Alaa Wardi’s latest satirical video is a hilarious cover of Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy“, which has so far peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100. Though Wardi’s video isn’t the only cover inspired by Pharrell’s song, the Saudi-based comedian’s “Happy” is the most seriously artful precisely because it’s so damn funny.
Like Pharrell’s original, Wardi’s spinoff features real people singing and dancing along to catchy simple lyrics. But what makes it more than a knockoff is that the characters push the video into the realm of comedy by breaking more of the boundaries between the airbrushed world of mainstream music videos and actual human life.
Instead of appearing in choreographed individual cameos, Wardi’s singers interact like real families and friends do, joking, arguing and vying to be the center of the attention, then acting goofy or self-conscious in front of the camera. Their posing pokes fun at “selfie” culture and cultural imitation in general.
If you want to really cover something, Wardi’s video seems to say, don’t just copy-paste it, bring in your own culture to transform it into something new. This kind of comedy-plus-commentary is Wardi’s forte, just as his instrument is real people, their bodies and voices, and what they can create when they show their real selves.