Posted in Books

Guess Who’s Back & Did I Complete My 2021 Reading Goals?

Hello, I’m back. Again. I’ve just decided to fully embrace the fact that I keep taking long breaks from this blog so here I am, Queen of Hiatuses, back on the blogging train. 

Let’s catch up. Since my last post in May 2021, we’re still in a pandemic so that’s great but we’re officially in 2022 so it’s time for me to look back at my reading goals post. And, spoiler, no I didn’t achieve all my goals. 

In January 2021, I decided I wanted to read 25 books that year. I read 15. Not even close. But, I do think I ended up going for quality over quantity because I read some fantastic books. 2021 saw me start my Taylor Jenkins Reid obsession and finally read a few books that I had been meaning to pick up for a long time. You can see a full list of the books I read last year on my Goodreads

Along with the 25 books goal, I also set myself nine mini reading goals. Let’s see how I got on with those:

Goal One: A book that is less than 200 pages

Did I achieve it? Kind of. I read The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey which is over 200 pages in my copy but according to Goodreads is less than 200 pages so I’m going to see this as a win. Also, this goal was a bit of cheat because I know I’m very picky about book length as I barely ever read books more than 400 pages. So, really this goal should have been the opposite and I should have challenged myself to read a book over 500 pages. And, if I had, I wouldn’t have had to cheat because I did that! At 592 pages, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters would have seen me give a clear tick to that goal. Damn it. 

Goal Two: A thriller

Did I achieved it? Yes! I read An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I liked it, I didn’t love it. Thrillers just aren’t my favourite but I’m glad I challenged myself to read one and I do think I’d read more. 

Goal Three: A book with a film/TV adaptation (or upcoming adaptation) that I haven’t seen yet

Did I achieve it? Yes! Both The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro have film adaptations that I hadn’t seen before reading the books. And, I haven’t actually seen either of the films still now but I’m sure I will soon. 

Did I achieve it? Not really. I read books that I’d seen recommended on social media but not anything recommended by a friend despite having plenty of recommendations from friends to get to. Basically, I was still a terrible friend in 2021. Great.

Goal Five: A book that has been on my shelf for at least a year

Did I achieve it? Yes! The Remains of the Day but Kazuo Ishiguro had definitely been on my shelf for a few years.

Goal Six: A book I started but never finished

Did I achieve it? No. I only read books I’d never attempted to read before in 2021 but I have a few I tried reading and abandoned last year that I’m hoping I’ll pick up again this year.

Goal Seven: A classic that is at least 100 years old

Did I achieve it? Look, I got cocky in 2020 because I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott for the first time and and wanted to read more classics in 2021. I also really wanted to read Emma by Jane Austen (which would also count as both a recommended book and a book with an adaptation I haven’t seen) but I just didn’t. Let’s move on.

Goal Eight: A book published in 2021

Did I achieve it? Absolutely smashed this one. The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper, Reputation by Lex Croucher and A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago were all published in 2021. Well done, me!

Goal Nine: A book set in a country I haven’t been to or read about before

Did I achieve it? Kind of. This is a tricky one. I read two books set in Troy (Troy by Stephen Fry and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller) which is in present-day Turkey. I don’t think I’ve finished a book set in Turkey before so I feel like this could count. Also, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey is set in an unspecified Caribbean country inspired by Tobago. I’ve never read anything set in Trinidad and Tobago before so I feel like I could maybe count that as well. 

You know how that song goes, ‘6/9-which-when-simplified-is-2/3 ain’t bad’. I’ll do another post in a few days with some more reading goals for 2022 because there’s no better time to do that than when you’ve wasted three weeks of the year already. Thanks for reading my blog and bye for now! 

Posted in Movies, Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

Upcoming Movie Musicals | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #5

Well, 2021 hasn’t been a great one for theatre in… well, theatres so far but from the line up of film adaptations of stage musicals expected to come out this year, 2021 certainly is shaping up to brighter for theatre fans after all. So, let’s dive into the musical movies that we should be seeing on our screens very soon.

In The Heights – Expected UK release date: 25th June 2021 

After being pushed back, the In The Heights movie is finally expected to hit the big screens this summer and I can’t wait. I adore the music from In The Heights and I can’t wait for all the new Lin Manuel Miranda fans who only know his work on Hamilton and Moana to see the big screen version of his other huge Broadway hit. The trailer is absolutely stunning for this movie and it looks like it’s going to be the perfect pop of colour and musical movie magic we need this summer.

Dear Evan Hansen – Expected UK release date: 24th September 2021 

No trailers for this one yet but we should be seeing Dear Evan Hansen in cinemas this autumn. I have to say I’m not quite as excited for this one as In The Heights but I’m still curious to see how the show will be translated to the film medium. I’ve read that there are a few new characters and some switching around of the relationships of characters (Larry is now Connor and Zoe’s stepdad for some reason) so I’m definitely intrigued as to how this will play out. 

