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Album Review: A STRANGE LOOP (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is Poignant and Entertaining

The album uses sugar-coated pop to make its heavy subject matter highly palatable.

A Strange Loop

Only going off of the album itself and the detailed synopsis on Wikipedia, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop is a refreshing Black, queer fantasia on the artistry of creating modern musical theater. It's similar to [TITLE OF SHOW], but with more to say. Ghostlight Records and Yellow Sound Label's A Strange Loop (Original Broadway Cast Recording) captures the vibrant heart of the musical and all of its poignant relevancy.

The often funny and always heartfelt lyrics and music by Michael R. Jackson - who was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for A Strange Loop, was a 2017 Jonathan Larson Award winner, and the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award winner - are extremely accessible and deeply resonant. Jackson's brightly hued pop score warmly welcomes us into the world of a Usher, a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer. Even if these experiences are not our own, Jackson's art draws us in and illuminates the universality of our individual struggles with achieving our dreams, understanding who we are, and finding where we belong as we forge ahead on our own unique path.

On the recording, Tony nominee Jaquel Spivey stars as Usher. His vibrant vocal instrument shimmers and shines across the entire album. His gorgeous upper register teases and tickles our inner ears with amiable charm and serves as the perfect vehicle to drop Jackson's masterfully written and affective lyrics into our brains, hearts, and the very fiber of our beings. Spivey's artistry ensures that if one listens to A Strange Loop (Original Broadway Cast Recording) with an open heart and open mind they will be forever changed. In congress, Jackson and Spivey share truths that will either shake you because their experiences so closely mirror your own or will further expand your empathy because you've been given a front row seat to experience the beautifully complicated existence of another human being.

One of the most fascinating things about A Strange Loop (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is how effortlessly it exposes listeners to the multiple layers of oppression that Usher experiences without listeners ever feeling browbeaten. Jackson and Spivey explore what it means to be perceived as too dark-skinned, too fat, too ugly, too effeminate, and more. Yet, the audience is always entertained. Uptempo numbers such as "Inner White Girl," "Second Wave," "Tyler Perry Writes Real Life," and "Memory Song" all stand out on the recording for utilizing the sugar-coated aural landscape of contemporary pop to make the often bitter pill of subject matter like being othered and dismissed for simply existing as you are palatable, enjoyable, and something we can all learn from.

Ghostlight Records and Yellow Sound Label's A Strange Loop (Original Broadway Cast Recording) can be purchased and streamed here.

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