The $7 Song Off Each Grammy Award-Winning Musical Theater Album in the Last 10 Years
The Tony Award-winning Best Musical Hadestowntook home another prestigious award last night, the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The Hadestown win had us thinking about the other recent winners in this category, and our $7 song theory—the idea being if an album costs about $12, somewhere on that album, one song is so good that it alone is worth $7 of the $12. Below, we look at the last 10 years of Grammy Award-winning cast albums, and speculate on what the $7 song off each would be.
This one is so tough because there are about six songs on this album that could be debated as the correct answer. Personally, it doesn’t get better than Eva Noblezada belting for the old gods and new in the “Wait for Me (Reprise)”. You get a bit on André, you get the beauty of “Wait for Me” and Reeve’s voice, you get an acting moment from Patrick and Amber, and that belt.
2019: The Band’s Visit
It’s all about Adam Kantor’s 11 o’clock number “Answer Me”. If you wanted to introduce this album and it’s haunting beauty, you’d start and end here.
2018: Dear Evan Hansen
The sheer amount of covers and cabaret performances of this song speak for themselves. Ben Platt’s first big song as Evan, “Waving Through a Window”, is where it’s all at. It is undeniably the break out song from the score.
2017: The Color Purple
Picking a favorite here is impossible. This is truly an album that can be enjoyed start to finish with not a single skip. While “I’m Here” was the moment in the theatre, I’m going with the reprise of the title number. The way the song builds, Cynthia Erivo inventing the word honeybee, the gorgeous ensemble coming in sounding like church—it’s got everything. It makes you want to give praise.
The Hamilton cast album is a musical theater game-changer. We could go back and forth, yelling about “Satisfied” and “The Room Where it Happens” and the deep cuts everyone knows every word to, but quite simply, there’s a power in “Wait For it” that stirs the soul. You could hear this on the radio; this is affirmational; and it’s timeless.
2015: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Is it sacrilege to choose a song that wasn’t written by Carole and doesn’t feature its Tony-winning leading lady Jessie Mueller? I love this whole album truly, but this medley is fire. Like Act I of Beautiful, every old pop song is jammed in there and it’s perfection. While much of the album is just Carole covers, there’s something very theatrical about this. It gives you absolute life.
2014: Kinky Boots
This score truly slaps (as the kids say). Revisiting it, it’s just one Cyndi Lauper hit after the next. That opening number with Lena Hall belting, Billy Porter’s “Land of Lola” and “Sex Is in the Heel” are iconique, but the finale of “Raise You Up/Just Be” is not only catchy AF, it encapsulates the entire message of the musical. Also, try to listen to it and stand still—you just can’t.
Again, like Evan Hansen, it just has to be “Falling Slowly”. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti make magic on this track.
2012: The Book of Mormon
The R-rated “Hasa Diga Eebowai” captures the tone of the musical perfectly. It’s catchy, it’s vaguely familiar, and then it slaps you in the face with the lyric. Playful and shocking.
2011: American Idiot
This cast album was the soundtrack to my early 20s, so it’s nearly impossible to be impartial. In the twist, “Last of the American Girls” wins out. It’s a passionate number that rocks, and you can play it in mixed company and no one will tell you to turn off the Broadway. When I revisit this album (which is often) this is the first song I play and then bounce around from here—often to the superb “Jesus of Suburbia” next.
2010: West Side Story
First, how did this beat out the Hair revival album? This West Side Story had those thrilling orchestrations and the characters spoke and sung in Spanish –which no West Side has done before or since. To highlight the Spanish lyric and the orchestrations, let’s look at “Un Hombre Asi/I Have a Love” . The number features Karen Olivo’s Tony-winning performance as Anita and showcases Josefina Scaglione’s effortless soprano.