West Side Story – Expected UK release date: 10th December 2021

Another one with a release moved back to 2021 to give it a splash in cinemas is Steven Spielberg’s take on this Broadway classic. With this one, I’m excited to see Rachel Zegler’s take on Maria and Ariana DeBose as Anita as well as seeing how Speilberg is going to make it his own. It’s an iconic show and there haven’t been many recent movie adaptations of classic musicals in recent years so it’s an interesting choice. 

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Expected UK release date: TBC

The only original British musical on this list and I’m so excited to see Max Harwood strutting about in those red heels as Jamie New. This one has also had it’s release date pushed back but as of right now, there hasn’t been a new date announced just yet. We all could do with a new proper feel-good movie musical so let’s hope it comes out soon!

Tick, Tick… Boom! – Expected UK release date: TBC

This is from Netflix’s now foray into musical theatre and features the directorial debut of Lin Manual Miranda. I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually listened to Tick, Tick… Boom! all the way through yet for two reasons. One, because it’s hard to get hold of the music (why is the cast recording not on Spotify?!) and two, because, after Rent, this is only other complete show from Jonathan Larson and as a huge Rent fan, it makes me sad to think once I’ve heard Tick, Tick… Boom! songs, that’s it. Saying that, I genuinely can’t wait to see the movie and I have high expectations for it. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Garfield in a musical, who knew he could sing?! 

Which movie musical are you most excited to see this year? For me, In The Heights has the edge but I’m looking forward to all of them. Thanks for reading and bye for now! 

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

The Mad Ones Cast Recording Thoughts | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #4

TW: Grief 

Breaking news: I’ve found my new obsession. Since theatres across the UK have been shut for over a year now, I’ve not had much to say about musical theatre. Well, that was until I discovered my new favourite cast recording, The Mad Ones. And you should listen to it too. 

The Mad Ones is a Kerrigan and Lowdermilk musical formerly called The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown. The show follows 18-year-old Sam as she tries to decide what to do with her life following the death of her best friend, Kelly. As Sam works through her memories and learns to fully come to terms with what happened, she is guided by Kelly in her imagination. The show also touches on Sam’s relationships with her mum and boyfriend too as she works through her grief and struggles to decide what her next step in life should be after graduating high school. That’s really all you need to know about the plot going into your first listen. 

Though grief is a huge theme of the show and some songs are really packed with emotion, it’s not a downer at all. There’s plenty of comedy and lighter moments. I especially love the way the show presents friendship, especially teen female friendship. The people you grow up with shape your personality so much that when you spend more time apart after leaving school and entering adulthood, you almost learn to be yourself all over again without those people having as big an impact as they once had. For Sam, this is so much more intense after Kelly’s death. But, the process that Sam goes through with trying to find herself and learning to not just see her identity through comparisons to Kelly (“She was everything I’m not, my whole universe”) is really touching and shows just how intense and impactful friendship can be. The song Go Tonight, when Sam finally confronts all her emotions over losing Kelly is truly heartbreaking as she confesses the darker side of her grief, including her feelings of inferiority compared to Kelly and how she feels partially responsible for Kelly’s death. 

One small part of the story that really gets me is Sam trying to recall the specifics of her last interaction with Kelly and struggling to pinpoint the details. Memories are so important in the grieving process but they’re also so fragile. I think the way the show explores Sam piecing together her memories of Kelly and all that’s happened since she died is such a unique but realistic take on grieving. 

I also love the small, intimate vibe of the recording. The whole show only requires four people, which reminds me of the likes of Next to Normal. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and ultimately, I think I miss smaller shows like this the most since theatres have been closed. Don’t get me wrong, I love a big West End show as much as the next Wicked or Les Mis fan, but there’s something special about these smaller-scale productions in off-West End and off-Broadway venues. That’s not to say that I don’t believe this show has a place on the West End or Broadway, I just think it would suit a smaller, more intimate venue more. 

The three songs I’ve been listening to the most are The Mad Ones, Go Tonight and Run Away with Me. And, I mean, these songs aren’t just beautiful and emotional, they’re also serious earworms!

Thanks for reading and if you haven’t listened to The Mad Ones yet, get on it! Bye for now!

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

It’s The Rat’s Way of Life For Me! 🐀 | Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical Thoughts | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #3

Hal, it’s about rats.

If you haven’t heard of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, let me tell you the bizarrely uplifting backstory of this show. Back in August, TikToker Em Jaccs posted a short video singing a song she had made up for an imaginary Ratatouille muscial. And, yes, by Ratatouille, I do mean the Disney Pixar film about the rat who becomes a top Parisian chef by whipping up some damn fine ratatouille for a snooty food critic. As more people saw Em’s catchy video, other TikTokers started creating their own songs for this completely hypthetical Ratatouille musical. Then, it grew even more. Soon enough, the non-existent show had choreography, a full set design, a logo and more. It had everything except from, you know, being an actual real-life musical. Well, that was until recently.

A virtual and socially distanced version of the show was made to raise for money for The Actors Fund with full versions of each of the songs created for the musical on TikTok and it was available to stream at the start of this month. It was directed by Six’s Lucy Moss and starred Tituss Burgess with some pretty cool guest stars, including Adam Lambert and Mean Girls and Emily in Paris star, Ashley Park. I bought a ticket not really knowing what to expect. I don’t use TikTok much so I only knew about this whole thing from following plenty of theatre accounts on other social channels.

