Listening to: “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” – Original Cast Recording

I posted my mostly negative review of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson last week after I saw the show on 10/10/10. I just didn’t care for it. As one of my friends on Twitter suggested, it’s really just a glorified Saturday Night Live skit that’s drawn out to be about 100 minutes. The reviews came out and for the most part the critics loved it. Ben Brantley of The New York Times raved that “There’s not a show in town that more astutely reflects the state of this nation”.  You can read all of the reviews at: Did He Like It? — one of my favorite theatre websites.

There are some negative reviews of the show. Steve on Broadway, writes “I’m fully aware that mobs of critics practically hoisted this Andrew Jackson on their shoulders, celebrating it after first opening earlier this year at the Public Theater. But populism ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I resist mobs.” Clearly in this instance, I resisted the mobs, as well.

Your best bet is to catch the show yourself (probably sooner than later) and form your own opinion.

Since listening to the cast album, my opinion of the show hasn’t changed much, but I will say that I do like listening to the cast album more than I actually liked the show. There are some catchy melodic phrases, especially in “Populism Yea Yea” and the hauntingly beautiful melody in “Public Life”. The problem in the music is that there are several songs that don’t feel finished. It’s almost a “full” pop song, yet it stops and/or changes directions too quickly. At the end of “Public Life” the ensemble sings the main melodic theme from “Populism Yea Yea” and then it ends abruptly.

Michael Friedman, the composer and lyricist, was on to something and then too quickly drops his good ideas. It’s unfortunate for the arc and phrasing of the music. Because of the lack of development in the music, it’s too hard for the listener to be involved. It gets the listener excited and then says “Eff you! I’m not finishing this.” Friedman does it again in “I’m So that Guy” — Benjamin Walker (Andrew Jackson) only sings the chorus once and then it goes back again to that same melodic theme in “Populism Yea Yeah”. Again.

The longest song, “Second Nature” on this cast recording is two minutes and 45 seconds. Generally, most pop songs are longer than three minutes. The cast recording has 13 songs, but runs only a puny 27 minutes. Since Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson has repeatedly been compared to Dashboard Confessional (because of the emo comparison), I’ll compare BBAJ to Dashboard Confessional’s 2007 album, “Dusk and Summer”. Dashboard Confessional’s album consists of 10 songs that equal over 40 minutes worth of music. Generally, all of the songs are at least four minutes long, with soaring choruses and beautiful melodies. Why didn’t Friedman follow the same form and style if the marketing team was going to exploit this so-called “emo-rock” music of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?

“Second Nature” sung by Justin Levine, the musical director, is the best song on the CD. It follows the simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus form and because of this, it’s interesting and engaging. Friedman needed to develop all of the songs like “Second Nature”.

I almost wish Friedman would rework his songs to become bonafide pop/emo-rock (or whatever you want to call them) album and release a “full” version of all the songs in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. At least then, it would be an interesting and a more satisfying listening experience.

Buy the album on Amazon.

Listen to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson:

(Please note that some of the songs would be listed as “Parental Advisory” for language.)

“Populism Yea Yea”

“I’m So That Guy”

“Public Life”

“Crisis Averted”

“Second Nature”

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