Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Things I Know Nothing About Episode 6: Musical Theater

I was in a few Musicals in Highschool. I sometimes watch Glee. I have been to one show on Broadway. When I was little I had a CD of Frank Sinatra and his buddies doing the music from Guy and Dolls. I wore that shit out. That is the extent of what I know about Musical Theater. I do however know a thing or two about music in general so not quite as much of what I usually say in these posts will be 100% nonsense this time.

I like Musicals. They are entertaining and often well written. Some are pretty hilarious. That being said, a lot of them, even the very good ones, are just...lame as shit. Wicked? Laaaaaame. Rent? Hell of lame. It's hard to pinpoint why, but both Defying Gravity and Season's of Love make me want to drink a gallon of lighter fluid and swallow a match. Not "bad" music just...lame. No balls at all. I will concede that AIDS in a Musical was originally an edgy move but the whole thing seems grossly ingenuine to the subject matter because the characters were so...lame. Wicked I haven't actually seen but I've heard a lot of songs and unless there is full frontal nudity that I am no aware of I can pretty much assume that it suffers from the same level of non-ballsyness.

I am positive that the Lion King is awesome and I wish I had more money so I could see it.

Any theater kids reading this are probably writing me off in their heads as a nay-saying ignoramus but theater kids don't typically seem to understand that the reason that not EVERYONE loves musical theater music isn't because they're closed-minded. It's because most of the music from these productions is not interesting out of context unless you are a very particular type of nerd or a huge narcissist** who needs to be able to picture yourself singing a song on a stage in full makeup in order to enjoy it.

In context most people only get to see amateur or highschool productions because the real thing is expensive and probably not worth the effort for someone who doesn't know if they're really into it or not. Anyone who has ever seen a highschool production of a musical (who didn't know anyone in the performance) knows that they're a little painful to sit through for one reason or the other. Not always terrible but rarely the kind of thing that makes you want to run out and become obsessed.

  I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with being that type of nerd but thanks to shows like Glee there seems to be a false notion floating around that theater nerds are special and artistic and anyone who isn't friends with them is a judgmental bully and possibly a closeted homosexual who needs to learn to overcome his or her self-loathing through song. The more likely truth is that if theater geeks don't have friends outside of their theater geek social groups it's probably because they're always talking about theater and NOBODY ELSE FINDS THEM INTERESTING. Even more likely is that no one is judging them because no one is really paying attention to them and that's the real problem.

**Narcissism is something I know a lot about firsthand (I'm a blogger. I know what that means from a psychoanalytic point of view. The term "hall of flattering mirrors" comes to mind) and the thing about theater music is that it's really only super compelling to people who like to imagine themselves singing the songs or performing in the cast and that is a special kind of a narcissism that can be easily hidden by saying things like "I have a hard time fitting in because I'm just so full of music that I have to let it out". People are uncomfortable around you because you're constantly singing in front of them? Mmmmhmmm...yeah...unfortunately you are the one with the social dysfunction in this situation; not them. In today's sensitive environment people might not be open about the fact that you are annoying the crap out of them because they are worried that you'll run to the guidance councilor and make a dramatic statement about how you don't fit in and need to go to special school where everyone wears leotards all the time.

A production in which most of the songs were written to stand alone would be an awkward and unsatisfying experience. The flip side of this is that a really well written pop song is always going to be more compelling to more people than a really well written broadway song. That's why Glee feels the need to crap all over so many perfectly good pop songs.Note: As a general rule, a song that was originally sung by a shitty singer will be OK if covered by a bunch of Theatery and/or autotuned voices, but anything originally done by a good singer really should be left alone. Or at least I wish it would.

Broadway songs are meant to do something for the characters and pop songs really can't operate with too much unspoken subtext. Think of your favorite Beatles song NOT from one of the more acidy albums. Is there anything about this song that leaves you wondering "what else is going on here?". If so then you are either a hipster who always chooses to like things that make no sense or you haven't heard that many Beatles songs. If you don't like the Beatles then get the fuck out of here this discussion can't possibly mean anything to you because you are one of those weirdos who doesn't like music that sounds like music. Either way my point is that pop good music expresses emotions that don't need to be over articulated and theater music is up to something a little different and that something a little different can get boring really fast.  Not all pop songs have good lyrics. Some of them are really stupid and make no sense. The good ones still work. A good Broadway song has to know what it's saying or why the hell else would anyone be screaming about it in the middle of a conversation? All I'm saying is that people who prefer to only listen to the soundtracks of Broadway musicals are out of their freaking minds. Another note: Music originally written for Theater that has been absorbed into the realm of Jazz standards doesn't count. That was another era. There was no TV and neither the Beatles nor Stevie Wonder had happened yet in most cases.

 Ok. I've actually lost interest in this topic before I've really finished but incoherent ramblings really don't need to have a conclusion so I'll just end with my usual request that those of you who DO know things about Musical Theater not contact me and explain to me why I am wrong.

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