Hey everyone Today I am very excited to talk about two of my favorite things Starkid and (distorted) Stephen Sondheim If you’ve ever talked to me in real life or even just in the comments There’s a good chance that I’ve mentioned Sondheim. I think about him and his work all the time. Literally 24/7 Obviously, I think about Starkid a lot too and in making my ranking videos I’ve been thinking a lot more in depth about the technical aspects of their musicals If you haven’t seen my rankings spoiler alert, I guess but Twisted was in the top three for every category It was ranked number one overall and also number one in music and writing and the more I thought about it the more I realize just how amazing of a show it is, especially the music. So I wanted to dive deeper into it. Do an analysis so to speak but I didn’t want to just spew my incoherent thoughts So I decided to look to a more reputable source. If you don’t know who Stephen Sondheim is well shame on you, but seriously He’s a very famous and influential composer and lyricist. He did Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd West Side Story, etc, etc, etc and for this video I consulted what I call the Gospel according to Sondheim. Two books called Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat. They’re basically his collected and annotated lyrics and they’re amazing and you should buy them What I plan on doing is analyzing Twisted, mostly the music and lyrics According to the principles Sondheim lays out in his books. If you don’t know anything about Sondheim, don’t worry. You’ll still be able to watch this video. Please don’t click away Anyway, here we go. This is his story The untold story of a Royal vizier The basis for Sondheim’s books is his three rules of writing. They are as follows Content dictates form, less is more, and God is in the details. All in service of clarity. These are the foundation for all good lyrics and they can be applied to other aspects of theatre too. Twisted follows all of these principles incredibly well less is more which Sondheim says is the most difficult of the three is present in every song. While, there are plenty of clever lyrics ♪…credit, identities, thunder and scenes, intellectual property whatever that means ♪ and plenty of beautiful lyrics ♪ I never cared for stories, until you entered mine ♪ ♪ Now my only wish is that our plots may intertwine ♪ They never go into the territory of ostentatious. They also never fall into the trap of being simplistic. All the ideas are still clear. God is in the details basically means that the details are important. We’ll get into this later The last principle, content dictates form, is what I think Twisted excels at. Content dictates form basically means that the subject of what you’re writing should determine how you write it. So if a character is really nervous and excited about something they’re not going to sing a slow ballad. This is I think even more important in a parody like Twisted because it would be easy to just say “oh, we need a song that’s like friend like me” and then just shove it into the plot What makes the songs actually work is that the genres they’re parodying grow from the characters and story. For example, it makes sense that the princess would sing a very traditional Disney I want song based on her character. Content dictates form is also why different characters sound different. It’s why the well-educated Jafar sounds like Shakespeare ♪to be well liked but ineffectual or moral, but maligned ♪ while the street rat Aladdin sounds like… ♪ They call me a jerk-off, a burnout, a punk ♪ …well that. This principle is what really elevates Twisted from just a standard parody to something more substantial next Next, I want to talk about one of my favorite things-rhymes If you’ve seen my star cute lyrics video, you know, I stan a good rhyme. This is something that Sondheim has a lot of opinions about. He identifies a couple of different types of rhymes. An identity is sort of like a trick rhyme where it seems like it’s a rhyme but it’s actually just a repetition Arrogance, vanity all over he’s underwater like a Range Rover Assonance is when the vowel sounds are the same but the consonants are completely different Speaks like Zeus Smells like poops Rage all over from his head down to his shoos Zeus poops and shoes Consonants is when the vowel sounds are different but the consonants are the same. But the goal is really a perfect rhyme. Rhymes are useful because they draw attention to the rhymed word and make he lyric sound good. Near rhymes and identities aren’t ideal because they weaken the meaning of a lyric by standing out to the ear Sondheim does say that emotional statements can be effective with identities. ♪ Let the truth be twisted, let my life be twisted, I’ll be twisted ♪ But they are especially negative for jokes because they killed a punchline. Of course Twisted isn’t perfect and it does have its share of near rhymes But for the most part it does astonishingly well. One of the interesting things that Sondheim says is that rhymes with different spellings are actually stronger than rhymes with the same endings There are tons of examples and twisted so I’m just going to include some of my favorites ♪ Why don’t we have enough to eat? ♪ ♪ Why are we dying in the street? ♪ ♪ Why does my baby always cry? ♪ ♪ Why did my mommy have to die? ♪ Twisted also has a lot of great internal rhymes, which Sondheim says land speed and focus to a lyric. One of my favorite parts of Finishing the Hat is a part in The Sweeney Todd section where Sondheim explains his outlook on the chorus in musicals Why I like it actually has nothing to do with writing. It’s just funny, but I digress In general, he doesn’t like the sort of hive mind chorus where all the chorus members sing the same thing even though they probably wouldn’t all be thinking the same thought. He likes to use lyrics that apply to everyone or use separate lyrics that then come together into a shared thought (ensemble singing) ♪ Where is this Pirelli? ♪ Twisted does this consistently. In Dream a Little Harder all the townspeople share their own distinct woes and desires but then they all come together to sing the saying that every child raised within the kingdom knows ♪ I need six eggs ♪ ♪ Then why not buy some? ♪ ♪ I want to fly ♪ ♪ That’s unrealistic ♪ ♪ I want to be a cat ♪ ♪ What? ♪ Fuck you! ♪ Whistle while you swallow a spoon full of sugar and your dreams will come true upon a star ♪ This also happens in the title number when all the villains are saying what they wish for and then they come together (Overlapping) I only wished for justice.
