Monday, August 19, 2013

My Favorite Lyrics, Part 1

Just a quick segment for Musical Mondays, since I didn't have much time to set up a "Fine, Fine Line" or "Six Songs" this week.

The Last 5 Years is, hands down, my favorite musical of all time. It's intimate, intricate, and heartbreaking; unexpected adjectives when describing a musical. But Jason Robert Brown's two-person series of solos manages to be all three.

The songs are beautiful, confessional, and the few times I've gotten to see it in my life, it's always wonderfully acted, by two strong performers.
I have to allow myself time to listen to it, dually meaning that 1) I have to take a break and psyche myself up to listen to the album, because it completely destroys me by the end and 2) I have to listen to the whole album when I do listen to it; I can't listen to one song, I have to experience the complete emotional journey, that's the only peace I find from it all. It's that important to me.
L5Y follows the 5-year relationship of a couple: Jamie and Cathy, as they go from first date, to marriage, and their slow descent to divorce. The two trade off solo songs as we see the relationship progress; the twist is that Jamie's songs move forward in time, while Cathy's move backward.
Honestly, if you haven't listened to it yet, this post is going to make close to no sense for you. If you have heard it or seen it, then please to enjoy!

These are my favorite lyrics from the show:
“I've found my guiding light, I tell the stars each night:
Look at me, look at him!
Son of a bitch, I guess I'm doing something right!
I finally got something right.”
- Cathy, Summer in Ohio
Summer in Ohio's mostly a fun song, lots of jokes about Cathy's summerstock shows, and yet, she manages this little bit of poetry. Arguably, JRB wrote the more poetic songs for Cathy, as you'll see later on in this top 10.

“Jamie is over and where can I turn?
Covered with scars I did nothing to earn."
- Cathy, Still Hurting
Both Cathy's first song (this one) and her last one ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow") are fantastically poetic and full of vivid imagery. I love this two-line entry, though, because it's a great character moment too: Cathy also constantly paints herself the victim throughout the show.

“There are so many lives I want to share with you,
I will never be complete until I do.”
- Jamie, The Next Ten Minutes
Obviously, I love the wording of this lyric, as I do all of them. But just the idea that all our moments in life are lives in and of themselves is fantastic. And it's always said that a joyful experiencing is made twofold when shared. There's also something poignant about this being during the one song the two sing together. There are a couple places where they sing at the same time, but they're singing different songs, this is the only one they share the same melody as well as occupy the same point in time.

“I could never rescue you.
All you ever wanted, but I could never rescue you
No matter how I tried.
All I could do was love you hard, and let you go.
No matter how I tried,
All I could do was love you, God, I loved you so.
So we could fight
Or we could wait
Or I could go...”
- Jamie, I Could Never Rescue You
The talent of JRB is his ability to fit so much character into his lyrics. Everything adds so much. Like I was saying earlier about Cathy's lyric, this one gives some insight into Jamie. I do believe that both characters are being as honest with themselves as they are with us. When Jamie says "I loved you so," I believe him. This isn't a simple musical, it's not easy, and it's not always clear. It's realistic in that sense, and it's moments like these that break your heart.

“Will you share your life with me
For the next ten lifetimes,
(Forever, Jamie…)
For a million summers
’Til the world explodes,
’Til there's no one left
Who has ever known us apart?”
- Jamie & (Cathy), The Next Ten Minutes
It's a fascinating thought, to reach a point where no one remembers you not together. While in the real world, I am an advocate of having your own identity, and maintaining that in a relationship, there is a romantic side to the idea of being so linked to another person that the world around you is not only aware of it, but does not think of you otherwise.

“If I didn't believe in you, we'd never have gotten this far.
If I didn't believe in you, and all of the ten thousand women you are.
If I didn't think you could do anything you ever wanted to,
If I wasn't certain that you'd come through, somehow
The fact of the matter is, Cathy, I wouldn't be standing here now.”
- Jamie, If I Didn’t Believe In You
This lyric comes from my favorite song in the show, which at its heart, is an incredibly complicated feeling that is not easy to convey within a song. It's not something to be sung about. It's this odd mix of pride and shame, of selfless admiration and selfish ego; even now, I find it hard to explain in words, but I am more than aware of having felt it for a person I've loved. I think that's why this song hits a nerve with more than anything else in the show. This song may be the closest anyone gets to explaining it.

“Some people analyze every detail,
Some people stall when they can't see the trail,
Some people freeze out of fear that they'll fail,
But I keep rolling on.
Some people can't get success with their art,
Some people never feel love in their heart,
Some people can't tell the two things apart,
But I keep rolling on.”
- Jamie, Moving Too Fast 
It's all right there, I don't have to explain too much about it. Every line of this is just fantastic, it's ridiculous.

“If I didn't believe in you, then here's where the travelogue ends.
If I didn't believe in you, I couldn't have stood before all of our friends
And said, ‘This is the life I choose.
This is the thing I can't bear to lose.
Trip us or trap us, but we refuse to fall.’
That's what I thought we agreed on.
Cathy, if I hadn't believed in you, I wouldn't have loved you at all.”
- Jamie, If I Didn’t Believe In You
Adding on to #5, this is Jamie driving his point home even more. It's a heartbreaking moment, but romantic all at once. Again, very difficult to explain, but a distinctively human characteristic of a very complex emotion like love.

“I stand on a precipice.
I struggle to keep my balance.
I open myself, I open myself one stitch at a time.”
- Cathy, Goodbye Until Tomorrow
Again, I love Cathy's poetry. Such fantastic imagery here. And there's a multitude of ways to portray the final line: it suggests a painful process to be sure. But is she talking about how guarded she normally is and how she is slowly opening herself up to Jamie? Or is this something she is enjoying, something she is trying to savor, and taking away one awful stitch from an old and healing scar because she is loving the thrill and newfound liberation?

“Take a breath,
Take a step,
Take a chance,
Take your time.
Have I mentioned today how lucky I am to be in love with you?”
- Jamie, The Schmuel Song
In the end, it is childish romance and hopeless optimism that overtakes me, and keeps this simple lyric at the top of my list and the top of my heart. Gifting Cathy with a watch, he urges her to go back to acting, and pursue it with all her heart. Then he ends it with a profession of love, a lyric worthy of all the great musical theatre love songs.