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BWW Blog: 5 Joe Iconis Songs You Should Listen to RIGHT NOW

Joe Iconis has been a huge inspiration to me.

Hey all!

It's finals season, which means I, and many others, have been working around the clock to finish our work for the semester. For a lot of college students, now is the time to write papers, cram for tests, and pull all nighters. It can be pretty overwhelming at times, so I've been listening to a lot of music to keep myself motivated and jamming while I work. Recently, my playlist has been made up almost exclusively of the songs of Joe Iconis. I'm of the staunch belief that Joe Iconis is one of contemporary musical theatre's most prolific writers. I love playing his stuff on my radio show, and also at all other hours of the day.

Joe Iconis is the writer behind "Broadway, Here I Come" and "The Goodbye Song" from SMASH. But he's probably best known for Be More Chill, a show that you can't help but fall in love with upon your first listen. However, Youtube is littered with a treasure trove of his other songs, all of which are equally as amazing. It's upsetting that people aren't more familiar with his stunning songbook. So, I thought I'd offer five Joe Iconis songs that you should absolutely go listen to right now.

BWW Blog: 5 Joe Iconis Songs You Should Listen to RIGHT NOW1. Song of the Brown Buffalo (from The Untitled Unauthorized Hunter S. Thompson Musical)

For the past few years, Joe Iconis has been working on a musical about counterculture journalist Hunter S. Thompson. He's premeried several of his songs at various Joe Iconis & Family concerts, as well as his 54 Below show with George Salazar "Two Player Game". The "Song of the Brown Buffalo" is one of the few songs on this list that has been recorded for posterity. It is sung by the character of Oscar Zeta Acosta, a Mexican-American Civil Rights lawyer. I'm wary to say more about him, since I think Iconis' lyrics can do his characteristics more justice than I can. George Salazar gives this song a powerful and manic drive that makes it instantly loveable. Everytime I listen to this song, I start clamoring for more of this musical. You can bet when this show premieres, I'll be first in line to get a ticket. You can listen to the song here, and you can listen to George Salazar chat about Acosta and his performance here.

2. Helen Sharp

Joe Iconis writes a lot of stand-alone songs. On multiple occasions, he's referred to them as something along the lines of "musical theatre short stories", which is a very apt description. There are an immense number of these online, "Right Place/Wrong Time", "Jeff" and "Velociraptor" all come to mind. However, Helen Sharp is my personal favorite. Iconis was inspired to write the song after watching the 1992 Meryl Streep film Death Becomes Her. He based the song on Goldie Hawn's character (the titular Helen Sharp). In "Helen Sharp", Iconis has created a song that speaks to the frustration of being an artist, especially in a competitive environment. He does this while painting a dark, complex, and often humorous portrait of the character. This song shows off a lot of his strengths, particularly as a lyricist. As much as I'd like to, I might have a hard time ever trying to watch the film it's based on. This song is so perfect and potent, that I can't imagine anything could top Iconis' bitter waltz. You can listen to the song here.

BWW Blog: 5 Joe Iconis Songs You Should Listen to RIGHT NOW3. Revolution Song (from Love In Hate Nation)

Love In Hate Nation is the most incredible musical that you cannot listen to. Luckily, there are tons of videos of songs online, and a very in-depth "Works and Process" lecture from the Guggenheim, which features a ton of performances of various songs from the show. Love In Hate Nation is a queer love story set in a 1960s juvenile detention facility. So basically, it's the best thing ever. The score is full of gems, from "Life in Hate Nation", to "The Three Failed Escape Attempts of Sheila Nail". However, I personally think "Revolution Song" is the thesis statement of the entire show. The number musicalizes a pivotal moment of the plot, but it also creates one of the most resonant moments in contemporary musical theatre. As soon as I heard it for the first time, I needed to hear it again. Then again. Then again. It's truly a musical theatre song for 2020. It's a song for young people who are rising up and challenging the established systems and pushing to make change. It's also deeply rooted in the characters and tone of the show. As someone who writes musicals, I can appreciate hot insanely difficult that is to do, and I love it. You can listen to it here. Love In Hate Nation cast album WHEN?!?

BWW Blog: 5 Joe Iconis Songs You Should Listen to RIGHT NOW4. Amphibian (from The Black Suits)

This song is so fun. Amphibian is one of those songs that you just play on repeat. It is brutally funny, a fact which is only heightened by Will Roland's performance, a frequent Iconis collaborator who makes anything 1000 times funnier by simply being present. However, this song is yet another example of Joe Iconis' lyrical artistry. He's often said that he loves to write about outsiders, and many of his characters fit that bill in one way or another (think of Jeremy in Be More Chill, for one). Through this song, Joe Iconis paints a complete picture of an outsider, while cloaking it in a marvelous sense of humor. And he does this in only 8 lines. It's short, sweet, and as the kids say, it's an absolute banger. Do yourself a favor and listen to it here.

BWW Blog: 5 Joe Iconis Songs You Should Listen to RIGHT NOW5. Never Heard Nothing (from Things To Ruin)

Things To Ruin is a "theatrical rock concert", and it serves as the PERFECT introduction to Joe Iconis. Thankfully this show actually has a cast album you can listen to, unlike the other shows I've mentioned. You can experience this one from top to bottom, which I recommend, especially for this last song. "Never Heard Nothing" comes at the end of Things To Ruin. It's one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard. It's honest to a fault, it makes you feel like you've gotten a window into Joe Iconis' soul. Platitudes aside, I love this song. It's the perfect ending for Things To Ruin, and for this list. I could try to analyze this song all day, but ultimately the best description comes from the lyric itself. This song is "a battle cry disguised as a singalong", which I think could describe almost all of Joe Iconis' music. Listen to it here.

This is just a taste of what's out there. Joe Iconis has been a huge inspiration to me. He's one of my favorite songwriters, and he helped reinvigorate my drive to write songs when I started my songwriting class this year. I think more people need to listen to his music. I hope some of these songs will speak to you as much as they have spoken to me. I love Be More Chill a lot, and luckily for me, and for all of us, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Go listen to some Joe Iconis music you wonderful weirdos. Good luck with finals.

Although I'll be out of sight dear, know I'll be right here.

Sincerely,

Me


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