Sondheim, Sondheim, Sondheim.
Astonishingly bitter and wickedly funny. Better flow and rhymes than most mainstream rappers.
I became a Sondheim fan after stumbling across “Company” on Netflix a couple years ago. The only downside to liking Sondheim is he’s not what you would call an optimist.
I’ve never seen “Assassins”, but I’ve listened to its soundtrack many times. It’s a bummer. I’ll be the last to argue that America is perfect, but coming out of a musical with a takeaway message of, “America is broken and can’t be fixed?” I’ll take “Memphis” with a side of “Sweeney Todd” instead, please.
“The Ballad of Booth” is one of my favorite songs from “Assassins,” offering both a biography of John Wilkes Booth and speculation about his motives. Booth himself joins in and pleads his case.
It’s obvious from this song that Booth and the rest of the assassins are nuts, yet they remain convinced they’re doing the right thing by killing the president. In Booth’s case, he thinks he saved the country and will be vindicated by history, when in fact his actions had the opposite effect. There’s something depressing about this misguided optimism–it makes his wrongful actions seem even more pointless.
There’s a line in this song that floored me when I first heard it. The mullet-tastic Balladeer sings of Booth:
But traitors just get jeers and boos/Not visits to their graves/While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews/because of you, John, now gets only raves.
This song might not bring on all-out sobs, but you’re not going to feel good after you listen to it. You’re welcome.
Need cheering up?
Not all of Sondheim’s stuff is depressing.
Bonus: this is the perfect song to put on your angsty “No one loves me” playlist. (No judgment. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t have one.)