But, honestly, I loved it. Sure, the live stream clearly had its restrictions. It was short and a lot of the storytelling relied on Remy’s narration but the production did a great job at embracing its TikTok origins. And, those songs are so catchy! It’s beginning might not necessarily sound like start of the next big Broadway hit but seriously, between the thriving pre-existing legion of fans and these genuinely brilliant songs, Disney would be really missing a trick to not pursue this project further. So, come on, Disney, maybe at least release a concept album because I need to be able to listen to The Rat’s Way of Life whenever I need my eardrums blessing!

I LOVED the cast so much, I thought they were all spot on. Tituss Burgess is a star who needs more recognition for his stunning vocals and although I was initially surprised at his casting choice, I’m now completely convinced that he’s perfect for our favourite Little Chef. Adam Lambert and Wayne Brady were brilliant as Remy’s brother and father and I especially appreciated how Wayne went hard with the whole rat-theme. Hell, he even came with his own trash props for his big solo! Andrew Barth Feldman IS Linguini. I have no idea how they managed to get a casting spot-on but he looks nearly identical to the animated character and his performance was beautifully over the top in the best possible way. The last cast member I want to shout about, although I really did love them all was Ashley Park, she totally nailed her solo song and the speed at which she sang in a French accent deserved an applause.

I love that this fun project brought so many people together online, especially at a time when there really isn’t a lot of new theatre out there. It’s inspiring in a truly weird way. I mean, I’m getting deep and sentimental about a musical about rats here(!), but, really it is so heart-warming to see the theatre fandom community come together to bring this show to life. I’m really glad the show paid tribute to and reimbursed all the contributing TikTokers involved (to my knowledge). I really hope to see more from Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical in the future and who knows maybe we’ll even have more TikTok musicals!

What did you think of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and what movie would you love to see turned into the next TikTok musical? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now!

Posted in Books

2021 Reading Goals

Happy New Year! We made it to 2021, phew! I’m not one for resolutions but I do like setting some goals for the upcoming year and thinking of this time as the chance for a reset. One of the things I really want to do is to read more because, despite all the extra time at home that 2020 brought, I really didn’t read that many books last year. So, to help myself out, I’ve come up with a 2021 reading goal and a bingo card of some types of books I really want to give a go this year.

So, first thing’s first, I want to aim to read at least 25 books this year, that works out to a bit more than one every two weeks which I think should be manageable whilst still being an uplift on 2020.

Reading goals to get me out of my comfort zone:

  1. A book that’s less than 200 pages

I never usually read books less than 250 pages or more than 500 so I’m challenging myself to find a concise story I’ll enjoy.

2. A thriller

This is probably my least-read genre but I know thrillers are really popular so I want to give them a decent try this year.

3. A book with a film/TV adaptation (or upcoming adaptation) that I haven’t seen yet

If I see the film first, I won’t read the book so I’m going to force myself to get reading so I can watch any adaptations I want.

4. A book that has been recommended to me by someone else

I’m awful for neglecting recommendations. In fact, I’ve noticed I’m often less likely to read or watch something if it’s recommending to me somehow… clearly, I’m such a great friend!

5. A book that has been on my shelf for at least a year

Everyone buys books they end up not reading right away but I have quite a big backlog now that I need to get through.

6. A book I started but never finished

This is a callout post for my worst reading habit of abandoning books once I’ve started them.

7. A classic that is at least 100 years old

I read loads of classics when I studied English Literature at uni (and started quite a few I didn’t finish) but I haven’t read many since and that was three years ago – time to change that.

8. A book published in 2021

There are so many books already published that I’ve been meaning to read, I don’t want to lose sight of ones newly out this year.

9. A book set in a country I haven’t been to or read about before

I love reading books set in cultures I know nothing about so I want to have some fun with this one. Also, I wanted to set myself an extra task here of not just a country I haven’t yet visited but one I have never even read a book set in before.

Let me know your reading goals in the comments!

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

Does Rent Stand the Test of Time? | | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #2

Christmas bells are ringing! It’s December 24th, (and nearly!) 9pm Eastern Standard Time, which means it’s a great time to talk about one of my favourite musicals of all time, Rent. I watched a production of Rent online recently by the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and it genuinely was a brilliant production. It still kept the 90s vibe but had some very clever staging choices to keep it feeling fresh. The cast were also brilliant. But, it got me thinking about Rent’s place in contemporary theatre as it is very much a 90s show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it got me wondering, does Rent really stand the test of time?

Is it TOO 90s?

Ah, the days before smartphones and social media, when people communicated mostly through phone calls and meeting up in person (something fairly rare in 2020, at least!). When I watch or listen to Rent, there are aspects of the story that do feel a bit dated but in the grand scheme of things, the 90s weren’t that long ago. They haven’t crept into the 40-year cycle yet so Rent doesn’t feel old enough to be thought of as a historical piece. However, no one watches Shakespeare and is surprised when they throw in a few “thees” and “thous”, yet when we hear 90s slang in a musical, there’s something weirdly dated about it.