I only wished for love
I only wished for freedom
I only wished for peace I only wished, I only wished, I only wished, I only wished It works so well and it’s just one of the most satisfying musical moments in the show Surprises are another element that Sondheim talks about that can really bring a musical to the next level Surprises don’t just mean plot twists though. Although Twisted does have those. They also can occur in dialogue, character revelations, a note in a melody, harmonic progression, staging, lighting, orchestration song cues, etc. or even in single lyrics. What’s tricky about surprises is that even though they are supposed to be unexpected you still have to lay out the trail for the audience ahead of time. Twisted obviously does this with the princess’s true parentage. They lay out all the clues for you. Not only within the narrative How could I have never seen it before? The Sultan inverted his penis years ago? He couldn’t have children. but also what this show’s parallels to Wicked. So the ultimate reveal makes perfect sense, but it’s still satisfying surprise that’s placed me in a perfect spot within the story. The other big plot twist Where you been man? In your reflection Might not seem like it has much build-up but it actually has clues laid out earlier in the show All my parents ever did was support me, give me a place to stay, tell me they loved me no matter what. They were really bad parents. but Twisted has plenty of other surprises that even after you’re watching the show a million times stand out to me. Any good joke has to have some element of surprise or else you would already know the punchline But some of the best jokes, the ones that completely knock the air out of you, are the ones that are completely unexpected Of course the most iconic one comes in. No One Remembers Achmed What’s that name everyone? Tiger fucker! NO! But there are plenty of others. This is one of my personal favorite examples All 150 of its members are to be sacked. We put them in burlap sacks and beat them until they were dead. It’s not just written jokes. There’s also the amazing visual gag in Take Off Your Clothes that gets me every time. ♪ Even the stars above reflect our love ♪ And lastly there’s one amazing non-comedic surprise that makes for such a satisfying musical moment ♪ A thousand and one nights with you is not enough to spend ♪ ♪ A thousand and one lifetimes is not enough to spend ♪ Finally I want to talk about the purpose of a song. Sondheim likes to use songs as mini plays. They should either intensify a moment or move the story forward. Moving the story forward doesn’t have to literally mean new plot developments but it has to have some sense of urgency and the character singing must go through an emotional change or expressive a feeling so powerful that it leads to an action. Musical comedy songs do have a little more leeway, though and they are often just one expanded idea But they still have to be grounded in character and plot to be effective. To show how well Twisted follows these principles I’m going to go through and explain each song’s purpose ♪ I look around the kingdom and see the desperation and the devastation that persists ♪ ♪ no matter what I do ♪ ♪ But today could be the day ♪ ♪ I finally make a difference ♪ ♪ And all the grateful citizens will say to me ♪ Opening numbers have their own set of rules They have the same purpose as all songs but they also have the additional burden of introducing the story and characters in an entertaining way and laying down the ground rules for the audience, establishing a tone, and telling them what kind of show to expect. They sort of function as a musical thesis I would say that Dream a Little Harder does all of this Firstly it introduces us to Jafar and lays out his worldview, a sort of tired optimism, perfectly. It also gives us the basic plot. Jafar is trying to better the kingdom. Most importantly it establishes the tone. It shows the audience what kind of comedy and parody to expect? ♪ Why does the sun go down at night? ♪ ♪ Why is everyone in the kingdom white ♪ But it also reminds them that there’s a heart at the center of the show ♪ What I call planning who they call scheming ♪ ♪ What I called delusion they call dreaming ♪ ♪ Want food but got no money ♪ ♪ I’m screwed or so it would seem ♪ ♪ That’s why I came up with this brilliant scheme ♪ ♪ Just steal everything ♪ I’d say this song falls under the musical comedy category in that. It’s one idea expanded. It’s really just Aladdin’s worldview explained. However, like in any good song it’s firmly grounded in character and it sets up a lot of Aladdin’s later actions In fact, I think this comedic take sets up one of the darker moments in the musical really well. Except you’re forgetting one thing. I’m a thief. I take what I want. ♪ I’m the most powerful girl in the land ♪ ♪ With a wave of my hand. I can give a command ♪ ♪ but it’s just like whatever ♪ ♪ ’cause they don’t understand ♪ This song like I steal everything is also a musical comedy song but it’s also a really important song for the princess’s character arc. Establishing her wants now makes the payoff that we get in the end, particularly in The Power in Me, really satisfying. and like I said before it’s the perfect example of content dictates form. You can’t be a real Disney princess without and I want song ♪ Sands of time take me back ♪ Sands of time is more of a songlet, but it does move the plot forward and it also develops Jafar’s character a little so it works for me. ♪ Why it’s as easy as a 1-2-3-4 ♪ ♪ Follow the golden rule, for life’s a two-way street ♪ ♪ Keep that in mind, and you’ll be kind to everyone you meet ♪ ♪ Follow the golden rule ♪ ♪ How can a man resist, when the gold in his hand lets him rule the land with an iron fist? ♪ Golden Rule and Golden Rule Evil Reprise together move the plot forward by showing Jafar’s optimism, then showing that optimism being crushed which influences his actions Also, I want to mention how amazing the instrumental music is for these two songs. It’s a subtle difference, but it adds so much I’m just gonna do my little editing trick to demonstrate ♪ Always treat others, like sisters and brothers and they’ll do the same for you ♪ ♪ Who has the gold makes all the words so he wins the game and the prize for winning? ♪ ♪ More gold. Haha! ♪ ♪ And the game begins again ♪ ♪ I know a thousand tales ♪ ♪ To fill a thousand nights ♪ ♪But now another story comes to mind. A noble young Vizier ascends to wondrous heights ♪ ♪ He’s brilliant as he’s handsome ♪ ♪ and handsome as he’s kind ♪ This song is so effective because it brings us through Jafar and Scheherazade’s relationship in just a few minutes She’s barely in the show when you think about it, but her story has developed so well in just one song ♪ If I believed in wishes as silly as it seems ♪ ♪ I’d find that hidden cave, turn back the sands of time, and save you ♪ If I believed it’s definitely an example of a character expressing a feeling so powerful that it leads to an action. Think about how weak that scene would be if Jafar just found the pendant and then was like “Oh maybe this thing is actually magic” and then moved on. Giving him an emotional song to power the decision to find the cave makes the scene work. ♪ I know you think ♪ ♪ I’m this perfect guy ♪ ♪ But there’s something I have to confess ♪ ♪ I only hope it doesn’t make you like me any less ♪ ♪ I’ve got this tragic backstory ♪ ♪ That’s driven other girls away ♪ ♪ But I feel like I can trust you. You won’t judge me for what I say ♪ Like I steal everything Orphaned at 33 is another musical comedy song But it still is grounded in Aladdin’s character and it sets up the reveal of him killing his parents for later ♪I’ll be treated like a hero ♪ ♪ All the citizens adore ♪ ♪ They’ll throw a parade in my honor ♪ ♪ With peacocks and monkeys galore ♪ ♪ The people will cheer
For the royal vizier ♪ ♪ For answering duty’s call ♪ ♪ Not that I care for glory
I just want a story ♪ ♪ with a happy ending for all ♪ This song is pretty much a summary of the first act. It closes up all the character and story beats that have been established so far. It’s also a fun example of content dictates form when you compare how all three of the characters are singing ♪ I’ll be the one who plunders her cave of wonders. Get a happy ending tonight ♪ ♪ I wish that you could fly away
Escape somehow and soar ♪ ♪ And take me to a world where
We’ll have everything and more ♪ ♪ And with my wife beside me
My failures will be absolved ♪ ♪ The world will be a paradise
With all its problems solved ♪ And it always reminds me of quintet from West Side Story because they both end with everyone singing tonight ♪ Where we can write our own happy ending
-PRINCESS: I want everything and more…
-ALADDIN: I steal everything ♪ ♪ We’ll get our happy ending
-A: Meaning everything ♪ ♪ And that happy ending starts…
-P: I want everything…
A: I’ll steal everything… ♪ ♪ (in unison) Tonight… ♪ In your home and you’re a legend All the people know your name. ♪ On the battlefield and off you are superior ♪ I know ♪ In the kingdom though, I’m finding that my only claim to fame is an incident involving my posterior ♪ ♪ Posterior ♪ Please ♪ I’ve won scores of bloody wars and mopped the floors with my foes ♪ ♪ But no one remembers Achmed ♪ In my opinion this is the perfect musical comedy song Not only does it set up Achmed’s motivations and goals for the second act, it also is just so fucking hilarious. Like I cannot watch it without cracking up every single time ♪ See that palace of gold?
Shining, sparkling, metallic ♪ ♪ And a little bit phallic
Take a look and you’ll agree ♪ ♪ See those leaves on the ground?
Spelling something explicit ♪ PRINCESS: SFX? ♪ Don’t you blink or you’ll miss it
Gently asking you and me ♪ ♪ Take off your clothes ♪ ♪ So many hidden messages ♪ ♪ Subtle, yet slightly lewd
But if you’re shrewd ♪ ♪ They’ll put you in the mood ♪ This is the last musical comedy song in the show and it continues to deliver. It’s the idea of subliminal messaging in Disney movies expanded, but it also serves as the culmination of Aladdin and the Princess’s relationship. And once again content dictates form. This moment is the perfect opportunity to parody A Whole New World ♪I’ve gone against my sultan, the highest act of treason♪ ♪ But I had good intentions, I did it for a reason ♪ ♪ They’ll kill me if I’m lucky, they’ll torture me if not ♪ ♪ What made me think that I could get away with such a plot? ♪ ♪It’s not too late to bring it back, perhaps I’ll be forgiven♪ ♪ But if my crime can help improve the world we all must live in ♪ ♪ Am I not bound by duty to the people of this nation? ♪ ♪ How does the golden rule apply in such a situation? ♪ ♪ As a citizen, I think I would be grateful for the aid ♪ ♪ But if I were the sultan, I should hate to be betrayed ♪ ♪Whichever road I take I’ll be incurring someones wrath♪ ♪ ‘Til now I’ve always traveled on the straight and narrow path ♪ ♪ Temptation may have beckoned but I always have resisted ♪ ♪ But which way do I turn when the roads become so… ♪ Twisted is the emotional climax of the show and oh my god, is it perfect. It definitely delivers on having a sense of urgency. Seriously, the opening of that song has me on the edge of my seat every single time and it moves the story forward as well. It pushes Jafar to make the most crucial decision in the whole show ♪ What will I do without you to guide me? ♪ ♪ When I am lost, where will I turn? ♪ ♪ So many doubts and fears inside me ♪ ♪ I’m just a child, I’ve so much to learn ♪ If Twisted is the emotional climax of the show The Power In Me is the emotional resolution. It ties up Jafar and the Princess’s story and the Princess’s emotional journey in the song clearly leads to the decision she makes at the end of the show ♪ A thousand and one lifetimes is not enough to spend ♪ ♪ At last we have a story with no end ♪ The finale is also more of a songlet than a song Kind of like a button to the show, and it does break the rules for a chorus singing one thought but it still wraps up the show in a very Disney manner so I think it works. So there you go. That is my analysis of Twisted Truly, I think it’s an amazing musical. The songs are phenomenal, the characters are spectacular, and I like to think that Sondheim would appreciate it. I also like to think that he’d be simultaneously horrified and pleased with how frequently they say “fuck” in it. ♪ Gee officer Krupke, Krup you ♪ Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this video It was really fun to make and I got to reread Sondheim’s books and listen to Twisted like a million times So it was totally worth it. If you want to see more videos like this and other interesting content, don’t forget to like the video and leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for watching ♪ Let this be a story with no end ♪ ♪ Ah! ♪