Brow Beat

The Music Video for Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” Secures Its Place as 2016’s “Happy”

Stills from the videos for Justin Timberlake’s "Can't Stop the Feeling" and Pharrell's "Happy"
Its copying is shameless, and it can’t be stopped.

Stills from the videos for Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and Pharrell’s “Happy”

I’ve long suspected that the unholy alliance of Dreamworks Animation and Justin Timberlake was trying to duplicate the success of Pharrell’s “Happy” with the Trolls song “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” but now the video makes their intentions plain.

Consider the evidence:

  • Both songs were recorded for the soundtracks of animated films about obnoxious, diminutive, computer-generated hooligans.
  • Both songs are recorded, written, and produced by pop/R&B superstars of the early ’00s, who are now entering middle age and appealing more than ever to middle-aged parents and their young children. (In Timberlake’s case, he co-wrote and co-produced the song with the Swedish hit-making team of Max Martin and Shellback.)
  • Both spring hits are about moving your body because you’re happy, the 2010s radio pop equivalent of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.
  • Both songs feature videos that consist of a diverse set of randos “spontaneously” dancing along to the song in public. In each case, the star dances along to the song while pushing a cart down the aisle at a grocery store. (Even the framing is exactly the same, with each of the dancers moving slowly toward the camera from the center, as it slowly backs away.)

In most respects, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” pales in comparison to “Happy”—it’s a more generic, less soulful, and almost lobotomized version of same. Where “Happy” had a mold-breaking 24-hour music video, for example, the video for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is just a standard four-minute affair.

But make no mistake: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” can’t be stopped. It’s already debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—no small feat—while “Happy” took months to reach the top spot. I often lacked the dopamine levels to fully surrender to “Happy,” but while sitting here, thinking of all the weddings where this will be playing this summer, and watching Timberlake dance stupidly with a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, I’m starting to think it’ll be easier to just give in.