Top 10 Broadway Songs of 2016-17
The Tony Awards are this weekend, wrapping up Broadway’s season of shows, in an all night dedication to the year’s best theater. While the awards are the most conducive awards show to its form (live performances), I’ve always felt they need to add a best original song award. The Oscars manage to find three new original songs to award every year, why not add something to award the best song, which is ostensibly the highlight of most musicals anyway.
In the name of all things ranked, I decided I would come up with a list of the best songs, both for personal pleasure and to introduce what was out there this year. I experienced almost all of these from their soundtrack release, which is admittedly not fair to a lot of these shows which are enhanced when placed live on a stage and in the midst of a story, but this isn’t always possible (obviously).
This list was eligible to any new shows that were also Tony-eligible (no revivals), as well as any off-Broadway shows that were released in this time period. As it goes, not every Tony eligible show had a soundtrack released and thus could not be considered. That being the case, there are only four shows on this list and one that is featured very heavily, that’s just how this art form works.
I’ll link an Apple Music playlist at the end for you to enjoy.
10. “Halfway” from Amelie
This is the only show I’ve actually seen in person, so I am probably biased to enjoy it more than the others, but unlike critics and audiences, I found it an immense delight. “Halfway” is a duet between young and adult Amelie, reflecting on the lessons her mother taught her, lessons that were highly affecting, yet completely debilitating.
9. “Day One” from Groundhog’s Day
The opener to Groundhog’s Day introduces us to the ornery Phil Conners, the news reporter who continuously relives the same day as originally made famous by Bill Murray. Here, Conners contemplates his career as he suffers through what he sees as an absurd celebration in Punxsutawney–the epitome of small town America. It’s a ten-minute track that overviews the town, the main characters, and gives us the heart of Conners, a bitter man looking for something grander than what he’s got.
8. TIE “Words Fail” & “So Big/So Small” from Dear Evan Hansen
I couldn’t pick between the two emotional closers to Dear Evan Hansen, the former sees the protagonist coming to terms with the mistakes he’s made throughout the show, finally expressing his innermost thoughts about not having a father; the latter flips the script, examining these damages from the perspective of his mother. This is the best of Broadway, emotions expressed through heart wrenching song, what else can you ask for?
7. “Pierre” from Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812
The Great Comet is a little frustrating to listen to, there’s a lot going on (which is surely amplified by seeing it live), and the lyrics are almost entirely transcripts straight from Tolstoy’s “War & Peace”, which means there is little rhyming or pop conventions. The show is inventive with its meddled genres and high drama, but grows tiresome by the time the second act hits. “Pierre” follows the prologue, giving us a Josh Groan ballad complete with a Russian choir interjecting throughout, creating the standout track from the show (though “No One Else” is close).
6. “Times Are Hard For Dreamers” from Amelie
The single of sorts from Amelie is a fun, poppy introduction to Philippa Soo as adult Amelie. It’s catchy as can be, a piano driven track that actually has its own “pop version” on the soundtrack. It’s rare that Broadway songs break through into mainstream playlists, but one could easily sneak this into a driving playlist and no one would bat an eye.
5. “One Day” from Groundhog’s Day
While “Day One” gives us insight to Phil’s thoughts, “One Day” let’s us into coworker Rita’s struggles as a woman in the news industry, the objectification there, and her difficulties with love. She’s written a little too one-note, focusing acutely on her desires to find a good man, but Barrett Doss makes up for it with a great performance. It ends with the entire town expressing their dreams for tomorrow, heightened by the fact that Phil is having to live this ‘one day’ repeatedly and there is no tomorrow for him.
4. “Requiem” from Dear Evan Hansen
“Requiem” offers the unique perspective of a family mourning the loss of a member who they were all at odds with. Lead by Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss) asking why she should “play the grieving girl” if their relationship was something she never enjoyed. It’s a heartbreaking, but realistic look at family, heightened by the mix of lies and false hopes the characters have throughout the show. “When the villains fall, the kingdom never weeps.”
3. “Anybody Have a Map?” from Dear Evan Hansen
The show’s opener is essentially a duet between two mothers struggling with their sons and their life’s direction. It’s a deceitfully upbeat track, setting the tone for the murky waters that are to come. You’re going to have fun with this show, but you’re never quite sure how much fun you should be having. I’m not sure whether the show’s writers intended this to be the case, regardless, they know how to write some great songs.
2. “Sister’s Pickle” from Amelie
It picks up a motif we hear Amelie’s mother sing early on and introduces both the crush Amelie is developing on Nino, as well as the anxiety that will cripple her throughout the show. It’s a tiny track, but absolutely infectious, the height of what attracts you to Amelie, the altruistic ball of delight that she is.
- “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen
This was probably the big breakout track of the year, an acoustic driven bouncing and poppy track that introduces the world to Evan Hansen. The music and lyrics were written by Pasek & Paul, now famous for having written the lyrics to La La Land, “Window” is tonally opposite from the songs that made up that film. It’s the sort of song one can listen to endlessly, the single that makes this the show you should introduce your non-musical loving friends to and ultimately the best song to come out of musical theater in the last year.
Listen to the whole thing here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/top-10-broadway-songs-16-17/idpl.ff5c6294d0654027bc9a153eed1def65
Other good songs: “No One Else” from The Great Comet of 1812, “Stuck” from Groundhog’s Day, “Playing Nancy” from Groundhog’s Day, “If I Had My Time Again” from Groundhog’s Day, “The Bottle Drops” from Amelie, “For Forever” from Dear Evan Hansen, “28 Hours/Wherever We Are” from Come From Away