Decades of Halloweens have come and gone since Danny Elfman — film composer extraordinaire and one-time Oingo Boingo frontman — last released a solo pop song. But now he is returning with a sardonic new single, “Happy,” in anticipation of the spooky day.
“I’m so happy — everything is crumbling,” he sings over a slow-building creepy synth line. The accompanying video is fittingly macabre as a CGI Elfman morphs into a disturbing doll and a melty skeleton as he sings the mordant words.
“I always enjoyed Halloween because it was a night to let loose, to become something or someone else,” Elfman said in a statement. “[Halloween is] a night to celebrate the dead, and ghosts, and monsters of all variety. A night for mutants, zombies, vampires, misfits, and miscreants to celebrate themselves and each other. And aligned with the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, a night to celebrate departed spirits … and for me, a night to laugh in death’s face (and feel safe doing so).”
Elfman recently aligned with the labels Anti- and Epitaph to release new music; the last time he released a solo album was in 1984 when he put out So-Lo, before returning to his work in Oingo Boingo. “Happy” features contributions from Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese, Dethklok guitarist Nili Brosh, and Dub Trio bassist Stu Brooks, as well as additional synth design by record producer Randall Dunn. Elfman was to make his grand return to the stage earlier this year at Coachella, but Covid-19-related shutdowns canceled the festival.
“I originally wrote ‘Happy’ to perform at Coachella 2020,” Elfman said. “It was written to be an absurd anti-pop song, designed to begin as a very simple pop tune that degrades into something more subversive. The cynical nature of the lyrics echo how I feel about living in a semi-dystopian world turned upside down.”
Although Oingo Boingo scored a string of cult new-wave hits in the Eighties — chiefly “Dead Man’s Party” and “Weird Science” — he is best known for his film compositions. He got his start working on his brother and fellow Oingo Boingo bandmate Richard’s Forbidden Zone soundtrack, and later teamed with Tim Burton on scores for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands, among many others, and he also wrote the theme for The Simpsons. Elfman also voiced Jack Skellington’s singing voice on his song score for Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Bonejangles in Burton’s Corpse Bride.
“Halloween has always been my Big Night,” he said. “As a child, there was no competition. Coincidently, in my earlier band Oingo Boingo, our Halloween shows became special events and our biggest shows of the year. And double coincidently, The Nightmare Before Christmas also became a special live Concert Halloween event, which became more successful than I’d ever dreamed possible. This really meant a lot to me as the character of Jack Skellington, who I related to quite closely, has for many years been a very special part of my life.”