But, isn’t that dated feeling a part of the show’s charm? Ultimately, the story works because it’s set during the AIDS Crisis and at a time when American counterculture was starting to reject the hyper-commercialism of the time. By which I mean, it is a story intrinsically linked to the 80s/90s. The Bohemian lifestyle celebrated by the characters and lifted straight from the show’s source material, nineteenth century opera La Bohème, sees the characters choosing poverty and a life of uncertainty over giving in to the “yuppie” lifestyle. They choose art over career, instant gratification over forward planning, though some of this attitude is also presented as being a reaction to the confirmation that they’ll die young from AIDS. It’s a sad show representing a sad time in modern history. It weaves in and out of social injustices and presents a diverse cast of well-meaning modern Bohemians. From addiction to illness and homelessness to relative poverty, the show explores themes that are are both timeless and strongly contemporaneous to the 90s.

It might not be as easy to relate to Rent now as it was back in the 90s when it first hit Broadway but the show didn’t close over there until 2009, a time pretty far beyond its supposed relevancy. I think one of things that ultimately led to Rent closing may have been the 2005 movie adaptation. There was definitely an attempt made to make the show more suitable for film e.g. some songs were turned into dialogue or removed completely, but the film ended up being criticised for feeling a bit old school and for featuring many of the Broadway actors in roles they originated. The response was that, only 11 years after the show first debuted, the film version already felt dated and the actors felt too old. The critics’ responses to the film mostly coming to the same conclusion, that Rent was past its time, may very well have indirectly led to the show closing just four years later.

However, this wasn’t be the last the stage would see of Rent so, what has been done to update the show since its original Broadway run?

Let’s Talk About Rent Remixed

Rent created a pretty unusual situation. By the mid-2000s, Rent was still a well-respected show (it’s still only one of nine musicals to have ever won the Pulitzer Prize). But, it was feeling dated and new productions were struggling to find a middle ground between embracing the 90s nostalgia and attempting to update the show for modern audiences. Unfortunately, it was from this conundrum that Rent Remixed was realised. This was a revised production that opened in 2007 in the West End. The music was stripped of its 90s grunge sound and instead replaced with more of a noughties pop vibe and the show was updated to the then present day. It was absolutely panned by critics and closed after five months.

I never saw Rent Remixed but from what I’ve heard, everything that was changed about it took away what made Jonathan Larson’s show so poignant and well-respected in the first place. The diversity, the tackling of taboo issues with a mix of boldness and sensitivity and the use of modern-sounding music in a musical was all fairly new in 1996 theatreland but, bizarrely because of the original production of Rent, none of these things would have felt nearly as noteworthy in 2007. In fact, whilst all of those things are still to be praised in modern musical theatre, by taking a musical that had all of those elements anyway and changing it in an attempt to be more commercial, doesn’t it kind of feel like you’re missing the point in taking the risk of being original in the first place?

So, does it matter that it’s dated?

Back to the subject at hand. There are a few issues with the 90s setting that perhaps do cause problems and some of this is down to the problematic aspects of Rent. It’s not a perfect musical by any means. And, while the liberal views of the characters may make them feel almost like proto-millennials, there are a few issues with representation, stereotyping and hypocritical attitudes that might make the show feel a little bit misguided in places to a modern audience. For example, Maureen is a character who has dated both men and women and is presented as promiscuous. Whilst this isn’t an issue in itself, it does play into a recurring negative stereotype in fiction that bi-and/or-pan-sexuality is synonymous with promiscuity. There are quite a few more examples of times in Rent where I, as a modern viewer, get caught between wanting to praise the show for being a pioneer of diversity at the point of its inception and cringing at certain parts of the show that would likely be changed were it a new show doing through workshops now.

Ultimately, how I feel about Rent feels like a microcosm for how I feel about modern political correctness and cancel/call-out culture. I think these things are important but we all get things wrong sometimes and that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. Rent gets some things wrong but when it first appeared on Broadway back in the 90s, it was the first of its kind and actively tried to promote diversity and have something to say. Rent’s not perfect but it tried. We should be able to appreciate that. Sure, the show’s a bit dated and doesn’t always feel totally politically correct but I think we can forgive that for all the things it got right and for all the shows that it paved the way for.

The Hope Mill’s production really renewed my love for Rent. And, hey, as 90s nostalgia is due to come back more and more over the next decade, maybe we’ll be seeing a little bit more of Rent love on the horizon.

Posted in Other

evermore – Taylor Swift Multi-Song Theory

Yesterday I posted my reactions to all the songs on Taylor Swift’s new evermore album. While putting my thoughts together and reading through all the lyrics to pick out my favourites to include in that post, I started to see repeated metaphors and themes between songs led me a rabbit hole… and it was a good time. So, I’m probably way, way off with this but here is a potential narrative theory that connects half of the songs on evermore. Buckle up and here we go.

