Honorable mentions: “The Guilty Ones,” “Those You’ve Known”
Spring Awakening, let it not be said too loudly, maybe functions better as a concept album than as a musical. I love this musical to pieces, and I’ve even seen it a couple times in different contexts, but the book is not the equal of the music. The music for Spring Awakening hits over and over and over again. There’s not a bad song on the album, and the majority are indelible. This is no small thing; there are musical dead spots in Les Miserables and Hamilton, Chess and Cabaret. Spring Awakening doesn’t have one. The original cast – Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher, Jr., Skylar Astin (who gets the fabulous solo about 75% of the way through “Touch Me”) – is equal parts emotionally convincing and vocally flawless. Tracks like “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked,” with their profane names and ’90s rock influences, grab most of the attention, but there is an undercurrent of songs which rock slightly less and cut rather more. “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” was the first song from the musical I heard, and it still makes my hair stand on end, so to speak. “The Guilty Ones,” once you’ve heard it, lives in your endocrine system. The musical’s last three songs, which are performed almost on top of each other on stage, are a crescendo a person can lay down inside. “Touch Me” is a fabulous song. It doesn’t really advance the plot a whole bunch; most of the songs in Spring Awakening exist around the action rather than pushing it. It teaches us, in dialogue laid into the middle of the song, that Moritz is sexually naive and Melchior is sexually advanced for rural 1890s Germany, which we already surmised.
It’s a sweeping song. It rocks you back and forth like a swing set, with a guitar part that pushes you one direction and a steady drumbeat that pulls you back in the other, gravitating from one to the other; when the drums disappear, a choral “Oh-oh my God, oh-oh-oh yeah, yeah, yeah” takes its place. For two and a half minutes, the song plays hypnotist. For the last two, the hypnotist has commands for you to follow, sung in vocal runs by a pair of soloists.
The part of Georg in this musical is fairly small; like most of the other small parts for boys, he’s there mostly to be funny in little moments. Yet, like Fruma Sarah from Fiddler on the Roof or the mistress from Evita or the courier from 1776, he has a solo that practically gives him the entire stage while he sings it. It’s hot. Like every other song in Spring Awakening that’s not about dead teenagers, “Touch Me” is about sex, and no one provides more raunchiness (albeit in a crystalline, pitch-perfect package) than Georg as he who-o-oas his way through the last minute of the song.