10 Storytelling Songs of “Firsts”
Firsts. This is both my first time blogging seriously in English and my first article for NewMusicalTheatre.com – a website I’ve adored from the first time I set my eyes on it while browsing for contemporary music sheets. So I thought it would be the right time and a great tribute to talk about firsts… and first times.
Contemporary musical theater is to me the most relevant style to grasp the realness and honesty of life, through storytelling that is relatable to everyone and great musical writing. So many songs have managed to capture the tick-tocking flow of contrasting feelings, thoughts and the urgency that runs through our heads whilst experiencing new things for the first time – may they bring anticipation, joy, fear, disappointment or wonder.
As an actor I am constantly looking for quality material that allows room both to explore and inject personal experience, making the character relatable to the audience, yet personal. And every time I stumble into a new contemporary piece I am simply amazed by how the writers/composers manage to articulate in less than 5 minutes the universal journeys of self-discovery, life and growing-up in such an accurate speech level and a moving way.
So here is a list of great songs of universal “firsts,” or other landmark life events, that completely resonated with me and offer the opportunity to act out the emotional intensity of dealing with these new situations through a great build-up of feelings and thoughts.
1. (Almost) First Kiss
The melody and vocals of “Almost First Kiss” by Carner & Gregor captures the butterfly-like feeling of the character, as she experiences emotions from amazement to excitement and expectancy.
and I tingled from expectancy and more
See also: Kooman & Dimond, “I Think He Likes Me”
2. & 3. THE First:
I really cannot tell if I’m more thrilled the genuine awkwardness and confusion of the situation or moved by the overload of cuteness provided by this piece. The only sure thing is that with “Pinch Me,” Drew Gasparini perfectly illustrates each possible thought going through these two high schoolers’ minds when they wake up from their first night together.
F**k what is this feeling, I hope this feeling never goes away
I could not resist doubling in this category to rightfully include a gem from the Book of Mormon: the duet “Baptize Me,” which through perfect writing and timing seemingly turns this act into a first sexual encounter. The sincerity and raw reactions of the two characters concerned is simply delightful to witness.
4. First Time Admitting You’re in Love:
Two songs, “Dear Lucy” and “Dear Tom,” are the perfect match. The follow-up with these two characters (#2) speaking right out from their hearts, reflecting on their path from friendship to love and getting to admit their feelings is extremely moving and topped up by amazing vocals.
I must as well admit I’m in love with Drew Gasparini’s lyrics and musical writing, which perfectly renders the complexity of searching for the right words leading up to saying these 3 little words. His writing manages to encompass the overwhelming anxiety of scaring of the other person or getting no answer back which leads to Tom’s great patter section (2:30) mirroring with Lucy’s (5:40), that contrasts greatly with the slower parts and the amazing money notes in both of these songs. (And yes, I am also obsessed with these talented two. Their acting, vocals and chemistry on stage are impressive.)
5. Time to Move Out:
“Don’t Wanna Be Here” by Adam Gwon explores in a really comedic yet absolutely sincere way the process of moving away from a small town to college life, dealing with your future and having your expectations fall short.
6. First Survival Job:
“Starbucks” by Michael Mahler illustrates with a comedic twist the high motivation and expectation towards getting your first own day job and stop being a financial burden to your parents, until…
“wanna work at Starbuck until I become a star”
Yet, as anybody may have experienced in reality, that temp job can end up being not so temporary, and your dream quickly falls short as perfectly pictured in the the wonderful “Temp Job” by Carner & Gregor from Island Song.
7. First Time Dealing With Work Drama:
There comes a time when you’ll just be fed up or fail at work or (let’s not hope it) maybe get fired. “My Life is Over” reflects on what Kerrigan-Lowdermilk’s character refers to as her “quarter-life crisis” and the issue of starting over again in life. The piano accompaniment and writing fully helps expressing the stressful situation and frustration of the character.
8. Making Compromises
Well, once you’re past the honeymoon phase of the relationship (see number 4), you might have to lie for the first time and lie again. “Good Thing He Can’t Read my Mind” by Christine Lavin takes on the issue of what you’d do for love up to lying to please and taking in everything until you burst out.
9. Time to Let Go…
But when some issues cannot be sorted and despite love compromising is no longer possible, it might be best for your own sake to let go and leave. “I’m Not Afraid” deals with realization and decision-making, the theme of the song cycle it is excerpted from (Songs for a New World, by Jason Robert Brown).
10. …and Stand Up For Yourself
Pretty self-explanatory: it’s time to stand up for yourself, take a leap of faith and defy gravity. “Watch me Soar” by Scott Alan is a great piece affirming growth through making choices.
What are your favorite storytelling songs of “firsts”?