Ok, let’s start off with cowboy like me, a love story about two con artists. What if one of the “cowboys” is also the speaker in willow? The lyrics seem to suggest that their lover disrupted their life plans (“wreck my plans”) and there is conning imagery in the song too (“bait-and-switch”, “one prize I’d cheat to win”). If cowboy like me is about how they fell in love in the first place, willow could be one of them describing their love for the other. Whereas their partner, who is a bit more reluctant to totally give into their feelings recounts their different experience of falling in love in gold rush.

However, as time goes on, things don’t go so well. Maybe one of them rejects the other’s marriage proposal, leading to champagne problems or maybe one of them ends up not really feeling the same as the other anymore and starts just tolerating their love. Both of these songs could even fit into the same storyline if the speaker in tolerate it decides to attempt proposing to their partner in order to see once and for all if they really are in love and the speaker in champagne problems describes rejecting this proposal and the guilt that comes with it. I think this is unlikely though, I don’t think these two songs are part of the same narrative but, they could be potentially and honestly, none of this theory is probably right, it’s just for fun!

Then, the rejected proposal and/or one of them feeling as though their love is merely tolerated leads to the breakup where happiness and evermore come in. Each of the partners is represented in these two songs. I know this is a lot but stay with me because I have lyrical evidence!

In willow there’s a reference to a “head on the pillow” and in happiness there’s a “pillow where you used to lay your head”. Also in willow, the speaker refers to themselves as “the water when your ship rolled in that night” but in evermore, the speaker is “shipwrecked” and “unmoored”, suggesting that water actually led them to a painful place i.e. the relationship broke down. Also, the water/ship imagery is explored in gold rush too. Both willow and gold rush feature references to ships on water at the beginning of the songs but in willow, the speaker is comparing themselves to the water whereas in gold rush, the speaker describes their partner being like the water (“Eyes like sinking ships on waters/ So inviting, I almost jump in”). The speaker in willow is more certain of the relationship and the speaker in gold rush is more hesitant, perhaps leading to them not showing their partner how much they care for them. This could make them reject the other’s proposal or make their partner misconstrue their hesitancy for lack of appreciation and lead to them thinking their love is only tolerated.

Hope you’re saying with me on this because believe it or not, I’m not done. So, one of these speakers, the one who ignored their lover in tolerate it, probably the same speaker as evermore, sits alone on a bench in Coney Island, wishing they had treated their ex-lover better. The evidence here is more conning imagery popping up in coney island. Example lyrics for this include: “do you miss the rogue?”, “coaxed you into paradise” and the romanticising of a simple suburban life that two longtime con artists would likely be unfamiliar with: “the mischief, the gift-wrapped suburban dreams/ Sorry for not winning you an arcade ring”. Again, the apology over a ring could tie us back into champagne problems.

So, the speaker of gold rush, possibly champagne problems and coney island is then also the person behind evermore. They are “writing letters” for their ex to apologise and get a sense of closure. However, the speaker of willow and possibly tolerate it and cowboy like me doesn’t want to accept this closure. There’s a direct parallel between lyrics in tolerate it and closure here, in tolerate it, the speaker says “I made you my temple, my mural, my sky/ Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life” and in closure they say “I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life”. The sense of prolonged hurt and not being ready to forgive is echoed in happiness, “All you want from me now is the green light of forgiveness”.

However, I think both evermore and happiness, although very sad songs, end with hopefulness. The pain the speakers are experiencing won’t last forever and they’ll find happiness again, just not with each other.

Finally, to put it all together. I think, and this is just one great big highly unlikely theory (especially as I’m not even getting into the fact that some of these are duets and so possibly have two speakers in them already) that the speakers of these songs are as follows:

willow: speaker 1, likely a young female con artist

gold rush: speaker 2, a slightly older male con artist who is a bit insecure about his lover’s beauty

’tis the damn season: Dorothea in a completely separate storyline

tolerate it: speaker 1 when she realises her partner isn’t treating her with as much love and appreciation as they used to

no body, no crime: completely separate storyline

happiness: speaker 1, post-breakup

dorothea: Dorothea’s home-town lover in a completely separate storyline with ’tis the damn season

coney island: speaker 2 when realises where he went wrong, harking back to how his ex was feeling in tolerate it

ivy: I have no idea, probably completely separate storyline

cowboy like me: speaker 1 but it’s the origin story of speaker 1 and 2’s relationship

long story short: completely separate, personal TS song

marjorie: completely separate, personal TS song

closure: Could be either of the speakers but in my version of events, I’m saying speaker 1

evermore: speaker 2

There we go, that’s my potential theory and dissection of some of Taylor Swift’s beautiful imagery. Let me know what you think about the album in the comments.

Posted in Other

evermore – Taylor Swift Song Reactions

Was anyone as stunned as I was that Taylor Swift dropped her second surprise album of the year this month?! I’m certainly not complaining but wow, I’m still not over the Heavenly blessing that is folklore and now we have a whole new album of stories and characters to devour! Here I’ve put my thoughts on each tracks and my favourite lyric but I have a theory that ties together over half the songs in the album into one continuous narrative so stay tuned tomorrow for that blog post as well!

