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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

This week’s tunes from musicals take the stage

A graphic shows a collage of music albums in front of a blue and green colored background. This week’s Spotify playlist theme is songs from musicals and/or movie muscials. (Joey Trella | Northern Star)
A graphic shows a collage of music albums in front of a blue and green colored background. This week’s Spotify playlist theme is songs from musicals and/or movie muscials. (Joey Trella | Northern Star)

This week, Northern Star writers choose songs from the most exuberant genre of music: musicals.


Sarah’s picks:

  1. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton – “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”
  2. La La Land Cast – “Someone In The Crowd”
  3. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton – “We Know”

“Yorktown” has always been in my top three favorite “Hamilton” tracks, and I’ve mastered singing all the parts by heart. The song tells the story of the battle of Yorktown that happened in 1781 which ultimately gave the colonies a win over the British. The song contains a fast-paced melody similar to how a battle would be – an on-your-toes feeling. The saying surrounding the battle of Yorktown is that after the British surrendered, the world turned upside down. In “Yorktown,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton, hints that the soldiers would sing a ballad about the world turning upside down after they retreated home. 

Emma Stone outshines her role as Mia in the 2016 film “La La Land.” The track “Someone In The Crowd” is performed by Stone, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno and Callie Hernandez. Mia is an aspiring actress in Los Angeles, and this party may be her opportunity to meet someone such as an agent or casting director. Once the trumpets and piano start, it makes any listener want to dress up with Mia while blaring this song in the background. 

For the second Hamilton song, “We Know” is sung by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr. and Okieriete Onaodowan. “We Know” keeps listeners on the edge of their seats, as they don’t know what is true and what will happen with Hamilton’s reputation after hearing this news. This song is one of many turning points in the play; and like Burr says in the last line, “Alexander, rumors only grow / And we both know what we know.” 

Nick’s picks:

  1. Gene Kelly – “Singin’ In The Rain” 
  2. Judy Garland – “Over The Rainbow”
  3. Leonard Bernstein, Jim Bryant, Johnny Green – “West Side Story: Act I: Maria”

“Singin’ In The Rain” may be one of the most quintessential films of Hollywood’s Golden Age and features two of the best musical songs of all time – “Singin’ In The Rain” and “Good Morning.” With lyrics by Arthur Freed and a score by Nacio Herb Brown, two of the preeminent figures in the early musical film scene, the song “Singin’ In The Rain” is a classic. Gene Kelly, who also directed the 1952 film, has a voice of molasses on this track, smooth and buttery. Featuring orchestral horns, strings and winds, the song matches the Technicolor film perfectly. 

Known for its technical prowess, blending black-and-white film with the new color film, “The Wizard of Oz” is essential to any musical experience. Sung by Judy Garland, “Over The Rainbow” has leaping vocals which include the iconic octave leap at the song’s beginning. A song of hope and dreams, “Over The Rainbow” captures the youthful joy hidden within escapism that made up early American cinema. The song is the foremost musical moment and is completely and utterly entrancing from beginning to end. 

Where “Singin’ In The Rain” and “Over The Rainbow” are perfect movie musical songs, “Maria” from “West Side Story” may be one of the best songs to come from the stage. Yes, I know I chose the version from the movie, but my point still stands. Opting for a soliloquy-esque moment, Richard Beymer’s Tony pairs with Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s gorgeous orchestral backing. While I’m not a musical fan, “West Side Story” was my first intro to the genre, and it will stay as one of my favorite choices in that genre too. 

Jonathan Picks: 

  1. Andrew Lloyd Webber – “The Phantom of the Opera” 
  2. Taron Egerton – “I’m Still Standing” (Sing)
  3. Tori Kelly – “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” (Sing)

A legendary and favorite performance of mine, the theme of “The Phantom of the Opera” is composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The lyrics tell of the relationship between the female lead and the phantom. The musical’s legendary opening with the organ is startlingly strong and follows with other sets of instruments like violins, trumpets and bass which play during the vocals, generating a somber and mysterious feeling behind them. 

