Jensen McRae teases debut album with ethereal single “Happy Girl”

Jensen McRae
Photo by Caity Krone

Los Angeles’ Jensen McRae has shared a first listen from her debut album Are You Happy Now? with the release of her ethereal single “Happy Girl.” Against its lilting melody, Jensen McRae‘s golden croons are made all the more glowing as she weaves her tender lyricism in its warming wake. But the resplendence of “Happy Girl” hides plenty in the shadow of the song’s sunny use of scattered percussion and quavering strums. The song of course serves as McRae’s way of reconciling the cyclical bittersweetness of putting on a happy face when you’re absolutely not.


The music video for “Happy Girl” visualizes the inner conflict McRae sings about in the song immaculately. Focused on a corner of a room the video tracks the movements of not one, not two — but three McRae’s as they grapple with various conflicting emotions. Joy, frustration, anger, and sadness flash across the faces of each as they stand and at times sit inside the warmly lit kitchen.

But despite the song’s wrestling with melancholia and a struggle to “be happy,” McRae finds hope in the perseverance. “Say chin up, sad girl / The truth is it could be worse / You want to meet in the middle,” she sings at one point in the song.


After the release of her debut EP Who Hurt You? and a cover of Phoebe Bridgers‘ “Immune,” McRae has made seriously deserved waves. With the exception of the cover, all the songs on her EP will be appearing on Are You Happy Now? Which will include songs like the vulnerable ballad “Wolves” and the lush “White Boy.”

“‘Happy Girl’ began, quite fittingly, as a mistake — I was trying to play one chord progression but wound up playing the opening notes of what it eventually became. I was in Rahki’s studio, halfway through my last year of college, reflecting on all the girls I’d been to get me to that point. I thought about how I’d done everything I was supposed to do, had sanded off the edges of myself that had always pushed people away from me, and I still wasn’t happy. And I thought about how articulating the pain and loneliness of being chronically apart from others is often more trouble than it’s worth. So I wrote this song about the language gap between feeling pain and explaining it, and, as on ‘Dead Girl Walking,’ how it is both easier and harder to manufacture a happy exterior than to invite people into your darkness.”

The Mars Volta

Jensen McRae‘s debut album Are You Happy Now? is out March 22 via Human Re-Sources, pre-order it here. Visit Jensen McRae’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.

Watch / Listen to Jensen McRae’s new single “Happy Girl”

submit your new song
influential black women femalesingers