Track 1) willow

Argh this has such gorgeous imagery and somehow it’s both beautifully indie-sounding and a catchy love song. Also, the music video for this song is one of my favourite Taylor Swift videos, it almost looks like a fantasy movie and it’s a great tribute to folklore with the gold string and Taylor picking up where she left off in the same room from the cardigan video.

“Life was a willow and it bent right to your wind/ But I come back stronger than a 90s trend”

Track 2) champagne problems

I didn’t get the storyline of this song when I first listened to it but on second listen while reading the lyrics, this song really made me feel some things. This song is sang from the point of view of someone who has turned down a proposal and they are clearly feeling guilty about it. It explores the emotional turmoil of the speaker and their fragile mental state.

“She would have made such a lovely bride/ What a shame she’s fucked in the head, they said/ But you’ll find the real thing instead/ She’ll patch up the tapestry that I shred”

Track 3) gold rush

GOLD GOLD GOLD. We can probably assume this mystical-sounding ditty is about her lover because by now we know gold and blue are the symbolic colours for her love. I’m interpreting this song as being about the anxiety that comes with being with in love with someone who is well… gorgeous (see what I did there?) and dreams about a simplistic, homely life with that person but not being able to go for it.

“My mind turns your life into folklore”

Track 4) ’tis the damn season

I don’t know why but this song has strong exile vibes to me. Maybe because there’s a muted sense of longing and lost love that feels buried beneath other complicated feelings. One song it is nothing like is Taylor’s other holiday hit, Christmas Tree Farm… it feels like we’re quite far away from the Lover era now! I adore this song honestly, it contrasts the speaker’s successful but vapid lifestyle in LA with that of their past love from their small hometown, a place very much now in the rear-view mirror of her life. I wonder if the speaker is Dorothea and the “you” in the song is an ex-lover of Dorothea’s maybe? More on her soon.

“The road not taken looks real good now/ And it always leads to you and my hometown”

Track 5) tolerate it

Ow. A lot of the songs on this album are truly sad listens but there’s something so much more intensely painful about this one. The storyline seems to be about someone who is in love with their partner but their partner has fallen out of love with them. The speaker knows this but can’t let them go so they keep the relationship going, knowing their “love should be celebrated” and coming to the difficult conclusion that they need to accept the situation and move on for their own sake.

“I made you my temple, my mural, my sky/ Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life”

Track 6) no body, no crime

This might just be my first favourite (I’ll probably go through a few favourites the more I listen). The storytelling in this song is so damn smart. It’s only three and a half minutes long and you get an entire crime thriller! The tone of this one is so sleek, suspicious and dark, I just love it.

“Good thing my daddy made me get a boating licence when I was 15/ And I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene/ Good thing Este’s sister going to swear she was with me/ Good thing his mistress took out a big life insurance policy”

Track 7) happiness

At the moment this one isn’t as up there for me with the rest but it will definitely grow on me. The speaker is just at the moment of a difficult breakup, she can’t be mad at the person she was with or even at herself because they equally hurt each other and she knows she’ll find happiness down the road but right now, it hurts.

“You haven’t met the new me yet”

Track 8) dorothea

Let’s ask the question that we’re all wandering, does Dorothea know Betty, James and co? Maybe. But, I don’t see Dorothea as being a part of their story necessarily, as I said before, I think her story might be shared with the speaker of ’tis the damn season. However, dorothea has a much more upbeat sound. It seems a big life on the “small screen” and “shiny friends” is a much more painful and lonely experience for Dorothea than her old hometown lover who reflects happily on their younger years without a sense of resentment or self-pity. Generally, this song is just much more hopeful and maybe advocates for the small town simple life over big dreams and Hollywood scenes.

“You got shiny friends since you left town/ A tiny screen’s the only place I see you now/ But I got nothing but well-wishes for ya”

Track 9) coney island

This is definitely a song I need to listen to more but my overall opinion is that this is an enchantingly sad song. I do have a theory on this one though, there seems to be a sense of regret and letting someone down with lyrics like “I forgot to say your name”, “Sorry for not making you my centerfold” and “Did I leave you hanging every single day?” that makes me wonder if the speaker from tolerate it perhaps did leave their partner and now it’s their partner’s turn to realise where they went wrong and to express an apology for their neglectfulness and lack of appreciation for their ex. Or, you know… maybe not.

“If I can’t relate to you/ Then who am I related to?

Track 10) ivy

Wow, this song has such pretty lyrics! For me, this song has similarities to the lakes, only in the strong nature imagery though, not so much the sentiment. The story itself seems to be a classic woman is unhappily married but someone else catches her eye, she falls in love but their romance is doomed because… well, because of the whole being married thing. That imagery that I mentioned is what makes this song so sad, there is a fantastical feel to this song, with the speaker referring to her “dreamland” and the object of her affection being “magnificently cursed”.

