The world would be a better place if we would all move our lives’ plot points along by spontaneously breaking out into song and dance. And I think the swelling popularity of musicals in the last five or so years is pushing us in the right direction.
While one must give credit to Hamilton for the recent cross-over popularity in musical theatre, it’s hard for me to gauge actually how much musicals have really has penetrated the general population. You see, in my world, musical theatre has always been a constant. My day job is in the performing arts, I have two high school triple-threats living in my home, and I was raised by two Broadway-loving New Yorkers. Though that really means nothing because in the grand scheme of things the Annie Original Broadway Cast album came out when I was at a very impressionable elementary school age and THAT alone sealed my fate.
No matter how you feel about Glee, it was instrumental in blending pop and musical theatre into the mainstream and helped pave the way for greater acceptance. (Though I would like to argue that Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s “Once More With Feeling” in 2001 allowed TV to embrace and revitalize musicals in our modern era making Glee possible eight years later).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with pop meeting MT. That being said, I am mostly unhappy with the results as, I guess, a musical theatre purist. Take for example, The Hamilton Mixtape. No one was more excited than me for that album only to be crushed by it’s crappiness. This is not to bash Lin-Manuel Miranda in any way, because the music in Hamilton was made to work just as well on the stage as it would be on radio.
Which is exactly why there was no reason for Usher’s weak version of “Wait For It?” after Leslie Odom Jr. had already perfected it. And while as a big fan of hers, I appreciated the Regina Spektor version of “Dear Theodosia,” again it was not going to hold a candle to Odom Jr’s’ version. Sia, Jill Scott and Andra Day — also very talented, but underwhelming in comparison. Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown” and the Hamildrops of The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” and The Regrettes’ “Helpless” were, in my opinion, the only real saving graces in an otherwise failed experiment.
Benj Paske and Justin Paul’s Dear Evan Hansen befell a similar fate with their deluxe album additions. I’ll admit, I was very excited to hear Katy Perry’s “Waving Through A Window” only to realize I would never need to hear it again since the original was far far far superior.
So, yes, I was obviously so skeptical about The Greatest Showman Reimagined. Let’s face it, as much as I feel Kesha can do no wrong, her version of “This Is Me” released last year was moving on so many levels, but it never even touched Keala Settle’s vocal prowess and raw emotion. Come on stop trying to F with perfection, people.
But I’m coming around on as The Greatest Showman Reimagined as a whole. I think what the powers that be did right this time was reworking the already strong Paske and Paul songs to the tone and feeling of the cover artists instead of trying to pull pop stars up the caliber of professional musical theater powerhouses. And/or they simply chose artists who could carry out the task of acting through song. Case in point, Brendon Urie, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Bareilles — all singers who through personality and talent could dominate any staged production.
So, let’s break this new release down.
“The Greatest Showman” – Panic! At the Disco: According to my Apple Music stats this version has racked up as many plays as the Hugh Jackman original and I’ve only had it my rotation for two weeks. Brendon Urie’s voice is perfection and the added hardness of a rock edge just makes the song more dynamic and urgent.
“A Million Dreams” – P!nk: No tea, no shade, but P!nk is 100x better a singer than Michelle Williams — but can’t that be said about anyone compared to P!nk? While this automatically makes this the best version, I can’t not give P!nk credit for hitting every single flavor of the emotion in this song. If you don’t cry hearing this, you are dead inside.
“A Million Dreams” – Willow Sage Hart: Totally adorable, but Maddy said it was “totally auto-tuned” and now I can’t unhear that.
“Come Alive” – Years & Years & Jess Glynne: Very poppy, disco-y, almost 80’s dance-y feel. Why do I keep thinking DeBarge when I hear this? I still like the original version better.
“The Other Side” – MAX & Ty Dolla $ign: Please excuse this old lady for not knowing who either of these guys are, but I like them. Though it’s hard for me not to like any version of this song. It’s my favorite in the movie. When push comes to shove, this version is weak compared to Hugh Jackman and Zach Efron. There’s no reason to download this one.
“Never Enough” – Kelly Clarkson: Amazing song made better by Kelly Clarkson. I will allow her to rerecord any show tune she wants.
“This Is Me (The Reimagined Remix)” – Keala Settle, Kesha & Missy Elliott: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
“Rewrite the Stars” – James Arthur & Anne-Marie: James Arthur must be from the school of whining equals emotion. Ugh. Anne-Marie, on the other hand, is fantastic. If I were her, I’d be hella pissed about James blowing what could have been a strong cover.
“Tightrope” – Sara Bareilles: Sorry again, Michelle, but Sara out sings circles around you. This was probably my least favorite song on the original album, but Sara has fixed this.
“From Now On” – Zac Brown Band: Full disclosure, not a fan of this kind of country music. This isn’t repulsive though.
“The Greatest Show (BonusTrack)” – Pentatonix: Here’s how I know this is great songwriting…I don’t hate this version. I don’t particularly like it either. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the point.
“Come Alive (Bonus Track)” – Craig David: Again, what’s the point? Is this the dentist office version?
“This Is Me” – Kesha: I will allow Kesha to sing me anything she wants. Her voice is astounding. Maybe not as astounding as Keala Settle’s on this track, but Kesha has something to say and she’s saying it with emotion.