The next song, “I’m Still Standing” from the movie “Sing,” is a cover and a perfect pick-me-up if you’re feeling a little blue. The song maintains its swing-style which makes it hard not to sing and/or dance along to. It has a little bit of hip-hop influences as well as some obvious elements of jazz which work well together. It uses the piano, drums and tambourine with the main vocals to create a continuous positive mood. The vocals are inspirational, even without having watched the movie. The lyrics tell of how the singer in the movie, Johnny the Gorilla (Taron Egerton), is still moving forward after developing a negative relationship with his father.

The final tune, “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” has such wholesome energy. The singer in “Sing,” Meena the Elephant (Tori Kelly), is worried about how much her mother has been taking on as of late and wants to help weaken the burden on her mother.From start to finish, Kelly demonstrates amazing control over her voice by reaching higher pitches as the song continues. The lyrics don’t change much throughout the song, making them easier to learn and a blast to sing along with for hours upon end.

Lindsay’s Picks:

  1. Motion Picture Cast of Hairspray – “Without Love”
  2. Amy Adams – “That’s How You Know”
  3. Jason Segel, Walter – “Man or Muppet”

The 2007 version of “Hairspray” is probably my favorite movie musical out there, so I felt obligated to pick one of my favorite songs from the movie. “Without Love” is an ensemble piece featuring Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Amanda Bynes and Nikki Blonsky. The song occurs after there is public outrage against Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky) after she joins a protest with Black performers from the local dance television station. The lyrics include each character describing their life before falling in love and how life would be without their respective partner.

“Enchanted” introduced movie audiences to the voice of Amy Adams for the first time, and she did not disappoint. The song is performed by Adams’ character, Giselle, when she and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) walk through Central Park and explains how to show his affection for his long-time girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel). The track begins with Giselle singing by herself with no instrumentals, but more instruments and voices join in as Giselle interacts with her surroundings in the film. 

This duet between a man and a muppet from “The Muppets” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 84th Academy Awards. The song is sung by Jason Segel as Gary and Peter Linz as Walter the puppet. During this song, Walter and Gary are separated, singing about their unknown identities and questioning whether they’re “a man or a muppet.” Segel sings the first verse and chorus of the song before passing it to Walter for the second verse and the chorus again. The duo finally accepts who they are and sing the finale of the song together.

Caleb’s Picks: 

  1. Idina Menzel – “Let It Go”
  2. Tim Curry – “I Can Make You a Man” 
  3. Idina Menzel – “Love Power” 

“The cold never bothered me anyway” reverberates through my head. The smash hit “Let It Go” was first released in 2013 in Disney’s “Frozen.” Powered by Idina Menzel’s vocals, this song became an anthem for the marginalized and the forgotten. This song always makes my heart soar and never fails to raise my spirits when I’m feeling down. 

“I Can Make You a Man” was first released in 1975 from the cult classic musical rock opera, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This song feels like it uses Tim Curry’s sultry singing skills to great effect. I like the idea of working hard to overcome adversity. Overall, it’s definitely one of my favorite songs from the film. 

“Love Power” is another beautiful song by Broadway musical sensation Idina Menzel. Performed for the 2022 film “Disenchanted,” this song highlights the importance of happy memories and the precious moments we share. “It doesn’t matter how unmemorable they seem / Ordinary moments / Like a look or laugh you shared / Can bring a gleam of light / In your bleakest, darkest hour.” These lyrics just make me smile and remind me that even in my darkest moments, there are bits of light shining. 

