7 “Top 40” Songs for Your Audition Book
Having witnessed my fair share of musical theatre auditions, I've come to realize that it's a lot harder to choose a contemporary pop song to present than we may assume.
I see a lot of actors gravitate towards older pop anthems like "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and while potentially riveting, the choice does feel dated to those of us sitting behind the table. There's obviously a lot of fear to, for example, sing the newest Adele song at an audition, because who wants to compete with Adele? However, on the flip side, how many more times can we hear you sing Sara Bareilles’ "Gravity"?
Good news, though! There are fantastic and fresh pop songs to add to your book that you can make your own – songs that will impress, surprise and delight your panel. Here, in my opinion (and in no particular order), are a few Top 40 gems to consider putting your own spin on for your next big audition:
1. "Lovely" by Sara Haze. Maybe I'm partial to this song because I too have a lyric called "Lovely" and am down for that word choice, but I doubt that's truly the reason I enjoy this number as a pop ballad to bring into the room. It's a gorgeous, smoky approach to a self-acceptance song, and allows a riff-diva (or divo) to put his or her mark on those vocal slides. I saw it performed at an audition recently, and I legit almost cried, so there's also that.
2. "I Really Like You" by Carly Rae Jepsen. Yup, dead serious. The lyrics have great potential for some comedic acting choices, and the melody will certainly showcase your ability to sing pop. Essentially, if you were thinking about going into your audition with Whitney's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," consider this instead.
3. "Hollow" by Tori Kelly. I mean, if you can sing this song and do those licks justice, YOU ARE LIVING. It would seriously knock my socks off if someone came in with this challenging vocal, made powerful acting choices, and killed the riffs. Callback city, guys.
4. "Honey, I'm Good" by Andy Grammer. Now, I saw this used at an audition recently, and it was hilarious. The actor chose to be caught between the two women in the song, and acted the hell out of it. It was GREAT, and proved that an otherwise unassuming jig can become wonderful performance material.
5. "Jealous" by Nick Jonas. Okay, don't roll your eyes. This song is ill, and if done right, it can slay in the audition room. Dudes with falsetto, I'm lookin' at you. It may be a little trickier to make compelling acting choices, but I have faith in you.
6. "If I Could Change Your Mind" by HAIM. These lyrics are unexpectedly delicious for an actor to tackle. Hello, you're asking to change your lover's mind, so there you go. There is instant activity, an energized melody, and a wickedly fun rhythm. I guarantee no one else is bringing this in, so wow the panel with your originality.
7. "All You Had to Do Was Stay" by Taylor Swift – OR the Ryan Adams cover. Either version inspires a bunch of feels, and there are a multitude of artistic choices to be made here. I’m partial to Ryan’s cover because it’s just so dang good, but Tay is my queen. In my opinion, either rendition is bold, and neither one is likely to be heard frequently on the audition circuit.
So! I hope this was somewhat helpful and will encourage any of you ah-mazing performers out there to perhaps consider exploring some fresh Top 40 to add to your book. If you choose to take on any of these bad boys, I’d love to see your YouTube covers, so seriously tweet me, or yunno, whatever. Now, go sing some pop tunes!