In his quite frankly amazing book „How I escaped my certain fate“, Stewart Lee rages against musicals as the anti-art-form of theatre and music. Unfortunately for him – as he admits – his first dabs into musicals was „We will rock you – the Queen musical“, something that is pretty much everything bad about both art forms stuck together with old chewing gum and lots of bad wigs.
However, if I had the chance, I would tell Stewart Lee, that there is a magic to musicals that is as captivating as it is unnerving. Watching a Sondberg-musical is moving and terrifying at once because there – amidst all the beautiful music and the bright colours of Broadway – lies the source of human weakness. Our darn flaws laid out in wonderful lyrics and dialogue, our deepest fears hidden between those high notes. Good musicals cushion the blow. Whereas theatre mostly wants to lay bare all things wrong with us, musicals soften up this pain and slowly, tenderly show us our broken dreams – all wrapped up in glitz and pomp.
Laura Mvula’s unfathomably amazing album recorded with the Metropole Orkest. opens with „Make me lovely“, a song that in its original already broke one heart after another but lain into the breath-taking and playful composition of the Metropole Orkest. sums up everything great that musicals can offer you.
The instrumental intro is like all musical intros the wrap up, the spoiler alert of the storytelling of what will happen. As we run through the story without knowing its details, we already get glimpses of the joy, the tension, the sadness and the relief. A great musical intro provides catharsis even before any narrator enters the stage.
And then – lo and behold – Laura Mvula with a vocal performance that shames everything I’ve heard since Jennifer Hudson sang the living crap out of „And I’m telling your..“. With her playful reminiscence of 50s performers, she gives you everything and yes, you can cry when she tells you „I can’t make you love me anymore, you can’t make me lovely, no“ because this is some of the clearest, saddest and most perfect songwriting in love songs you’ll get.
The whole album is otherworldly. I kept looking up, shaking my head and muttering „unbelievable“ because this record seems so out of time in its sound but at the same time feels so timeless how it moves and relates to us, us funny little hearts that can break so easily but are also willing to mend themselves over and over again.
Tears, people. I get womanly man-teary eyed during the first minute.