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to Groundhog’s Day introduces us to the ornery Phil Conners, the news reporter who continuously relives the same day as originally made famous by Bill Murray.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.

  1. “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

 

 

Best of January 2015 Playlist

A playlist of the best songs from January for your listening pleasure.

Sleater-Kinney “Price Tag”

I talked about this release a little bit last week, this song–the album opener–is lead by Corin Tucker’s aggressive vocals as she attacks the song, a repeated riff lines the background, and the drums pound away. The song touches on the cost of getting things for cheap–probably music most of all.

The Decemberists “Philomena”

The latest album by The Decemberists seemed mediocre at best upon first listen, but “Philomena”‘s pure and relentless folk poppiness is a real heart melter. It’s doo-wop stylings are a great throwback, even if it doesn’t hide it’s impure intentions as well as songs from that era did.

Panda Bear “Crosswords”

Noah Benjamin Lennox’s work in Animal Collective and as Panda Bear is divisive–it’s often eclectic and experimental, but Lennox is capable of creating amazing melodies, often being compared to Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame. Here, Lennox creates a dreamy melody backed by the psychadelic samplings he’s known for.

Kanye West with Paul McCartney “Only One”

This song is perhaps more famous for the memes about McCartney that it inspired after its New Year’s release date, but Kanye’s return to stripped down auto-tune is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a song about his daughter, from the perspective of his mother and though Kanye is known partially for his sincerity, he’s never made anything as beautifully honest as this.

Rihanna with Kanye West and Paul McCartney

Apparently Kanye and McCartney are making a tour around pop music this year and so far the results have been wonderful. Rihanna’s song is stripped down, lead by an acoustic guitar, giving it a sense of importance and honesty that again hits this sort of beautiful note. The song is pretty simple lyrically, which–because of the way it is presented musically–actually makes it work quite well. There is a world where this song is backed by some sort of David Guetta EDM beat and this world is awful; I’m giving credit to McCartney–who I assumed made the musical decisions here–for putting this thing together.

Joey BADA$$ “Christ Conscious”

This track features BADA$$ going hard–I know I’m not the typical crowd for a song like this, the sort of braggadocio that a lot of hip hop is known for–but BADA$$ absolutely goes for it here. The song is essentially three minutes of him (explicitly) telling the listener that he uses the mic like a gun, slaying people everywhere.

Top 75 Songs of the Year (50-31)

These next 20 on the top 75 songs of the year include a couple of the years indie pop hits (Lorde, Capital Cities), some great hip-hop (Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, Big Sean, Earl Sweatshirt, Kanye), guitar driven rock by the ladies (Paramore, Neko Case), indie rock that decides to go big (Arcade Fire, Typhoon), as well as small (Daughter, Volcano Choir, Rhye, London Grammar). These songs are a portrait of my musical tastes this year, stay tuned for the top 30.

50 “Lonely” by Danny Brown

49. “Electric Lady” by Janelle Monae feat. Solange

48. “Nothing is Stopping You” by Big Sean

47. “Favorite Song” by Chance the Rapper feat. Childish Gambino

46. “Tiderays” by Volcano Choir

45. “This is the Last Time” by The National

44. “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities

43. “Human” by Daughter

42. “Man” by Neko Case

41. “Side A [Old]” by Danny Brown

40. “Open” by Rhye

39. “[One of Those] Crazy Girls” by Paramore

38. “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt

37. “New Slaves” by Kanye West

36. “Royals” by Lorde

35. “Demons” by The National

34. “Here Comes the Night Time” by Arcade Fire

33. “Artificial Light” by Typhoon

32. “Pusher Love Girl” by Justin Timberlake

31. “Strong” by London Grammar

The Top 30 Songs of 2011

Not much to say other than these are my top 30 songs of the year. There are 22 different artists. The most songs by 1 artist is 3. Check the playlist out on Spotify: The Best Songs of 2011

30. “Hunter” by Sainthood Reps

29. “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars

28. “Never Let Me Go” by Florence and the Machine

27. “When Death Dies” by Gungor

26. “Virtue” by Gideon

25. “White Owl” by Josh Garrels-Not on Spotify, so not included in the playlist. Check it out here. Also check out his fantastic album “Love and War and the Sea in Between” for FREE here

24. “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes

23. “Lippy Kids” by Elbow

22. “Vice Verses” by Switchfoot

21. “To Whom it May Concern” by The Civil Wars

20. “Royal Blue” by Cold War Kids

19. “Simple Math” by Manchester Orchestra

18. “Lay Down” by O’Brother

17. “Words in the Water” by Thrice

16. “Life’s a Happy Song” by Jason Segel and Walter

15. “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart” by Thursday

14. “Certain” by Set Your Goals

13. “Towers” by Bon Iver

12. “Bizness” by tUnE-YaRdS

11. “Blinded” by Thrice

The Top 10

10. “Only if For a Night” by Florence and the Machine-Florence’s voice telling this tale of some ghostlike lover/friend that may or may not have died which all might be a dream makes you able to forgive her for telling such a confusing story and even actually care about whatever it is she is talking about.

9. “Deer” by Manchester Orchestra-A stripped down song basically showcasing Andy Hull’s amazing voice while simultaneously questioning God and his marriage. It is heartfelt and wonderful.

8. “Holiday Makers” by Sainthood Reps-The opening riff and vocals are just so slick and catchy and smooth that it’s impossible not to like, well I think so anyway.

7. “Old Balloons” by Admiral Fallow-It starts slow with its piano and picking and builds into a rompin’ blast of a song.

6. “June Hymn” by The Decemberists-As the title shows, this is the Decemberists version of a hymn, an acoustic harmonica riddled ballad about the past.

5. “Four Bulbs” by Admiral Fallow-A definite part of my calm down playlist as it is one of the most soothing songs I heard all year. Definitely has a depressing tone to it, but at the same time feels really reflective and full of meaning.

4. “Someone Like You” by Adele-I love a sad song and Adele absolutely nails the sad song here. The sad piano, the internal argument, the power and emotion in her voice all make it great. Kind of hated that it became such a huge hit, because it made it feel as if she was cheating on me by expressing her sorrows to the rest of the world and not just me. It’s okay Adele, I’ll be here when you record your next break up song. NOTE: Apparently Adele’s whole album has been taken from Spotify, so it is not on the playlist.

3. “A Candle’s Fire” by Beirut-A perfect Beirut song, with horns, acoustic guitar, a gypsy tone, lead by Zach Condon’s booming deep voice. It has a strange similarity to “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” which is an awesome song, so it works.

2. “Perth” by Bon Iver-It’s so small, yet reaches the highest of highs from it’s soft opening to it’s grand musical crescendo with drums and horns. This intro to the album hooked me from its first few moments and lead the way for what is one of the best albums of the year.

1. “Virgin” by Manchester Orchestra-A grand scaled creepy ode to keeping a marriage together that slowly builds toward an epic children’s choir lead all the way by Andy Hull’s passionate quivering voice. Stands alone as the song of the year.