Two days ago, I analyzed “For Good” and a few days before that, I analyzed “A Little Fall of Rain”. There is something in common between both of those songs- they fall under the category of bittersweet songs. There is something touching and moving about those types of songs. What exactly makes a musical theatre song bittersweet?
A bittersweet song is usually one of those “goodbye” type of songs. They tend to have a combination of joy and sad. Some are much sadder than other- some fall under the category of devastating. All bittersweet songs have joy and happiness in them. It can be very hard to describe why those songs have joy and happiness in them due to the sad part of them. The more devastating bittersweet songs are the hardest songs to describe the joy. You have to understand the characters to understand why the songs are bittersweet in the first place. I will use “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain” to bring up what I am talking about.
“For Good” is a song that happens towards the end of Wicked. This is the song where Elphaba and Glinda realize that they have to part ways. They will never see each other again, and how much they have meant to each. Elphaba is the only friend that has truly mattered to Glinda, and Glinda was Elphaba’s only friend. It is sad in the fact that they will never see each other again, but joyful in the fact that they are able to tell each other what they meant to each other. It is the most emotional moment in Wicked. It hits you harder than the heartbreaking “I’m Not That Girl”.
Now, “A Little of Rain” is more devastating. It is Eponine’s death scene- you might be thinking, how can a death scene be bittersweet. Eponine is dying in Marius’ arms. You have to understand Eponine’s life, and why Marius means something to her to understand why. Marius was the only person in her life who treated her kindly. Her parents, the Thenardiers, didn’t care about her and raised her to be a thief and criminal. Her life was dark- her only light was Marius- the only good thing in her life. She fell in love with him due to the kindness he showed her.
Back to the song. Leading up to “A Little Fall of Rain”, seeing that Marius was about to get shot, Eponine sacrifice herself to save Marius. She would do anything for him no matter the cost. The joy of the song comes from the fact that Marius was there with her, the only good thing her life. You do feel heartbroken for both of them- the fact that Eponine was dying and the fact that Marius was devastated, but at least he was there. Eponine got to die in the arms of the man she loved- there’s the joy right there. If you did not understand Eponine- you would not understand why this scene is bittersweet.
There is something touching, moving, and special about the bittersweet songs. I don’t know why the first songs that come to mind when I think of the bittersweet songs belong to “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. The bittersweet are some of the most emotional songs in musical theatre.
What are some your favorite musical theatre bittersweet song?