Angelina’s Picks: 

  1. High School Musical – “Breaking Free” 
  2. Julie Andrews – “My Favorite Things” 
  3. Hugh Jackman – “From Now On” 

High School Musical is an iconic Disney Channel movie from the early 2000s. The movie follows Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens). Bolton and Montez struggle with their relationship, as Bolton is a basketball player, and Montez wants to be a part of the spring musical. Bolton’s basketball teammates learn that he has tried out for the musical and try (and succeed) to break up Montez and Bolton just to get him out of the musical.  His friends eventually admit they were wrong and help Bolton and Montez mend their relationship, even helping them make it to their last musical try out. This final tryout is when Bolton and Montez sing “Breaking Free.” The song highlights the moment the two singers are in, “breaking free” of the “status quo” and embracing who they are. 

Julie Andrews said it best: When you are feeling down, just think of some of your favorite things, and then it won’t be so bad. “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music” is a song everyone knows and can appreciate. “My Favorite Things” reminds its audience to think of the good things in life and to remember what makes you happy during the hard times. 

People who only knew Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine didn’t know he could sing. Well, not only can he sing, but Jackman can really belt out a song. Jackman starred as P.T. Barnum in Disney’s movie musical, “The Greatest Showman.” In the Disney film, Barnum seeks his way to fame; and once he gets there, he becomes blinded by the attention. He begins to neglect his family and core values to bask in the glory. There comes a point for Barnum when he realizes popularity means nothing without people you care about to share it with. “From Now On” highlights the moment Barnum returns to his family saying, “From now on / These eyes will not be blinded by the lights.” 

Emily’s Picks:

  1. Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried – “Slipping Through My Fingers”
  2. Kristin Chenoweth – “Popular”
  3. Naomi Scott – “She’s So Gone”

“Slipping Through My Fingers” is a song by Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried from the 2008 film “Mamma Mia.” The scene depicts the characters Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep) together when they are getting ready for Sophie’s wedding. This song is my personal favorite from the movie and makes me cry every time I hear it. The lyrics “Slipping through my fingers all the time / I try to capture every minute / The feeling in it / Slipping through my fingers all the time” illustrate the special bond between a mother and daughter. The song also represents the process of growing up and how the mother regrets not spending time with her daughter while she was young. 

“Popular,” performed by Kristin Chenoweth from the musical “Wicked,” represents the feeling of wanting to be popular. The song portrays Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth) trying to help Elphaba (Idina Menzel) become more popular. In “Wicked,” Glinda is very popular and sings the song in an attempt to try to get Elphaba to accept the ideas of beauty and popularity. 

“Lemonade Mouth,” released in 2011, is arguably one of the most underrated musical movie films of all time. One of the most underrated songs from the movie soundtrack is “She’s So Gone,” which is sung by Naomi Scott. The song is a powerful anthem that is about Mo (Naomi Scott) being cheated on and taken advantage of. Mo realizes she deserves better and sings this song as an anthem. This song is the epitome of a female empowerment anthem, especially after getting taken advantage of in a relationship.

Tamya’s Picks:

  1. Phillipa Soo – “Burn”
  2. Cast of Rent – “Seasons of Love”
  3. Original Broadway Cast of Hairspray – “You Can’t Stop the Beat – Medley”

“Burn” is a song featured in the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” The song takes place in the final act after Eliza (Phillipa Soo) finds out her husband, Alexander Hamilton, cheated on her. The song goes through the emotions of denial, sadness and anger and is one of the most emotional and powerful songs on the soundtrack. It is also Eliza’s only solo song, as she truly gets to shine and dump every ounce of pain onto the stage. 

“Seasons of Love” is the opening song to the film “Rent.” The film focuses on the harsh reality of poverty that struck New York City during the AIDS epidemic. The cast’s raw voices are filled with pain, aggression and sadness and ultimately take the storyline to another level. 

“You Can’t Stop the Beat” is featured as the closing song for “Hairspray.” The film explores life as a plus-size teenager in the 1960s. Tracy Turnblad, the main character, was able to save the local TV dance show and remain the star after being bombarded with hate. Tracy did not let the hate deter her, as the love she has for dancing and singing is stronger than any of her haters. Tracy’s story is perfectly told in this closing song that keeps heads bopping the entire time.

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