What Makes a Good Musical Song? | MUSICAL THEATRE W/ MY FAMILY!

Guten morgen, leute! So, technically, I was supposed to write up this post for yesterday, but I didn’t end up being able to get my sister to sit down and answer my interview question so until after my post yesterday went up. So, here’s my second “Musical Theatre w/ My Family!” post! This week? Well, we’re talking about what we think makes a good musical song. So… you’ll get to find out a little about my family member’s favorite songs from musicals and in general what they think the ingredients for a good song are! I did my best to get what they said down word-for-word but… well… I didn’t catch everything, especially when it came to my siblings. But… los geht’s!

MOM (46 yrs.)

“There’s definitely got to be some spunk to it, I think. You know… the song’s got to be fun. And there has to be something about it that sticks out. I think that a lot of what makes me fall in love with a song is what’s going on during the song and the emotions expressed in the song. But there’s definitely something enchanting about a tune that you can’t get out of your mind!”

I asked my mom about her favorite songs and she mentioned “Starlight Express” (STARLIGHT EXPRESS), “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (LES MIZ), “MUSIC OF THE NIGHT” (PHANTOM), “Masquerade” (PHANTOM), “Dancing Through Life” (WICKED), “Race” (STARLIGHT EXPRESS), and “Hello, Dolly!” (HELLO, DOLLY!).

For the most part, my mom’s choices for her favorite songs were pretty closely aligned with what she said in her answer to my question. My mom’s love of musicals largely comes from the spectacle of musicals and the experience of live theatre. Most of the songs that she picked out here have a lot going on with them scenically onstage. Some people might wonder where “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” fits into the picture. Well… that would go all the way back to last April when we saw the revival production of LES MIZ on Broadway and we were both just utterly blown away by the way the scene played out!

DAD (44 yrs.)

“Well, as with everything, emotion is key. And a good melody. But you know me, I like classical music. So… to me, if it’s got a really pretty classical tune to carry it along, I don’t think it can go wrong. But lyrics are immensely important and can make or break a song for me. And I think that strong interaction with the audience is important too. If the song makes the audience respond physically with laughter, tears, or smiles, you’ve definitely gone right.”

After that answer, I went on to ask my dad about what some of his favorite songs are from musicals. The songs he mentioned were “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” (PHANTOM), “With One Look” (SUNSET BOULEVARD), “As Long as He Needs Me” (OLIVER!), “On My Own” (LES MIZ), “I Dreamed a Dream” (LES MIZ), “Bring Him Home” (LES MIZ), “Being in Love” (THE MUSIC MAN), “Climb Every Mountain” (THE SOUND OF MUSIC), “Happiness” (SCROOGE), and “Träum Groß” (SCHIKANEDER).

In general, I thought that this was pretty interesting to me. All of the songs that he chose were pretty reflective of what he said in his response to my question. And a lot of those songs are renowned for being great songs in musical theatre! In general, I’d say that my dad’s response was pretty solid. I don’t think that I’d disagree with anything he said.

ME

Personally, I think that to make a truly stunning song, you need a combination of a whole lot of things like emotion, spectacle, beautiful lyrics, beautiful melody, and a story behind the words! All of those things work together to create a masterpiece, I think!

Some of my favorite songs from musicals are (and this a very, very shortened list…): “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (LES MIZ), “On My Own” (LES MIZ), “All I Ask of You” (PHANTOM), “Elisabeth, Mach Auf” (ELISABETH), “Der Schleier Fällt” (ELISABETH), “Tanz Durch die Welt” (WICKED), and “For Good” (WICKED).

MY SISTER (13 yrs.)

“That is a really bad question for you to ask me. I just like music in general. But if you want an answer… probably a good, catchy beat and good lyrics?”

As I did with the others, I asked for some of her favorite songs and she cited: “Drink With Me” (LES MIZ), “The Rum Tum Tugger” (CATS), and “Dancing Through Life” (WICKED).

In general, I’m not sure if this was the most fruitful answer I got from my family. But… I guess it’s still of value. But I can’t say that I’m surprised. My sister just likes music… like she said. She could really care less what it was as long as it’s not something classical (much to my dad and I’s dismay and to my mother and my brother’s triumph…). And I mean, catchiness and easiness to learn the lyrics is important in making a successful musical. It’s no good if people can’t remember a single lyric or tune. So… yeah!

MY BROTHER (11 yrs.)

“I don’t really think about this sort of thing very much. But I guess that I like fun music. And I like music that sticks in my head. And I guess characters are important too. In all of the musicals that I’ve seen, the characters and the impressions they leave on me are what makes me even care about the music.”

