Believe it or not, today marks the ten year anniversary of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine,” one of the biggest earworms of 2008 and the song that likely haunts Emma Stone to this day.
“Pocketful of Sunshine” is probably Bedingfield’s biggest hit aside from “Unwritten,” and for good reason—it’s upbeat, it’s infectious and, above all, it’s unapologetically hopeful. Bedingfield sings about her unwavering happiness in a blatant, almost conceited way, tossing out lines like “The sun is on my side and takes me for a ride” as if joy is something that constantly surrounds her, something she couldn’t rid herself of even if she tried.
In “Pocketful of Sunshine,” happiness is framed as both a secret, special location and an item Bedingfield can literally remove from her jacket whenever she needs a pick-me-up. The “Sunshine” music video underscores those ideas, as Bedingfield escapes her boring office job by grabbing a conveniently placed parachute and jumping onto a nearby roof where her new, exhilarating life awaits. She also sings and dances around in a very mid-2000s white denim vest, but that’s neither here nor there.
The way in which “Pocketful of Sunshine” depicts happiness is kind of unrealistic, but it isn’t necessarily bad—the idea that anyone, regardless of circumstance, can discover and access joy is, in some ways, liberating. And who knows? Bedingfield’s soaring vocals and brazenly optimistic lyrics could be sources of comfort for those who feel exhausted and discouraged by the barrage of bad news popping up on their Twitter feeds.
At the same time, Bedingfield’s portrayal feels especially foreign and naïve when listening back to it in 2018. Admittedly, “Pocketful of Sunshine” may have seemed idealistic and cloying even when it first came out—the recession began at the end of 2007, after all. Plus, 2017 wasn’t without its fair share of bright, simple songs about love and freedom—Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” are just a couple of popular examples.
But even some of 2017’s most buoyant tunes—like Kesha’s “Praying” or Paramore’s “Hard Times”—characterize happiness as something that’s achievable but conditional, something that one has to work for as opposed to something that’s inevitable. From the Time’s Up movement to Cardi B’s incredible success story, the message that happiness is something you have to create for yourself is coming across loud and clear.
Whether you think 2018 needs its own version of “Pocketful of Sunshine” or that the Bedingfield hit is too sugary sweet to handle, one thing we know for sure is that it’ll be stuck in our heads from now until eternity. And frankly, that makes us pretty happy.