of the Eurythmics' hit "Sweet Dreams" doesn't even need a title change, and it probably would have been a hit in the '80s this way, too:

7. Hey Jude, Take This Sad Song

The process works both ways, of course. The Beatles' "Hey Jude" isn't the world's happiest song, but by the time Major Vs. Minor is through with it, you feel pretty bad for Paul McCartney and the boy he's singing to, Julian Lennon:

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