2016 was a whirlwind of ups and downs for many people (myself included), but one thing was consistent throughout it all: MUSICALS! Along with an abundance of fantastic stage shows, we were graced with an unprecedented (unpresidented?) number of high quality film and television musicals. On the film side, there was the wonderful romantic musical comedy La La Land-– along with the charming coming-of-age drama Sing Street. Animated movie musicals like Moana, Sing, and Trolls also had plenty to offer up. On TV, we received THREE televised stage musicals (Grease, Rocky Horror, and Hairspray)– along with several great musical television shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Empire, The Get Down, and Nashville. As I’ve said before, we are truly living in a NEW Golden Age of Musical Theatre— one that isn’t bound to a single artistic medium.
Below, I’ve chosen my favorite songs from many of last year’s most exciting film and television musicals. Take a stroll down 2016 musical memory lane with me, if you will…
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1. “City of Stars” from La La Land (film)
There are so many great things I could say about La La Land. It’s a beautiful film rooted in both the past and present. Fortunately, the score reflects that– with numbers ranging from Cole Porter-esque showtunes to contemporary jazz and R&B pieces. Below, I’ve chosen the film’s bluesy, heart-wrenching love duet, “City of Stars.” If you’re looking for something a bit more upbeat and high-energy, make sure to check out “Someone in the Crowd” as well.
2. “West Covina” (Reprise) from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (TV series)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been such a manic breath of fresh air. Don’t be fooled by show’s off-putting title– it’s a great little musical romantic comedy featuring original songs influenced by various music genres. While Rachel Bloom’s opening “West Covina” theme in the pilot is fantastic and hilarious in its own right, the song’s pensive reprise at the end of the episode featuring both Bloom and Donna Lynn Champlin is even better!
3. “To Find You” from Sing Street (film)
The ’80s are everywhere right now– with Cold War-era dramas like The Americans and Stranger Things entrancing audiences worldwide. John Carney (Once) got in on the action last year with the fantastic and underrated, coming-of-age Irish musical, Sing Street. Featuring an original, ’80s new wave-inspired score, the film has many great nostalgic tunes to choose from. Below, I’ve included the film’s love ballad, “To Find You”.
4. “Losing Your Mind” from The Get Down (TV series)
We may have only got half a season of this Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) 1970s-set musical Bronx tale for now, but what a six episodes they were! The series has been described as “a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco”. I chose Raury and Jaden Smith’s hip-hop anthem, “Losing Your Mind” for this post. Keep an eye out for the second half of Season 1 this year!
5. “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana (film)
Moana isn’t my favorite Disney film in the company’s ‘second renaissance’ (weirdly, that award goes to non-musical Wreck-It Ralph), but it’s still groundbreaking in some ways. For one thing, there’s no love interest! Plus, the film features songs written by the MAN himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In the Heights). While “How Far I’ll Go” isn’t quite the mega-hit that “Let It Go” was, it’s still an understated gem that fits Moana well.
6. “What Am I Feeling” from Galavant (TV series)
I was disappointed to hear that ABC’s musical comic fantasy television series would be coming to an end last year. It seems to have fallen under the radar for many folks, so go Netflix it soon if you missed the show on TV! This hilarious series features musical numbers by film and Broadway legends Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. Below is one of my favorite pieces from the soundtrack sung by Mallory Jensen (Madelena).
7. “Never Let It Die” from Empire (TV series)
FOX’s soap-y, Hip Hop musical drama Empire has been a consistent ratings hit for the network (and for good reason!). Critics have praised the show’s diversity and excellent contemporary musical score. As the show enters its third season soon, check out my favorite song from Season 2 below.