And for his favorite songs? “If I Were a Rich Man” (THE FIDDLER ON THE ROOF), “Javert’s Suicide / Soliloquy” (LES MIZ), “ABC Café / Red and Black” (LES MIZ), “Tradition” (THE FIDDLER ON THE ROOF), “Thank You Very Much” (SCROOGE), “In the Sky” (INTO THE WOODS), “Wonderful” (WICKED), and “Defying Gravity” (WICKED).

This was much more responsive than I expected from my brother. Usually my brother is less than enthusiastic about musicals but he actually answered my question pretty thoroughly! (Needless to say, I was so elated that I went out and bought him some doughnuts for breakfast tomorrow!) I think that my brother brought up a really valid point in saying that connection to the characters is essential to make someone care about the music in the first place!

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So, that was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed making this post and interviewing my family about this. I was glad to see how responsive they were and they brought up some really good points! So… a big “thank you” to them!

Anyways, what do you think makes a good song in a musical? Let me know!

Tschüss!

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10 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Musical Song? | MUSICAL THEATRE W/ MY FAMILY!

  1. Wow, that is a tough question. For me, I guess like you it is a combination of things. I want be moved by a musical song and want emotion to be expressed as well. I tend to look for the exciting numbers which start out slowly and eventually speed up. I first judge the melody, than the lyrics. It is the lyrics which truly bring out the emotion. If I cannot fall in love with the song, than there is no way I can fall in love with the musical or even the emotions of the song

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    1. 100% agree! I kinda like what my brother said about how also, a certain caring about the characters brings about a caring for their songs. I’d never really thought of it before, and I was shocked that my brother actually answered, considering he’s not that big into musical theatre. But I think there is certain truth to that. Personally, before I actually got to know the characters in Wicked, I didn’t care very much about their songs. That was back when I had only listened to the CD but never seen the show. After actually seeing the show, somehow the songs became a lot more enjoyable to me!

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      1. I commonly associate musical with those exciting dance numbers and was the kind of song I remembered the most growing up.

        I am always surprised by just how many melodies exist in musical. The number of things a musical is about is crazy. The levels of emotions are unbelievable. If I don’t love the songs, I cannot even fall in love with the characters or even the plots.

        Out of everything, I feel like the songs are more important than anything because that is where a musical’s heart comes come and is where the main emotions come out

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      2. Yeah, I agree! While I do appreciate a good story, I always am pretty critical about whether or not the songs intrigued me when it comes to a musical. The other day my dad and I were having a similar conversation about one of his favorite musicals. It was one that I personally couldn’t really get into. The plot was good, but when the musical came to a close, I only remembered one of the songs. I think that when it comes to musicals, it’s the songs, not the plot, that really make or break a musical for me

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      3. Definitely and usually by the end of the first act, I know if I love the musical or not. The songs are more important than the plot. The emotions in the songs are to me the emotions that a musical consists of and tend to be less into the emotions of the non-sung moments

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      4. Yeah. The other day in one of my writing circles, I heard two of the members talking about how they’d just watched the movie version of Les Miz and were upset about there being very little talking! I restrained myself, but man… I could have gone into a presentation about how the songs in Les Miz carry the most emotional weight and that in musicals in general, songs carry the emotional load far more than speaking line (And also the fact that they were watching a musical and that songs and singing are kind of a part of that too)!

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      5. Yep. Somehow I felt like going over there and explaining that to them would just get me some blank stares. I was seriously about to say “But it’s a MUSICAL. They’re SUPPOSED to be singing–it wasn’t an accident or something that they were singing throughout the whole thing.” I might’ve not been too into Les Miz the very first time I watched it–I was kind of just left thinking “What?” by the end–but I never expected someone not to like it because “they were singing too much.”

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      6. It is so difficult being a musical fan at times. I am sometimes asked aren’t you tired of Les Mis due to always feel heartbroken all the time while watching it or in the case of Rent when I confess that I love it, I am looked at with blank faces and confusion. I understand musicals so well

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      7. Definitely agree. And then there are also people who are shocked when they hear I haven’t watched some really popular musicals. My response to those comments is usually “I’m getting around to that one–haven’t got the chance to see it yet!” or “Meh, I just am not too interested in that one.” That second response always gets the person to practically jump out of their chairs and say “You can’t be a musical fan if you haven’t seen that one!” Which, to me, is ridiculous. I mean, take, for example, a fan of movies. Can you expect them to have seen all movies ever made? No, of couse not! And I think it’s ridiculous to think that people expect that everyone is going to be super hyped about the next big thing. It’s all just pretty crazy and ridiculous.

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