I try really hard to not judge other people’s taste in things. I also try not to hate on things, because making things is hard, getting things out into the world is even harder, (Check out The Marina Chronicle! New Entries every Thursday morning!) and maybe your thing just isn’t for me. Also, walking around looking for shit to hate is exhausting, it’s much easier to just avoid things you don’t like. It’s not always possible and sometimes, things are unavoidable.
And oh boy, has it been tough this week on the unavoidable front.
I mentioned my myriad of issues with Ready Player One, this book was very deeply, not for me in a lot of ways, which is fine, except for that I am, at the moment, feeling alone in that. Not in my web life, where my feminist nerd circles are happy to rant against it’s bro-ey fantasy fulfillment, it’s trash fire female characters and it’s tediously bad writing, But my real life, that’s different. Someone recently asked for book recommendations on facebook, and knowing this person’s taste I recommended Crazy Rich Asians, (But also like everyone, read Crazy Rich Asians.) There then proceeded to be about 10 people, who’s taste I generally respect and overlap with, recommending Ready Player One, which among other things, I don’t think this person will like, but you know what, it’s her call.
With books I have to be really careful, because people tend to tell me that I’m asking people to take it as seriously as I do. But I just want to scream, that no! That’s not it! I think the thing is bad! And yes, I do take it seriously, because I want to be a writer and I studied literature for a long time, and maybe you should listen to me when I say a book is bad, because like, I know what I’m talking about! I have a diploma and everything.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t bad books that I love. (Twilight…and…well, mostly Twilight.) But I know that bad things I like are bad. I cop to it. I don’t go around telling everyone they’re great.
Also, on Saturday, I met an adorable 16 year old theater kid on the train to NYC. I’m always happy when I meet teenage theater geeks, and I want to hug them and tell them: YES! EXIST! ENJOY THIS TIME IN YOUR LIFE! IT WILL NOT LAST BUT YOU WILL ALWAYS LOOK BACK ON IT FONDLY! She was obsessed with The Great Comet, (I really liked this kid!) and was on her way to see Hello Dolly! because to use her words, “OMG Bernadette! Right?” We touched on Dear Evan Hansen, which she loved but felt didn’t deserve it’s win over The Great Comet (AGREED)
I managed to keep this rant in. Even more than judging people’s reading and watching habits, I don’t judge people for liking bad music. I have terrible taste in music. I think The Backstreet Boys should be considered high art. I adore ABBA, and own, not I’ve downloaded to stream, paid actual money for all of Katy Perry’s albums.
But that’s not the case when it comes to showtunes. Oh sure, I like my share of trash and mediocrity. (The Pirate Queen, table for 1!) But generally, I know bad when I hear it, versus knowing when something is just not my thing. (To use one composer as an example: Elton John. Lestat: The Musical, bad. Billy Eliot, excellent, not to my taste.)
And now we get to Pasek and Paul.
I don’t like them. I don’t think they’re particularly good. They’re fine. The do serviceable work. I thought as a cohesive whole, La La Land was spectacular. But I remember next to nothing about it’s songs, it’s the strong visuals and good performances that made that movie. Not the songs. A Christmas Story is a serviceable musical with again, no real memorable songs. And then there are the big two. Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.
None of these songs are great musical theater songs, except maybe “Waving Through The Window,” and “You Will Be Found.” The rest are vapid, derivative, predictable with next to no lyrical depth or anything interesting going on musically. They also wrote that horrendous “Running To You” song from The Flash musical, which following after Rachel Bloom’s delightful, “I’m Your Super Friend,” was particularly egregious and all of the dumb mushy duets from Smash season 2. (Ok, fine I listen to “Heart Shaped Wreckage” and “Rewrite This Story” a lot but only because Jeremy Jordan’s voice is from God, and “Original” is still mega dumb.)
And why does this annoy me so much? So some guys made some dumb, derivative, commercial art, so what?
I wouldn’t care, except for that their dumb derivative commercial art is being talked about and rewarded over actually good masterful art in the same genre.
Look, I get it, Lin-Manuel Miranda isn’t exactly hurting for prestige, but I still burns me that fricking “City of Stars,” beat “How Far I’ll Go” for Best Song. And it really really burns me that The Great Comet and Come From Away lost out on Tony’s to a stupid vapid pop musical with dumb bad songs. And it really really super burns me that because of timing and this inexplicable prestige of theirs, that they’re always going to be mentioned alongside one of the greatest musical theater composers of all time (Miranda) and the pop musical composers we should be talking about instead (Sarah Barielles and The Lopezes) and are getting mainstream attention that could be going to someone who the mainstream hasn’t found yet and might be better than all of the aforementioned people. (RACHEL BLOOM! RACHEL BLOOM! RACHEL BLOOM!)
Anyway, all of this was just a roundabout way of saying that instead of Ready Player One people should read Crazy Rich Asians, and instead of doing literally anything else, people should watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.