Rachel D, Mark Lee, and Ryan Sheely overthink rock nostalgia through the lens of two very different stage musicals: Pop Punk High and Jagged Little Pill.
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- Pop Punk High
- Jagged Little Pill
- “1999” by Charli XCX and Troye Sivan:
- Ryan’s Pop Punk Spotify Playlist
I saw “Jagged Little Pill” this summer and was blown away. I have never seen a standing ovation in the middle of the show before. I’m shocked a Broadway transfer hasn’t been announced yet. I read rumors that the producers think it still needs some adjustments. It does punch hard and often so maybe they think it needs to be softened some? I hope not.
We did see about six couples walk out before intermission so I’m not sure what show they thought they were going to see. The only other time I’ve seen that was during a tour of “Big River” that was just so bad that half the audience just went home at intermission but that was a quality not not content statement.
My other notable anecdote was at “Spring Awakening” where a mom with a ten-year-old son was warned about the content of the show, but she said he was verrry mature. They left at intermission but that was after [SPOILER ALERT] the semi-nude rape scene between Melchior and Wendla, so too late to lock that barn door. I only ever mention that to humblebrag that I’ve seen Lea Michelle’s boobies.
Speaking of nostalgia, as a fifty-something white male, the recently closed “Getting the Band Back Together” was aimed directly at my demographic yet never seemed to find an audience. Set in the present day, it features a fired finance guy trying to get the titular late 80s high school band back together so they can win a Battle of The Bands contest (to draw just one parallel to Pop Punk High school).
The songs are all original but they are clearly pastiches of 80s classic rock. One song in particular had me laughing harder than I have ever laughed in a theater since the Book of Mormon. If you’ve seen it, you know which one I mean.
That it lasted just a few months while the much cheesier jukebox musical Rock of Ages is now on a Tenth Anniversary tour says something. That show uses hair metal songs to scratch that nostalgia itch. On Broadway, they not only allowed drinks at your seat, they had mobile bars working the aisles. The four women in the row ahead of me sure were enjoying themselves.
So the nostalgia/homage/parody triangle is a tough needle to thread. For every Mamma Mia there is a Escape to Margaritaville.
I didn’t see “Getting the Band Back Together,” but I read the absolutely scathing NY Times review, which certainly didn’t help with its longevity.
It’s worth a read, even if you’re not that tuned into musical theater. NY Times theater reviews are uniquely influential in their arena, so any time you’re reading one, it’s like you’re hearing the voice of God proclaim judgment over like an entire swath of humanity for their sins and misdeeds. Also this particular review is full of sick, sick theater burns like this one:
“Here the obviousness of the characters and the outcome of the plot give the songs almost nothing to do, and here I’m able to say that Mark Allen, who wrote the music and lyrics, is equal to the task.”
(I did see “Rock of Ages” a few years ago; that one actually got a fairly positive Times review.)
There’s nothing in the review that’s exactly wrong. It just a matter of expectations. I expected a little kitsch and got it. The show is just a bit sweaty in that the producer comes out before the show to hype it. And while not as rare as he claims, totally original musicals are getting rarer and rarer.
I saw Mean Girls in the DC tryout because I’m a fan of it and Tina Fey and while it aimed just a bit higher than Getting The Band, it also fell a little shorter in places. It was not nearly as fun and also suffers from trying a bit too hard.
I have never been so simultaneously excited and disappointed. Lovingly mocking emo/pop-punk music is my favorite past time. It’s amazing Pop Punk High exists, but there’s also no conceivable way I’ll see it during this run, what with it being 3,000 miles away.
This might be more my age (I graduated high school in 2007) or my personal taste, but I always saw a divide in the two types of pop-punk music. There’s jock, skater, Vans-ified pop-punk a la Blink 182, which is very bro-ish, in a very “ah, this is what it feels like to be 17” kind of way. The guys seem to be having a good time. They may think they are awesome and punk and edgy, but they don’t seem to think they are so deep and wise and different from all those other guys. Ryan Key (lead singer of Yellowcard) is painfully earnest, but he never positions himself as the worthy guy on one end of a love triangle.
Then there is the sensitive guy pop-punk, with lyrics that are very much aware of their cleverness and deepness. This guy is into how wounded he is and he probably wants his ex-girlfriend to die in a car crash (I think every single emo band has a song about a woman dying in a car crash). I mostly listened to this variety of pop-punk. I think there is a timing element to it. This style was more popular in the later half of the 2000s. But a lot was that I listened to all the Fueled by Ramen bands plus a lot of Taking Back Sunday and Brand New (let’s not get into that wasp’s nest right now) and Fall Out Boy. I still do (I am listening to my emo playlist right now). When I was a teenager, I was very into the “other people don’t understand me, the people who hurt me are the worst” vibes. As an adult, I shoot a lot more lyrics the side eye. Like, dude, are you really so unable to deal with rejection that you want your ex to literally die? That’s kinda pathetic.
I still love the music, and the lyrics, and all the high school pretentiousness, but I do it in a much more mocking way now. I’ve always wanted to hear the TFTers discuss more emo/pop-punk music. It was great having Ryan and Rachel on the OTI podcast. I am hoping to hear more discussion if TFT continues its musical history into the 2000s.
*I’m using emo and pop-punk interchangeable, though I would generally call third wave emo pop-punk
*I think of Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Blink 182, and Avril as skater pop-punk, though I am not super familiar with that particular brand of pop-punk
*I think of Brand New, Panic at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Something Corporate, Taking Back Sunday, Paramore (ladies can be petty about their exes too!) and similar bands as more sensitive artiste/Nice Guy (TM) pop-punk
(which I say in the most loving way possible)
If you can’t make the show, the next best thing is listening to the handful of tracks available on Spotify.
As we mentioned, they really nailed the sound from the era.
The Golden Age for nostalgia is 15-30 years with 20-25 being the sweet spot. I was in grade school in 1974 when Happy Days, set in the mid-50s, went on the air. It would make for a very interesting Overthinking article if someone went and graphed the year a show started with the year it was set. Sample candidate shows would include:
That 70s Show – 1998 vs 1976
Freaks and Geeks (the show I am most nostalgic about) 1999 vs 1980
The Goldbergs – “1980-something” vs 2013