“My pain fits into the palm of your freezing hand”

Track 11) cowboy like me

I like this song, it’s weirdly cute compared to all the other so very sad songs on this album. The story is about two con artists who fall for each other. They have usual targets, mostly older people, that they swindle money from but everything changes when they find a fellow “cowboy”. There’s definitely an exploration of people and situations being grey in this album and folklore. By which I mean, in the folklore/evermore cycle, she presents the stories of people who are flawed and not black and white. But, there’s no comment or sense of needing to justify giving their stories airtime, it’s just a study of humanity.

“The old men really did believe that I was the one/ And the ladies lunching have their stories about/ When you passed through town/ But that was all before I locked it down”

Track 12) long story short

This is a very personal song about overcoming the things you’ve been through and looking back on all that pain and sadness knowing what you didn’t know then: that, ultimately, you’d be ok. The song is also a tribute to Taylor and one of her favourite songwriting subjects, her lover, who came into her life at just the right time. I’d say this was perhaps the most poppy song on the album, perhaps because it’s reflective, looking back on when she was writing upbeat pop songs but struggling the most as opposed to now when she writes sad, indie songs but is much more happy and settled in life. Swiftie irony.

“Long story short, it was a bad time/ Long story short, I survived”

Track 13) marjorie

I really appreciate what Taylor did with this song, track 13 on folklore, epiphany, makes reference to her grandfather so track 13 on evermore is a tribute to her grandmother. As someone who has lost three grandparents during pretty formative years and deeply regretting not listening to their stories and advice better, this song speaks to me on a pretty personal level. Also, the fact that Taylor’s grandmother’s voice is included at the end of the song is just absolutely beautiful.

“I should’ve asked you questions/ I should’ve asked you how to be/ Asked you to write it down for me”

Track 14) closure

This is a simple song about feeling like someone is trying to bring up old wounds to give themselves closure when you’re not in the same place. It’s bitter and presents the idea that it’s ok to not have to get over something that hurt you. It’s a real feeling that can be applied to be so many situations and I think it’s one of the most relatable songs Taylor has written. It’s not as deep in imagery and literary allusion as many of the other folklore/evermore songs but it wouldn’t make sense to be super eloquent over that raw feeling so there is strength in its simplicity. This one also gives me subtle Reputation vibes.

“Yes, I got your letter/ Yes, I’m doing better/ I know that it’s over/ I don’t need your closure”

Track 15) evermore

This one isn’t my favourite, it doesn’t really make me feel quite as emotional as some of the others on the track list. You could perhaps place it next to happiness as evermore feels to be the pessimistic cousin of happiness. It is a nice song and I know it will grow on me but it’s not my absolute favourite right now.

“Writing letters, addressed to the fire”

So, there you have it, my initial thoughts on all the evermore songs. What’s your favourite song on the album and do you think we’ll have anymore surprise album drops soon? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Books

Tag: The Outstanding Blogger Award (Kinda)

My lovely friend from The Last Book on the Left (a fabulous book and writing blogger, give her a follow if you don’t already) tagged me in The Outstanding Blogger Award tag and I’m excited to answer the questions she’s set me. As I only made my big ole blogging comeback this year, I’m not going to play by the rules because, to put it simply, I don’t really think I’m worthy of the award. Maybe some day I’ll feel more worthy but I need to up my blogging game first. So, if you want to check out the rules and how the tag really should be done, take a look at M.T.’s post.

So, without further ado, onto M.T.’s questions…

1. Do you like listening to music while you read?

If I’m at home or on my own then no but if I’m around other people e.g. on a train or in a coffee shop (thinking more of pre-Covid times here) then I do tend to. I’ve gotten quite good at zoning out of whatever is playing to focus on reading so if I am listening to music it’s more to mute out the world than to listen along as I read. I feel like fellow introverts will relate to me, right?

2. What is the best book you’ve read in 2020 so far?

I have to admit, despite lockdowns, I really haven’t read that much this year. I did read Little Women for the first time though and really loved it. I adored the film when I saw it way back at the start of the year and was so relieved I enjoyed the book just as much. Even though parts of it feel a bit dated (and even a bit preachy in places), it has a strangely modern feel and the focus on female family relationships is so heart-warming.

3. What is the best movie or TV show you’ve seen in 2020 so far?

Well, my personal favourite, if I can bring it up yet again was the new Little Women film which I saw way back on 11th January… what a different time that was! I also watched Schindler’s List this year and, although it was an incredibly hard watch in places, I thought it was a really important story which I feel richer for knowing.

4. Are there any sequels you liked more than the first book?

I’ve been reading more stand alone adult books recently but a couple that come to mind would be nearly all The Mortal Instruments sequels and Clockwork Princess in The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I’m so out of the Shadowhunters loop these days but I really loved those books as a teenager. Also, I love an epic finale in a series so The High King from The Chronicles of Prydain (a severely underrated children’s high fantasy series!) is a great ending and probably my favourite of the five books. Plus, The Order of the Phoenix is my favourite Harry Potter book (even if I’m not such a J.K. fan these days).

5. Besides reading, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

Well, I think my blog makes it quite clear I love the theatre. I’m definitely not a performer but pre-Covid, I was going to a lot of shows and my most used playlists on Spotify are my musical theatre ones. I also enjoy making up stories and I would love to one day publish a book. There’s a children’s series idea I’ve been working on through the lockdowns which I might do blog post about at some point but it’s a very research-heavy project so it’s slow progress currently.

