Required Listening for Valentine’s Day

This week, Antonia shares of her some of her favourite musical theatre songs which deal with the theme of love and relationships:

“Love is such a complex emotion, and it can (and has been) looked at from so many different angles. It is also something that most of us will be able to relate to in some way, shape or form.

So, for Valentine’s Day, I have come up with a list of songs I think reflects all different aspects of love and relationships explored in musical theatre – whether that be romantic infatuation, unrequited love or even platonic love.”

1. If I Loved You – from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (1945)

This is probably considered to be one of the most iconic musical theatre love duets of all time – but it is a little unusual as far love songs go, as the characters are not singing ‘I love you’ but ‘If I loved you’.

This is a good example of a ‘conditional’ love song – which is when the characters won’t or don’t declare that they are in love, but the audience knows that they are.

2. Tonight (The Balcony Scene) – from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (1957)

I don’t think any list of musical theatre love songs would be complete without Tonight from West Side Story.

It is difficult not to get swept up in the romance of Bernstein’s beautiful score, which really gets across the innocent and youthful nature of the characters but also a sense of how exciting it feels to be in love for the very first time.

3. Settle for Me – from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015)

I have talked about the genius of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in depth on this blog before, but I think it needs to be included on this list because the show is brilliant at tackling the more realistic elements of love and relationships.

The show often takes tropes commonly found in musical theatre and turns them on their heads. This is the case with Settle for Me, where the genre evokes the romantic musicals of the 1930s, but the song itself couldn’t be any less romantic as the characters are singing about ‘settling for’ one another.

4. Satisfied – from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2015)

There were so many unrequited love songs to choose from, but I think Satisfied is probably one of my favourite examples of unrequited love in musical theatre.

In Satisfied Angelica sings about how she felt the first time she met Alexander Hamilton – but we have just seen the story from her sister Eliza’s point of view, and we know that Eliza has just happily married him. As the song concludes, we know that Angelica cares more about her sister’s happiness, even if it means that she will never be happy herself. 

5. For Good – from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz (2003)

Who says has a love song has to be romantic? For Good is a great example of a platonic love song in musical theatre, as I think demonstrates that love between friends can sometimes be just as profound as romantic love.

6. Changing my Major – from Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron (2015)

There is probably some way to go until non-heterosexual relationships are accurately reflected in musical theatre, but Alison Bechdel (one of the first Lesbian protagonists in a Broadway musical) from Fun Home is a step in the right direction. In Changing My Major, Alison sings about discovering her sexuality after having sex with Joan.

7. There’s a Fine, Fine Line – from Avenue Q by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (2003)

Sometimes love doesn’t work out – I think this song gets across all those post break-up feelings perfectly.

 

 

Required Listening – Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Antonia Talks about Let’s Generalize About Men from Season 3 of the musical TV show Crazy Ex Girlfriend (2017):

“There are so many songs from Crazy Ex Girlfriend that I could have chosen as my Song of the Week – the show has both brilliant musical theatre pastiches (like the Fred and Ginger inspired Settle For Me from season 1) and catchy pop parodies (like the ABBA inspired The First Penis from season 3) which get stuck in your brain for days on end. 

In the end, I settled for Let’s Generalize about Men, because I think it demonstrates one of the things the show does so well – using humour and music to tap into how we think and feel and to examine important issues (the show is doing so much to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health).

Structurally, the show really understands how to segue from dialogue to musical number, without it feeling jarring (unlike many modern film musicals, where songs don’t evolve out of emotional plot points or help to further character or story development). Crazy Ex Girlfriend also uses songs to depart from its premise for a moment, to make a comment or joke about something else – this is case with Let’s Generalise About Men, where Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom, who is also one of the show’s creators) and her friends sing a catchy 80’s inspired power anthem about how terrible men are. 

Now before you write in, you should probably note that the song is very clearly satirical. It’s not a song about how terrible men are, it’s a song which pokes fun at how we make assumptions about the opposite sex and that even though its wrong, sometimes it can feel cathartic. 

This song, (and many songs from the show) also examines the stereotypes and tropes often found in the romantic comedy or musical theatre genre – For example, Rebecca and pals sing “Gay Men are all really great/every single one/they’re never mean, just sassy/they’re all completely adorable and fun”, thus calling out the ‘gay best friend’ stereotype which has been perpetuated by romantic comedies.

There is much for musical theatre fans to enjoy in this show and I highly recommend checking it out – Crazy Ex Girlfriend is aired on the CW in the US and Season 1 – 3 can be found on Netflix in the UK.”

What’s your favourite song from Crazy Ex Girlfriend? Let us know in the comments below: