The Patch

February 17, 2007

Saturday 17th February: Will You Share Your Life With Me For the Next Ten Minutes?

Filed under: Miscellany,Music & Film — Ames @ 3:35 pm

I hadn’t listened to music properly for quite a long time until recently. By this I don’t mean that I put in ear plugs every time I went to a club, or even that I haven’t opened up iTunes for a while; both of these are things I do on a regular basis. Yet when I do this, while I hear the music, I don’t actually listen to it. Not properly.

All this changed when I was walking home the other day. After finally finding an iPod charger, I was reunited with my faithful friend for the two mile journey. Originally I put it on ‘shuffle’, the pace of the songs having some effect on my walking speed (I’m not lying- with Basement Jaxx my pace quickened, and I began to dawdle as soon as Damien Rice’s voice floated through my headphones), but once again I wasn’t really taking in the music. It was a background noise, like the cars and the people surrounding me, only more pleasant. But then a song I hadn’t chosen to listen to in a while came on. A song that almost made me stop in my tracks. I’m sure I would have done if I wasn’t walking on a main road surrounding by many more people who would probably have given me somewhat confused and odd looks. It was a song that reintroduced me to music after a long absence from it, a song from my favourite musical, The Last Five Years.

Following just two characters, The Last Five Years follows a couple from their getting together to their divorce. Admittedly, this isn’t the most original storyline in the world, and doesn’t pretend to be; there was actually a legal dispute between the composer and writer (Jason Robert Brown) and his ex-wife for the show too-closely resembling their divorce. What makes it somewhat different is the narrative structure of the musical; the female character starts and the end of their relationship, while the male sings chronologically, his first song set as they first begin to date. The characters are only in the same period of time once, when they marry. Yet while this narrative structure is undeniably clever, once again it’s not particularly unusual or unique; the idea of going backwards has been used in films such as ‘Memento’, and in ‘5×2’, another film about a couple divorcing, showing five important periods of their life. Written after The Last Five Years, however, the similarities are either a huge coincidence, or a huge rip-off. But I digress.

Despite all of this, there is something undeniably unique and special about Jason Robert Brown’s creation. After seeing it performed on stage, the finale left my friends and I silent for a long time afterwards. There’s just something about the music and words that make you think, and that hit you hard. I’d argue that everyone who’s even been in a relationship can relate to much of the stuff in The Last Five Years; whether it be Cathy singing ‘I stand on a precipice, I struggle to keep my balance’ as she falls in love, or her proclamation that she is ‘covered in scars I did nothing to earn’ after their split. Others may relate more to Jamie’s predicament just after they get married, singing that ‘everyone tells you the minute you get married every other women in the world suddenly finds you attractive, well that’s not true- it only effects the kind of women you always wanted to sleep with, but they wouldn’t give you the time of day before’. Either way, the story- delivered almost entirely through song- left us all thinking about our past relationships, about how we’d dealt with them. It was as if the music had reached out and touched us all, deep down inside of ourselves, drawing our emotions about our situations right to the forefront of our minds and thoughts. Anything that can do that to you has to be something remarkably special. And so when ‘Still Hurting’- Cathy’s opening song- was shuffled to the forefront of my iPod, I suddenly began to listen once again. After such a long time without music, I lost myself once again in the world of Cathy and Jamie, soaking up every lyric and note. As I changed my settings to listen to the entire album, I soaked up the songs and melodies. I was back into music once again.

This article isn’t supposed to be an advert for The Last Five Years, although, obviously, I do highly recommend it should it ever be performed again. It’s an article about how certain pieces of music can affect you. We all have our songs for being sad, our songs to cheer us up, songs that remind us of certain places, people, moments. I can make albums upon albums of songs for certain moods, or people, with every track being something special. The Last Five Years is my music for introspection, music that, for the short time that that album plays, I am both absent from this world, but also more awake and aware of things than I am when not distracted by music. While usually I let music fly over my head, why is it that some sequences of notes, or the way that words can be put together, can change the way we feel so much? Up until now, I’d forgotten quite how powerful something so simple could be. Now I’ve been reintroduced, I don’t want to let my acquaintance with music slip away ever again…



  1. I know what you mean, exactly.

    That’s a shit comment… but really.

    Great article 🙂

    (and I shall keep an eye out for it *opens google*)

    Comment by Emma — February 17, 2007 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  2. ohhh i know what you mean too… i hate it when you really really like a song but you listen to it so many times you forget to actually hear it 😦 but its so nice to just take time out and really listen to the music again! nice article 🙂

    Comment by Amie — February 18, 2007 @ 5:24 am | Reply

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