6. What book is underrated but you wish more people knew about?

Not to be repeating myself again but The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander deserves just as much hype as the likes of Narnia! Also, keeping on the children’s book theme, my favourite book growing up was The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner and I always felt that was underrated.

For an adult fiction pick, I’m surprised there aren’t more people reading My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It was longlisted for the Booker Prize but I haven’t seen as much hype around it as I feel it deserves because it is so so good.

7. What is your most anticipated 2021 release?

Well, my most anticipated 2020 release was Troy by Stephen Fry which has only just come out! However, as for 2021, there is one book that comes to mind. I’m really looking forward to reading Reputation by Lex Croucher. I’ve been subscribed to Lex on YouTube for a long time because I really enjoy both her takes on the world and key social issues and her brilliant sense of humour. Reputation is a Regency comedy-drama which is being described as one for fans of Mean Girls and Jane Austen, both of which I love so I’m down.

Thanks so much M.T. for tagging me in this, it has been really fun answering these questions. This tag was started by Colton Beckwith and you can find the original post with the lowdown on how the tag is supposed to go here. Just to be clear again, I answered these questions because I was tagged but not to properly enter myself in for the award 😊.

Thanks for reading, bye for now!

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

My Favourite Musicals | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #1

Hello! Welcome to the first in my Musings on Musicals, this is a new post series where I will be sharing my thoughts on everything musical theatre-related. It’s basically the content I was doing before I had my year hiatus but under a flashy new name that gives it it’s own special category. To kick this new series off, I wanted to share my absolute favourite shows. And, I mean these are my all-time favourites, not just current favourites.

Now, it would be impossible for me to actually put them into a list so I’ve instead picked my top nine and put them into tiers – everyone loves a good tier ranking system don’t they? So, tier one includes my top three absolute favourite musicals but I can’t put them in a 123 order so just know that I love all three of those equally. Tier Two is the my next three favourites which although I completely adore, just don’t quite make it to tier one and again, within their tier, they aren’t in any particular order and so on. I hope this makes sense, it did in my head!

Tier One

Hamilton – Some say it’s overrated, I say we don’t talk about it enough for my liking. I really do think Hamilton is the best musical ever written. It’s achingly smart and the impact it has made, not only on theatre, but in modern pop culture is an incredible feat.

Rent – This is the musical that catapulted me from musical fan to super-fan. I think I’ll write a whole post about it when I’m feeling sentimental but the first time I encountered Rent was when I watched the film and I cried at four different moments. Rent is a total marmite show, you either love it or hate it and I completely adore it.

Les Miserables – This is another show that really got me into musicals and, well, it’s just a classic, isn’t it? This is a show that all my family love and we used to play the songs on long car journeys. For me, this show is greater than just my love of theatre, it’s also a part of my childhood and reminds me of family memories.

Tier Two

Bare: A Pop Opera – It’s the style of the music – to me more rock than “pop” – and the heartbreaking story that I really love with this one. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever related to a song from a show so much as Nadia’s A Quiet Night At Home. I wish more people knew this show because it deserves so much more love.

Come From Away – I always think of Come From Away as a musical hug. I’ve seen it twice in the West End and can’t wait to see it again once theatres reopen. I can’t help but smile listening to this amazing true story and Me and the Sky is one of my favourite songs.

Jesus Christ Superstar – I’m slightly ashamed that this is the oldest musical on this list as it’s only from 1970 but I’m usually more of a contemporary musical gal. There’s something about this show that I love though. It’s thought-provoking with amazing songs and I couldn’t tell you the amount of times we’ve watched the Glenn Carter version in my house.

Tier Three

Once On This Island – This is a really recent favourite as I only listened to it this year but it has grown so much on me from multiple listens – I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t move up a tier in time. This show is just gorgeous.

In The Heights – Weirdly, when figuring out this list, I was a bit surprised I found myself putting In The Heights this high but I can’t not put it here because it really is one of my favourites. I can’t wait for film next year so that I can rewatch the story whenever I want and more people can discover In The Heights.

The Last 5 Years – Again, I didn’t really expect to put this here and I was actually between this and Bat Boy which I’ve bumped down a tier. It’s the lyrics that I love most of all with The Last 5 Years, especially in songs like Nobody Needs To Know.

Honourable Mentions

Whistle Down the Wind – Although Whistle Down the Wind isn’t an especially high-ranking favourite for me anymore, it was my first ever favourite musical so I think it needs an honourable mention. After seeing a production as a kid I fell in love with the show and it was the first musical I bought to play on my portable CD player.

Bat Boy – As I said earlier, this show nearly made it to tier three but I’ve moved it to honourable mentions instead. I love Bat Boy and it’s my favourite funny musical.

Dear Evan Hansen – It’s here because I felt weird not putting it somewhere, I love Dear Evan Hansen and You Will Be Found is a song that easily brings a tear to my eye.

What are your favourite musicals? Let me know in the comments!