As I say every time I review an album, I don’t consider myself a music reviewer. I know the basics of what makes a song work, but I do know what I like and I mostly know why I like it. I do consider myself someone who can review musicals, though, which is why I’ll occasionally review the cast album for a musical. A good cast album should be able to stand on its own as a wholly complete piece of music but should also be a good representation of the musical and its plot. This is where The Prince of Egypt enters. I grew up watching the film and absolutely adore it. It’s once of my favorite animated musicals of all time and I’ve long wanted it to be adapted for the stage, much like Disney does with their animated films. And it’s finally happened. A big, grande adaptation opened in London’s West End earlier this year, and its cast album dropped today. Featuring all-but-one of the film’s songs and a whole host of new songs by original lyricist and composer, Stephen Schwartz, can this new musical hold a candle to its iconic source material? In short: more or less.
I’ve been a fan of Green Day since 2006. I was 11 and they were one of my first exposures to mainstream, contemporary rock music. To say they had a major impact on my taste in music would be just as big an understatement as saying that musical theatre had a major impact on my taste in music. Green Day was a major deal to me all throughout my youth. Every new album was something to get unbearably excited over. This changed some in the wake of the release of the “Trilogy” – ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tre!. Like many, I wasn’t a big fan of this album and my ongoing obsession with Green Day never quite recovered. When 2016’s Revolution Radio came out, I was certainly relatively excited and, on the whole, I did enjoy it – but very little of it has stuck with me. Still, my first music love will always be Green Day and there will never be an album release that I won’t look forward to. Which brings us to 2020’s Father of All…, an album that I initially was eagerly anticipating and slowly stopped anticipating as time went on and more songs were released. Now that it’s out, was the five-month wait between its initial announcement and its long-awaited release worth it? Is the album good? Yeah, it’s solid. (more…)
I say this every time I review any kind of music on this blog but it often bears repeating: I normally don’t review music. I don’t really feel all that qualified to talk about music as the only real knowledge I have of how it’s made comes from a 100-level college Music Appreciation course. So, because of that, I review music infrequently – and I review cast recordings eve less often as they usually comprise roughly 50% of the show and are an unfair representation of the entire quality of any musical. That being said, let’s talk about the Original Broadway Cast Recording for Hadestown – the winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best New Musical. The Hadestown cast recording is unusual when compared to other cast recordings as it contains the entirety of the show’s score (most cast recordings leave out some reprises – or, even, entire songs). In that light, I think it’s worth looking at the album as a concept record and examine how it tells the story it’s trying to tell and how the music works to do this. (Spoiler alert: I really love this album a lot.)
Welcome to Hadestown, where a song can change your fate. This acclaimed new musical by celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and innovative director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) is a love story for today… and always. Hadestown intertwines two mythic tales—that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone—as it invites you on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back. Mitchell’s beguiling melodies and Chavkin’s poetic imagination pit industry against nature, doubt against faith, and fear against love. Performed by a vibrant ensemble of actors, dancers and singers, Hadestown is a haunting and hopeful theatrical experience that grabs you and never lets go.
