The music and lyrics of Wicked were written by the Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe winner, Stephen Schwartz. The album was released on December 16, 2003,and the first performance of the musical was on June 10, 2003. Schwartz is an American musical theater lyricist and composer. The album is a Broadway musical based off of the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. That is an alternate story based off of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and that is based off of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum from 1900. The genre of the album is showtunes, but it is fiction. The mood however, changes a lot with there being a storyline behind it. The original cast includes Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Joel Grey and Carole Shelley. The album has a full orchestra playing the music and vocals by the original cast. Some unique instruments in the orchestra include a harp, mandolin and crotales. This, along with the very clever storyline, made it so popular that it is now a double platinum selling album, and a musical that is still playing on Broadway after 14 years.
One of the songs, “The Wizard and I” is about Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, learning that she has the power to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the beginning, the vocal dynamic starts off quiet but then builds up. Throughout the song, the electric guitar, clarinet, flute, violin, and drums can be heard. One of the instruments that can be heard the most is the violins because they are playing very high and fast and the violins play the melody a lot. Idina Menzel, who plays Elphaba, has a very powerful voice. She has to articulate her voice very well because the lyrics are telling parts of her story, and all of the lyrics need to be heard. The timbre of her voice is very smooth. When she says, “'Cuz once you're with the Wizard, No one thinks you're strange! No father is not proud of you, No sister acts ashamed” she is saying that once she gets famous, she won’t be frowned upon by her family. I like her enthusiasm and energy, as well as all of the different instruments playing. This high-energy, fast-tempo song sets the stage for the rest of the musical.
The next song is “Popular.” In this song, Galinda, the Good Witch, played by Kristin Chenoweth, is helping Elphaba become “popular.” When she sings the word “popular” she yodels because Schwartz liked yodeling, and he knew Chenoweth could yodel. This song is very upbeat and happy, which reflects Galinda’s personality. The vocal pitch throughout the song is pretty high. An instrument that can be heard during the chorus is the tuba. Even though the tuba is very low, it still sounds very upbeat and cheerful. The tempo of the song is pretty fast. There are a few parts in the song where there is no music at all. There is one line where Galinda is singing, and then she keeps singing while there is no music at all. There is another part where Galinda and Elphaba are just talking. In the musical, the song completely stops for a few minutes and there is dialogue and then the song starts playing again. I like this song because Galinda is funny and it is very upbeat.
The final song of Act 1 is “Defying Gravity.” Just before this scene, Elphaba’s view of the Wizard of Oz completely changes. Now she is against him. In this scene, she and Galinda are in a room hiding from some people. Elphaba wants Galinda to join her and they can be happy together. This is one of the most powerful songs in the album. The song starts off fast and loud, then it turns soft, then loud again. The song builds up as it goes along. The vocals in this song are very powerful. There is a part where she says, “I'm through accepting limits 'Cuz someone says they're so Some things I cannot change But till I try, I'll never know! Too long I've been afraid of Losing love I guess I've lost Well, if that's love It comes at much too high a cost!” This means that Elphaba knows she cannot change what she did and what happened, and that she has tried for so long to try to have people love her, but trying to force that love is no longer worth it. The texture of this song at the end is thick, meaning that it has a lot going on with the instruments and vocals. The tempo of this song changes multiple times. There is no clear rhythm in this song. I like this song because of all the opposing views and how powerful the music and lyrics are.
I think that Wicked is amazing. The songs are all different in style. The entire cast has amazing voices, and Stephen Schwartz did a great job connecting the musical to the spinoff book and to the original book. I think that fans of other Broadway musicals or fans of the Wizard of Oz would love this musical. I would rate this album a 9 out of 10.
The album I chose to write about is by Dodie, and it's called You. She was born in Epping, UK. She plays Pop/Indie/Alternative, and she is an independent artist as well as a Youtuber. She released this album on August 11th, 2017. There are a lot of different moods to the record. Some of it is sad and melancholy, but other parts are happy and upbeat. She put the ukulele, the piano, the violin, the guitar, the cello and percussion in the album.
The first song I chose off her album is called "6/10." A part that stand's out to me is Dodie's vocals. In the song, her voice is very prominent, and she additionally has some humming in the background. I enjoy the strings in the background because they add a particular kind of depth that the song wouldn't have otherwise. Since the song is so simple with only the piano and strings, they both play useful roles in the song. The tempo of this song is slow, but it doesn't drag along. In the lyrics, they reiterate what they're saying but in different ways which I enjoy. This song makes me feel something inside. I don't know what. It's kind of like an aching or longing for something I don't know.
The second song I chose is called "You." It is the title track of the album. What stands out to me in this song and what I thought of when I first heard it is how it's Persian themed. I also believe that there is a guitar in this song. It was tough for me to tell because it also could've been a bigger ukulele, so I'm still not entirely convinced. The vocals in this song are a lot higher and have longer strung out notes. This song has an upbeat tempo and makes you want to get up and dance. The lyrics make me think of a breakup song, but I love how Dodie made it happy. Typically you would think of a song about a breakup to be sad and make you cry in the rain, but she just made it surprisingly cheerful!
