Top 10 New Musical Theatre Songs That Are Not Love Songs (in no particular order)
Don’t get me wrong, I love me a love song. But after one too many vocal coachings, concert plannings, and/or friends in need of new book options that ended up with an endless parade of one sad long break-up song after another, I decided to make an active effort to seek out some more varied fare. Whether this is you too or you just like spending way too much time on YouTube listening to awesome people singing awesome songs, read on!
Trust me, you’ve been here. If you live in New York, if you’ve ever had a dream, if you wake up in the morning and get out of bed and have any sort of interaction with the outside world, sooner or later you will have a day exactly like this. But if my problems sounded like Carner and Gregor songs, I wouldn’t even mind having them. Imagine, if you will, that Cole Porter and Verdi had a baby, and that baby ran away to join the circus, except the circus was a rock stadium. Try to tell me you don’t want that baby scoring your life and issues and I will tell you that you are a liar and you will be forced to admit to it, because their songs are epic and gorgeous.
Also by Carner and Gregor: “MAKE IT HERE”, the boy-side of this coin. Got a dream? Got a dad that won’t support it? Got flawless rhythm and impeccable diction? This song is the catharsis you’ve been craving.
Not only does the singer of this song sing a song that’s not a love song (try saying that ten times fast), she sings it in direct conversation to her best female friend. Bechdel Test: check plus, gold star, would buy again. And don’t we all wish we had a level-headed friend like this to kick us in the ass with a sugar-free pep talk when necessary?
Also by Salzman and Cunningham: “MANHATTAN BRIDGE”, by the same character from the same show, is another song about being in love with, but eventually becoming disillusioned by, New York City and her soul-sucking ways. Yeah, you totally know how that goes. But as long as we’re here, all of Next Thing You Know is definitely worth a listen — it’s got some harmonies you would skin an adorable defenseless puppy for. (That’s right, even YOU.)
I mean, I guess you could argue that this is a break-up ballad, but this certainly is not your baby sister’s prom night sob story. (Or maybe it is, I don’t know your life.) Ryan Scott Oliver says this one’s a song he’s particularly proud of: “It is the cross-section of accessible musical styling, intricate arranging, and satisfying storytelling — the things I like to do best!” And doesn’t he pull them off so well? Dark and twisty gloriousness.
Also by Ryan Scott Oliver: “SARAH FITCHNER”, which you should only consider tackling if you’ve made peace with your middle school years and/or were a secure, together enough person at twelve to begin with, in which case I probably hate you, but whatever. Imagine Janis Ian (Mean Girls, not the folk singer/science fiction author) singing this and cheer double hard for its triumphant emotional climax.
I might relate a bit too much to this song. I might get a cat just to make it complete. I might reconsider its place on this list, actually, because it’s most definitely a love song, or turns into one by the end — about the crazy things we do for the ones we love, and the craziness that comes with the absence of love in our lives. I don’t know, guys, it’s just beautiful. Give it a listen and try not to feel your heart swell twelve sizes.
Also by Joe Iconis: “BROADWAY, HERE I COME!”, which is currently available in male, female, and Jeremy Jordan keys, so there is actually something for everyone. Yeah. This song is the great equalizer of new musical theatre. It is Switzerland. It is Jennifer Lawrence faceplanting at the Oscars. It is a Key Lime Pie cookie from Schmackary’s, except it’s ready to love you all year round unlike those pesky seasonal flavors. That’s right, this song is better than Schmackary’s.
This isn’t (quite?) a love song either, but it’s still kind of uncomfortably sexy. Is the secret hidden lesson to be learned that all songs are love songs, one way or another? Is every story indeed a love story? Are we getting off track here? The track is, it’s a great song. My friends who hate musical theatre want to sing this song. And if you’re looking for something to vary up your book a little, a serial killer singing to his stalker about the pseudo-sex dreams he’s been having is kind of out there, right?
Also by Drew Gasparini: “THE SONG ABOUT ORDERING FURNITURE”, which is basically the opposite of a love song except it’s not a break-up song. Or is it? Drew Gasparini has a brilliant way of turning minor everyday inconveniences into bottomless comedy gold, and this song is a prime example of that.
As you may or may not have heard but really probably should have, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk are working on a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV (both parts because that’s how hardcore they are) set in 1970s Northern Ireland. “Rise” is basically Hal’s first soliloquy in the form of a badass rocking baritone showstopper, and it is exactly as hot as that sounds.
Also by Kerrigan-Lowdermilk: “ANYWAY”, which I’m pretty sure every single person I have ever spoken to has had on repeat since NYMF. It’s gorgeous and wrenching and Emma Hunton will ruin you. I can’t even talk about it, just listen.
I think Fugitive Songs might be the perfect album to give someone who thinks they hate musical theatre. If I could drive I’d take it on a road trip. Correction: I would learn to drive and buy (probably steal) a car so I could go on a road trip, just for this album, and also because I read Kerouac at an impressionable age and it never quite let me go. While most definitely still story songs that feel inherently theatrical, Miller and Tysen could probably fool you into thinking you’re just listening to the latest and greatest pop-folk act on the scene with their clever guitars and gorgeous harmonies, like a less life-ruining but no less awesome version of the Civil Wars.
Also by Miller and Tysen: “GROWING UP”, because how perfect is the line “I found drinking / No, drinking found me”?
Confession: first time I heard this song, I cried. And every single time I heard it after that for years, I cried some more. Sometimes it came up on shuffle and I’d be choking back tears on the subway or in the library. It got weird. Probably explains why I had no friends, which may or may not also have to do with why this song hit so hard with me. I have an older brother, which isn’t the same but close enough — but I also had a lot of friends in middle school who grew up just a bit too fast for me to keep up with. Let’s face it: everyone’s been friend dumped, and chances are you’ve dumped a friend too. It sucks on both sides. There is so much confusion and frustration and, yes, love in this song. It’s simple and honest and all the more wretched for it. It’s a beautiful thing. Listen to it and call your sister while you’re posting it on her Facebook wall so you can listen to her listening to it and then cry together.
Also by Pasek and Paul: “BOY WITH DREAMS”, because a dream is like a gimmick: you gotta get one if you wanna get ahead.
What better way to display your versatility and range than a comedic monologue from an unflappable grandma? Seriously, this woman is pretty badass. I’d hang out with her and trade scandalous stories all night long. Drew Fornarola frequently writes songs for and about sassy ladies who are smart and strong, which pretty much makes him the Joss Whedon of new musical theatre. Let’s just hope he doesn’t kill off all our loved ones too.
Also by Drew Fornarola: “THE VOTING SONG”, because seriously guys? I’m not even a citizen and I’m embarrassed by this.
10. “CIGARETTE” by Sam Salmond
If you’re a female musical theatre performer despairing that you’re more acty than belty, invest yourself in Sam Salmond. I’ve heard exactly one song of his that didn’t make me laugh out loud, and that’s because it was depressing as hell, which is the next best thing; either way, they’re always fabulous character pieces, and he knows how to pack an emotional punch with some subtly beautiful melodies. Reinvent your cabaret persona and thank me with a check next quarter.
Also by Sam Salmond: “SECOND BEST”. Because the only thing worse than being bad is being second best.
Obviously, this is nowhere near a comprehensive list — it shouldn’t even be called a Top Ten, partly because it’s just whatever popped into mind first and mostly because there are actually twenty. So hey, help me fill it out: what are some of your favorite non-love NMT songs?