I already talked about on this blog about the importance of the negative emotions in the musical world. When I mean negative emotion, I am talking about the emotions found in the songs. Understanding the negative emotions is quite tricky and quite difficult to work with.
The negative emotions do hurt in the world of musicals. So what makes them an emotion worth feeling? The negative emotions may hurt, but in many ways, they are quite beneficial to a musical experience. It is easier to have an emotional connection to a character who expresses negative emotions due to amount of conflict that is part of their lives. There are some musical characters like Elphaba and Jack Kelly that you don’t experience negative emotions from them right away and already can have an emotional connection. There are some musical characters who mainly feel negative emotions throughout the entire show and you still have an emotional connection to them.
There are two ways to experience joy through the negative emotions. The first is you having an appreciation of feeling them in the first place. The second is found through any bittersweet moment. Those are moments like “For Good” and “A Little Fall of Rain”. The only way to understand joy in the bittersweet moments is to understand the characters who are part of those songs. “For Good” for instance is the moment where Elphaba and Glinda reunite with each other again, but its the last time they will see each other. I don’t view the song as a heartbreaking song even though it is a goodbye song. It is important to understand the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda because their friendship is core to Wicked.
Another bittersweet moment is in Les Mis, which is “A Little Fall of Rain”. Now this song is heartbreaking, but still bittersweet. I know where the joy easily comes from in this song. This is the main moment of Eponine’s life where she is truly happy. Yes, it her death scene, but this is actually the happiest moment of her life. Its not because she is dying, but because she is dying the arms of Marius. If you don’t understand Eponine at all, it is nearly impossible to understand the joy of this song. She lived a very tragic life having to be raised by parents who don’t even care about her and raised her to be a criminal. She doesn’t have many good things happen in her life. In this scene, I am happy that Eponine finally is happy for once in her life. It is very important to understand how much Eponine loves Marius to understand the joy found in this scene.
I love sad the most when it goes beyond the mild levels of that emotion. It starts at songs like “Santa Fe” from Newsies. But heartbreak is a very special degree of sad, which is an emotion which was once unidentifiable. Sad was an emotion that existed when I was younger and it did have some understanding, but I hardly remember what the emotion was like. I do remember it being in “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good”.
Heartbreak decided to exist in musicals in the most unexpected of ways. Good thing I already knew that sad was already existent and common in the musical world. It decided to enter my life through a heartbreaking musical. Growing up, I believed that all musicals were happy and comic because thats all I knew.
So I was quite surprised when I saw the Les Mis movie and that was when I realized heartbreak is a musical emotion. This was in December of 2012 and my journey began with Les Mis that same year, but did not become a true fan until early 2013. Its just when I realized Les Mis was a tragedy that I was thinking “is this a tragedy and I was like wait a minute, tragic musicals exist” and as a result watched the rest of the movie in shock and confusion and by the end “I was thinking did I just like a tragedy”, but still didn’t know if I liked it or not.
The true value of feeling the negative emotions comes from the fact that is shows that you care about musical characters. It shows a sense of sympathy and even sense of empathy and it shows that you have an emotional connection. Sad in the form of heartbreak is so wonderful. Heartbreak is stronger then an ordinary sad song. Heartbreak is a main emotion in the world of musicals. Whether that is in South Pacific, Wicked, Cats, Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, or Rent, the negative emotions are worth it. The only time I honestly get nothing out of the negative emotions is when I see a musical that I don’t end up liking.
Heartbreak is an emotion that is full of fragility, honesty, insight and vulnerability. Due to heartbreak being existent, I quickly realized how much easier it was to pick up on the negative emotions in other musicals and even made it easier to pick up on inner conflict as well. The song “I’m Not That Girl” for instance changed from being a sad song to being a heartbreaking song and that is one of the best things that ever happened because it strengthened Wicked’s love triangle.
I wouldn’t have realized “I’m Not That Girl” was heartbreaking if that emotion never decided to make itself known and glad I was able to realize the song was heartbreaking thanks to the help of “On My Own”, a more heartbreaking and stronger unrequited love song. Since the emotions of “On My Own” are much more obvious, it helped me understand the emotions of “I’m Not That Girl”. Due to “I’m Not That Girl” and “On My Own” being two unrequited love songs and due to one being more heartbreaking than the other, it shows that even heartbreak can be layered. Both songs share some common emotions like heartbreak and loneliness. “I’m Not That Girl” doesn’t have room to be fully heartbreaking since Elphaba just found out she loves Fiyero literally just moments before she sings that song, but it does have great insight built in to it. Both “On My Own” and “I’m Not That Girl” go beyond the unrequited love.
Les Mis and Wicked are two musicals that I have a strong emotional connection to and feeling the negative emotions in each are worth it due to my love for each of them and my emotional connection to the material. Another realization came from “Memory”. I always knew about “Memory”, but it was one of those songs where I don’t know if I knew its emotion or not. I knew I always loved the song, but through “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Memory” decided to be a heartbreaking song. What makes a song heartbreaking is based off of how you interpret a song. The value of the negative emotions comes from the fact that you are showing that you care.
If it wasn’t for Les Mis, the negative emotions wouldn’t have changed the way they did. The realization of heartbreak made the negative emotions even more worth feeling. It shows a sense of relationship and shows a sense of understanding. Les Mis was able to show me that heartbreak is an actual musical emotion. The negative emotions are tough to work with due to just how much they can actually hurt. There are other negative emotions besides the obvious sad and heartbreak.
The hardest negative emotion to work with is uncomfortable. That mainly happens in “Lovely Ladies”, but due to understanding the importance of the scene, I learned to tolerate it and feeling uncomfortable in that scene is highly important. In Les Mis, if you don’t understand Fantine, you will feel so lost in the plot. Anger is another negative emotion, which is an emotion that is part of conflict. Without the negative emotions, characters would feel less real. Theatre is a safe place to discover negative emotions. While the negative emotions do hurt, it is worth feeling them if you have a strong emotional connection and a love for the songs. If you fall in love with the songs, you do find yourself falling in love with the emotions.
The negative emotions have changed a lot over the years. Heartbreak was what drastically changed the emotion. It made me understand negative emotions in a more empathetic way and in a more beautiful way. Heartbreak shows strength. It is so difficult to describe the negative emotions since they vary so much in what they are capable of. They have an incredible amount of beauty, fragility, vulnerability, insight, honest, and strength. To be a true musical fan includes understanding the negative emotions.
In you opinion, what is the true value of the negative musical emotions?