Last summer, I took a look at Circus of Alice, the first album from indie pop artist Madison Chase. That first album was the product of a young musician – it was made while she was a teenager – but it was easy to see that she had boatloads of talent and made the listener extremely interested in future music she’d make. Years have passed since that album came out, and she’s released a handful of new songs here and there, each of them showing her evolution as an artist while maintaining a similar stylistic connection to her previous work. Now, this past week, she dropped her newest single, “Escape”, as well as a total rebranding of her artistic persona: now performing under the name Salem Belladonna (henceforth, this post will refer to her by this stage name), “Escape” is the first song of the next era of music from Salem Belladonna – and the song continues where her previous singles have left off: furthering her evolution as an artist while pushing her music in both new and familiar directions – all while being a damn good, catchy song. (Two notes: 1. I don’t normally review much music on this blog, so I’ll do my best at sounding like I have any idea what I’m talking about. 2. In the interests of full disclosure, I know Madison in real life. That being said, all thoughts, as always, are my own and are not influenced by any outside sources.) (more…)
Sometimes when you’re young, you really dig some odd stuff. I went through phases in late middle school/early high school (that I arguably never grew out of) where I was into some objectively odd art. My favorite move for ages was Repo! The Genetic Opera – a rock opera, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (of Saw II fame) and written by Terrance Zdunich, sort of in the vein of Rocky Horror, where a Repo Man (played by Anthony Head, from Buffy) literally repossessed people’s organs if they couldn’t pay for them. I was a big fan of an indie film called Ink, a weird film where a monster (named Ink) stole a girl’s soul in order to join the ranks of the Incubi – monsters that created nightmares. It was a weird movie, but I loved it. I also got pretty into artists like Emilie Autumn, Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls/Evelyn Evelyn, and a few other eclectic groups. A few years later, I’d end up falling in love with Bousman and Zdunich’s next collaboration, The Devil’s Carnival, a short film about a carnival, run by the devil, that forces sinners to relive their sins over and over again in a carnival setting. It featured a soundtrack (written by Zdunich and Saar Hendelman) that was very inspired by circus and carnival music. A few years earlier, I’d really vibed with another circus-themed album: Circus of Alice by Madison Chase. Billed as a concept album in the genre of chamber pop/creepy pop, Circus of Alice was the first (and currently only) album from Madison Chase, an artist currently based out of LA., and told the story of a young girl named Alice and her experiences in a creepy circus.
A new Fall Out Boy album has been released, which means it’s time for me to revisit my days as a pop-punk kid! Released by Island Records and DCD2, Mania is the seventh studio album from Fall Out Boy and the followup to 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho. Mania features a runtime of 36 minutes and contains the songs “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea”, “The Last of the Real Ones”, “Hold Me Tight or Don’t”, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”, “Church”, “Heaven’s Gate”, “Champion”, “Sunshine Riptide (featuring Burna Boy)”, “Young and Menace”, and “Bishops Knife Trick”. (more…)
It never truly feels like Christmas for me unless there’s some kind of musical event in either the television or film world. Whether it’s a new movie musical for Hollywood or another one of those live musicals on TV (via NBC or FOX), a big part of my Christmas tradition nowadays is a new musical to watch and enjoy right before the big holiday. This year was no exception, bringing two musicals to my eyeballs. FOX just aired A Christmas Story Live! this past weekend (with a book by Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins and music and lyrics by the songwriting duo Pasek and Paul) and 20th Century Fox is releasing a new movie musical about P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame) directed by Michael Gracey, with a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and music and lyrics by Pasek and Paul. You might have noticed a theme there with both of this year’s big, new musical offerings: they both feature the music of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Fresh off their recent success with Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, Pasek and Paul have written original lyrics and music for The Greatest Showman as well as composing a new song for the live telecast of their 2012 Broadway musical A Christmas Story. (Also of note: one of last year’s big musical offerings, La La Land, also featured the lyrics of Pasek and Paul.) So with Pasek and Paul taking over my screens in both of the big new filmed musical offerings, I thought it worthwhile to give my thoughts on the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman (I haven’t seen the movie yet), FOX’s telecast of A Christmas Story Live!, and my general thoughts on the music of Pasek and Paul. (more…)
Today, Fall Out Boy dropped “Young and Menace”, the first single off their upcoming album M A N I A, released on September 15. I have a whole lot of mixed feelings about this song and its accompanying video. I wanted to like it, I really did. I have always had a soft spot for Fall Out Boy, especially their 2008 album Folie à Deux. But this song is just… weird. And not in a good way.
I mean, it’s not good. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good. Emma Watson really isn’t a strong singer. She’s trying, but she just doesn’t have the voice to pull off the role. Maybe watching her is better (I doubt it – I’ve never found her acting to be terribly strong, she has her moments and she’s not terrible by any means, but she’s also not great either). From the moment Watson starts singing, you can hear the autotune. I normally am not a person to even notice autotune (supposedly lots of things have been autotuned, and I rarely hear it), but Watson’s autotune was painfully noticeable from the first word. And it took me right out. Yeah, she looks the part of Belle and she’s star power, but she can’t sing the part of Belle. And that’s important.