The last song I picked is called "Would You Be So Kind." What stood out to me was here was the ukulele. It is the first thing you here in the song, and you continue to hear it the whole way through. The part that the ukulele plays I especially like. It's a fun chord pattern, and overall I just love the chords. This song isn't very dynamic, but it's still a good song, most of the time it stays the same in loudness. This song makes me feel very happy and just puts a smile on my face.
I love this album because it talks about such real issues and is just great music that I love! I think that most people don't expect good music from Youtubers because most of them assume they can sing and come out with singles. Although Dodie is one, it's not entirely what she's known for. I think people who like Lana Del Ray and M.I.A. would like Dodie's music because all of their songs have deeper meanings. But I think that most people would like Dodie. She's charming and sweet, so what's not to like?
Album Score: 6/10 (just kidding, you get it though?)
Real Album Score: 10/10
Lin-Manuel Miranda is an American composer, singer, playwright and actor. He was born in 1980 in a Latino neighborhood in New York City to two parents originally from Puerto Rico. He always sang as a kid, and in college he started a hip hop comedy singing group called “Freestyle Love Supreme.” It was clear that he loved free-thinking and exciting lyrics that he could improv with his friends. After his first musical “In the Heights” became a success, Miranda needed a break. In 2008, he grabbed Ron Chernow’s 800 page biography of “Alexander Hamilton” to read on vacation. Hamilton being born out of wedlock, growing up poor on the streets as a smart, scrappy fighter, abandoned by his father and orphaned by his mother all added up for Miranda. Immediately, Miranda recognized Hamilton’s hard luck story and rise to the top as a classic hip hop story and immigrant story.
Released in 2015, Hamilton is a uniquely American work which combines many different musical genres, like Rap, Hip Hop, and Classical all in a broadway musical setting. The songs appear chronologically in two acts and range in tempo from lightning fast speed with full and even digital orchestration to the saddest acapella vocal and piano duet. A great range of emotion is projected to the audience through Miranda’s instrumentation. He uses Hip Hop sampling in most of the fast tempo songs and a range of instruments to back up his exciting lyrics. This combination makes for an exciting musical that feels revolutionary in its own right. On this album Miranda puts great moments of American History back on the streets and into the voices of men and women who fearlessly fight with every lyric. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is a groundbreaking masterpiece in any genre.
The song “Cabinet Battle #1” begins Act Two with George Washington directly addressing the audience. Washington welcomes the audience to a “cabinet meeting” which is really a rap battle between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Using a piano and drums background, Miranda borrows lyrics from Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” as Washington states, “Ladies and Gentlemen...you could’ve been anywhere in the world tonight but you’re here with us in New York City.” Jay-Z sings “You could’ve been anywhere in the world but you’re here with me.” Miranda also samples Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five when he has Secretary Jefferson say “sometimes I wonder why I even bring the thunder.” In 1982 Grandmaster Flash sang “Sometimes I wonder how I keep from going under.” Miranda keeps the instrumentation low in the background to showcase the amazing vocal exchange between these two enemies. A fast percussive beat keeps time with the rapping politicians, and the piano uses high notes to reflect the anxiety brewing between them. The vocals use a fast tempo and are percussive themselves. The beat is syncopated, and the audience feels off-balance as though anything could happen as they witness these two go at it. The way the piano climbs to reach higher pitched notes adds a sense of anxiety and excitement that is building. This is a masterful song at drawing the audience into the content and getting them excited about what they’re hearing. As the second song in Act II the audience gets the sense that more conflict is coming.
The song “Guns and Ships” is the 18th song in Act I. It starts with an overture of chords, a soaring solo Violin, then continuous snaps from the company that keep Aaron Burr on the beat as he recaps how the revolutionary army is falling apart. He asks the audience directly, “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower? How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire, leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?” He’s saying this, genuinely wondering out loud, how the rebel army can possibly win when they are outmatched in men, weapons, ships, and money. The rest of the song answers his question in the form of what is quite possibly the fastest song in musical theater history. According to the site MentalFloss.com, “Guns and Ships” averages 6.3 words per second. Fivethirtyeight.com argues that “Guns and Ships” is the “fastest Broadway song of all time” because “19 words are sung in one 3 second span.” The singer Daveed Diggs plays the Marquis de Lafayette, and he manages to sing these lightning fast lyrics in a convincing french accent. In history, Lafayette with Rochambeau is truly the “secret weapon” and does really save the revolution. Miranda increases the dynamics of this scene as Burr shouts to the audience “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” Lafayette bursts onto the scene with a percussive rap. He leaves no doubt about what it’s going to take to win the war with these lyrics: “I’m takin’ this horse by the reigns makin’ redcoats redder with bloodstains. And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em drop and burn ‘em up and scatter their remains.” With these lyrics, Miranda does a good job in my opinion of showing how committed soldiers were during this time in the revolution. The song conveys this do or die dedication with the fast rhythm and percussive melody of the lyrics. You can feel the adrenaline rush as the listener. After this insanely-fast-paced song, peace is in sight. This song feels to me like having a front row seat to history.
