One out of every five adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition. Even though experiencing the symptoms of these conditions are unfortunately common, there are still personal and institutional stigmas surrounding mental illness that affect millions of people around the world in their day to day experiences and relationships with others. 

I love making you believe

What you get is what you see

But I’m so fake happy

I feel so fake happy

And I bet everybody here

Is just as insincere

We’re all so fake happy

And I know fake happy

Like many others, Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the alternative-pop band Paramore, has struggled with mental illness herself. In 2017, Williams found herself at a low when anger-inducing life events, such as a legal dispute with the band’s former bassist and separation from her husband, started presenting themselves in the form of depression. This resulted in the release of “Fake Happy”, featured on Paramore’s After Laughter album. “Fake Happy” highlights an individual, yet collective, experience of battling mental health issues while being forced to put on a “happy face” for the outside world. The song tells the story about the performative happiness that so many of us participate in, not only tricking others, but also ourselves.

If I smile with my teeth

Bet you believe me

If I smile with my teeth

I think I believe me

Over the years, researchers have discovered that members of the entertainment industry are especially prone to experiencing mental illness. In 2016, an organization called Help Musicians conducted the largest known study, at the time, to investigate the relationship between mental health and the music industry. They found that 68.5% of over 2000 musicians surveyed had reported experiences of depression. They also discovered that 71.1% of respondents reported high levels of anxiety and panic attacks (

Recently, many popular artists have voiced their struggles with mental illness, canceling shows for their own well being. 

Besides canceling shows, other artists have spoken about mental illness candidly, through  performances, interviews, social media statements and a variety of other ways. One of these artists is pop-singer and actress, Selena Gomez. In November of 2022, she released a documentary called “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me”, which follows her journey of reaching fame and her experiences with mental illness. In one very emotional scene, Gomez is shown breaking down after a performance, expressing her exhaustion.


Im crying:((( 😢😢😢 #selenagomez #fyp #fypシ #selenagomezedit #selenagomezdocumentary #sad #mentalhealth #celebrity #celeb

♬ original sound – ∞

Another artist that has publicly expressed their experience with performance-related mental illness is James Hetfield, the lead vocalist and guitarist of heavy metal band Metallica. During a performance in May of 2022, Hetfield openly addressed his anxieties about being on stage.


Like Selena Gomez and James Hetfield, Hayley Williams expresses her frustration with being an entertainer in “Fake Happy” when she discusses the façade she has to put on when she’s on stage performing. 

You see, it’s easy when I’m 

Stompin’ on a beat

But no one sees me when I 

Crawl back underneath

Unfortunately, struggles with mental health are not new to the music industry. In the 1971 release of pop singer Neil Diamond’s “I am… I said”, Diamond discusses his conflict with his own identity, which leads to sentiments of emptiness.

Chapter 23 of The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Paradox, written by Matthew Sheep, Glen Kreiner, and Gail Fairhurt, analyzes Diamond’s “I am…I Said”  and how individual identity is challenged with the paradoxes of the outside world related to both personal and social characteristics. Identity can be seen as both a structure and a dynamic process that creates tension within those who are experiencing it. With regards to performers, the outside pressures of always having to present the best version of oneself causes a strain on self perception and mental health (…i%20said&f=false). 

Williams highlights this idea through the paradoxical composition of lyrics and the “Fake Happy” music video. In the song itself, tension is created between the uplifting, electronic beat and the lyrical composition that reveals a much sadder story. In many cases, the performance and delivery of music crafts rhetoric in ways that lyrics can not exclusively accomplish. 

And if I go out tonight, dress up my fears

You think I’ll look alright with these mascara tears?

See I’m gonna draw my lipstick wider than my mouth

And if the lights are low they’ll never see me frown

In the official “Fake Happy” music video, Hayley Williams is featured in a digitized world where everyone, except her, has an upside down smiley face covering their true identity. These people are going about their daily activities; some exercising, some walking home from work, some admiring the sights of Times Square. Williams dances around people, twirling, cheering others on, and skipping. While these seem like very happy activities, her face is not revealed until the very end when she turns to the camera, smile fading, with tear stains on her cheeks. The final scene of the video is Williams holding up a holographic upside-down smiley face that all of the other people had on, to prove that she is no better than the rest of them.  

Oh please don’t ask me how I’ve been

Don’t make me play pretend

Oh no, oh what’s the use?

Oh please, I bet everybody here is fake happy too

While many performers often craft narratives for the sake of their music, it is important to note that Williams is directly informed by personal experiences which results in her authentic deliverance of this collective issue. In 2018, Paramore performed a live concert in Syracuse, NY. Right before singing “Fake Happy”, Williams interacted with the crowd to gauge how they were feeling. At one point, you can hear a man in the crowd ask her how SHE was feeling. Some may view this as an extension of the song, faking happiness for the sake of others. Even though her smile looks genuine, the fact that she is about to perform “Fake Happy” further complicates this issue of authenticity. Williams goes on to deliver an energetic performance of the song, dancing around stage and interacting with the audience. Again, if she were delivering different lyrics, there would be no disagreement about whether or not this performance could be seen as lively and upbeat. 

Overall, Paramore’s protest anthem, “Fake Happy” has sparked widespread conversation about the weight of mental illness that so many of us carry, despite acting like we are ok. It is important to not only check in on others, but also yourself.