In “Burn” which appears as the 15th song in Act II, a haunting harp solo foreshadows the impending pain and suffering we are about to hear from Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. She appears alone, with no backup vocals, which reinforces the sense that she’s feeling abandoned. The whole world has found out that her husband has been having an affair with another woman. The song also stands out as having the slowest tempo on the whole album. The accompaniment in this song switches from the harp to single piano notes once she starts to sing. The pace builds and you really feel the repetitive, swirling 1-2-3 waltz structure that Eliza can’t escape from. Eliza explains her situation figuratively to Alexander. A solo violin and drum top hat cymbal joins the piano as she reminisces about their early happy days together. But as she describes his betrayal, she burns his letters and sings, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative. Let future historians wonder how Eliza reacted when you broke her heart. You have torn it all apart. I’m watching it burn.” The melody when she draws out the word “burn” is like a multi-pitched wail, which really shows how destroyed she is. I think this song stands out as one of the best on the album because of how stark and simple the message is. In a fast-paced tightly-packed musical, Burn is a surprising change of pace that breaks your heart in sympathy with Eliza.
Hamilton, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells history through music. It tells the history of rap and hip hop through the samples and styles it incorporates, and it tells the history of this revolutionary young country in 1776. Hamilton is able to fit more than 20,000 words into two and a half action-packed hours. I highly recommend this album for fans of history, broadway shows, musicals, rap, hip hop, and anyone who just wants to be transported through time via music. In 2016, it was nominated for 16 Tony awards. It won 11, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Hamilton also won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I think the most special thing that this album has to offer is that these 46 songs are each catchy, memorable, and unique in their own right. Together, they are a powerhouse experience of music, education, and overall fun. I give Hamilton a perfect 10 out of 10.
For this album review, I chose Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin is an English Hard Rock band. They released their debut album in 1969 and released their 4th album in 1971. This album has some more “aggressive” songs and some quieter and moodier songs, both of which I will talk about later. There are some unusual instrument choices in this album such as flute and mandolin. I chose this album because I generally enjoy music from the 70’s more than some music today. The uniqueness of this album was another reason I was drawn to it.
The first song I chose was “Rock and Roll”, the second track on the album. "Rock and Roll" is definitely one of the more “aggressive” songs in the album as I talked about earlier, but It is still an iconic track. Something unique about this song is that there are many guitar solos, taking up about half of the 4 minutes in the song. Robert Plant, the vocalist, sings the lyrics with a lot of purpose and energy. The listener gets the feeling that Plant is trying to send the message that it has been a “long lonely time”. It is a relatively fast-paced song as well. The sound is just a bit gritty to really set the tone of the song itself. In this song, the vocalist talks about how he hasn’t played music in a while, so he’s feeling lonely and is missing that large part of his life. The band is most likely trying to get across that they don’t know what people would do without music. "Rock and Roll" is one of my favorite songs on the album.
The second song I chose and my favorite, was “Stairway to Heaven”. This is a deeper song on the album. What I find interesting about this song, is that it seems to be strategically placed in the album so that it would be the last track of the first side on a vinyl record. I think this was intentional to give the listener a certain mood before flipping the record over. The intro is definitely the most iconic part of the song. It starts out with a guitar picking solo, and then flute is added in to give a unique feel. The vocals are quieter, but sung with more soul versus anger like in “Rock and Roll”. At the beginning of the song, the musicians hold the notes longer, but as the song continues, the texture gets thicker. The first verse talks about a lady who is “buying the stairway to heaven” It talks about a lady who gets everything she wants without having to worry about the consequences. The song makes a lot of people think about consequences and repercussions. It’s because of how uncommon some of the instruments are and the meaning that I would deem this my favorite track.
The last song I decided to choose was “Four Sticks”, the seemingly least popular song on the album. I picked it because I don't think it gets enough credit. I like this song because even though it's the least known song on the album, it still surpasses many other songs of its time. In the song, their bassist plays a synthesizer, which is a different sound choice for this band. Also, I noticed that the song had riffs in various time signatures, so researched it, and there are in fact riffs in 5/8 and 6/8.
Overall, this is definitely one of the greatest albums of it’s time. I think that it was composed very well and performed very well. This album really stands out because of the interesting and unconventional instrument choices. For example, you don't hear flute and mandolin in a lot of other songs, but Led Zeppelin can make it mesh really well with the other instruments. People who like Queen would definitely like Led Zeppelin because Led Zeppelin influenced Queen as well as Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and other rock and metal bands. There aren’t a lot of bands around anymore that can provide the sound and vibe that bands used to have, which is why I really enjoyed listening to and reviewing this album.
Rating (out of ten): 11 ‘