Album Review - The Last 5 Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I'm trying to contain my excitement as I write this blog post. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the The Last 5 Years film soundtrack has been released! The Last 5 Years (or TL5Y) is one of my favourite musicals. I find it incredible that a story so simple can be so devastatingly emotional and I'm ridiculously excited to see the film. Especially as the show is rarely performed here in the UK.

* Warning, this blog post contains a few spoilers, so if you're not familiar with the story or songs then perhaps do not read! *

The music of The Last 5 Years is exhausting, emotionally draining and so, so hard to listen the best possible ways! For those who aren't extraordinarily familiar with the story of The Last 5 Years, it's basically the story of two people who were never meant to be together, and their 5 year struggle to try and make their ultimately doomed relationship work. The two people in question are Jamie Wellerstein (played in the movie by Jeremy Jordan, and originally played by Norbert Leo Butz), a promising young author, and Cathy Hyatt (played by Anna Kendrick, originally Sherie Rene Scott), an aspiring actress. While Jamie's story is told chronologically, Cathy's is told backwards, and as their journey's unfold, the audience can do nothing but watch with a foresight that the characters unfortunately lack!

Much the same as my post a few weeks ago about Memphis the Musical's London cast recording, here is a track by track review of this new release. Tissues at the ready...

Track 1
Still Hurting
Ahhhh, a masterclass in how to make yourself cry in 0.2 seconds! *Spoiler Alert* Jamie is over, AND Jamie is gone! I love the fullness of Anna Kendrick's voice. It sounds much more defiant than Sherie's voice, which was thinner here and gave more of a sense of defeat! With this song, the tearier the actress gets on stage, the better, but Kendrick's defiant tone works perfectly too.

Track 2
Shiksa Goddess
My favourite Jamie song from the musical. This is very different to Norbert Leo Butz's take on the song. Normally I like Jamie to come across as a bit awkward and nerdy in this song, as it is the first song that he sings at the beginning of the relationship. In the original stage recording I like the way Norbert Leo Butz plays Jamie like he can't believe his luck and he's in slight disbelief, while Jeremy Jordan sounds slightly more cocky and self entitled, which obviously still works but was unexpected. It'll be interesting to see how his characterisation of the role differs from other actors'.

Track 3
See I'm Smiling
Every bit of me wants for Cathy and Jamie to work things out during this song. I love how exasperated Anna Kendrick's Cathy sounds at the beginning. It makes her outburst at the tempo change ('you know what makes me crazy.[..]') seem more rational and natural! The way 'You and you and nothing but you' is given a whole new context in I Can Do Better Than That really makes that part painful here.

Track 4
Moving Too Fast
Probably the most famous song from TL5Y, I frequently thank the theatre gods for the sheer number of  musical theatre actors whose covers of this song are on Youtube! Of course, I expected nothing less than a perfect rendition from Jeremy Jordan, having already heard him on the soundtracks of Newsies and Bonnie and Clyde, the TV show smash and the film Joyful noise. He was, of course brilliant!

Track 5
A Part of That
Admittedly, I do find myself skipping this song normally. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it on this recording. Anna Kendrick takes you on a journey with her voice and I found my face pulling every possible expression while listening.

Track 6
The Schmuel Song
Not exactly a treadmill or cross trainer song, I must admit that while I do adore this song, I often skip it as well! However, I LOVE Jeremy Jordan's use of different voices for the characters of Schmuel/The Clock. I found myself giggling quite a bit! I have a feeling this bit is going to be amazing in the film. A rare fun moment.

Track 7
Summer in Ohio
I adore the easygoing sound of the ukulele on this track. It really is a hilarious song that I'm sure 99% of female vocalists have in their repertoire.  Anna Kendrick is excellent of course. I love everything about her voice!

Track 8 
The Next Ten Minutes
Anna Kendrick has the perfect voice for Cathy. It goes straight through you and makes the hairs on your arms stand on end. The 'I do's' are chilling and form perhaps one of the most heart-rending moments of the whole show, having already heard everything that comes afterwards from Cathy!

Track 9
A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home To Me
This is lot more talky than singy but it's still a great song and I just love Jeremy Jordan's voice! He's outstanding. Every tiny detail of his vocal performance tells you so much about his character. As I've said before, Anna Kendrick's voice is lovely in this moment.

Track 10
Climbing Uphill
As an aspiring actress, this song really resonates with me. Anna Kendrick nails the comedy and she sounds much less like a caricature that Sherie Rene Scott does. I LOVE the lyric change from 'why am I working so hard?/These are the people who cast Linda Blair in a musical!' to 'these are the people who cast Russel Crow in a musical!' What a burn! I adore Cathy!

Track 11
If I Didn't Believe In You
Another tearfest! I adore the way this song builds and the way that Jamie goes from caring and supportive husband, through passive aggressive selfish sulker, to outright meany, and back to supportive husband, all in the space of 5 minutes. It's a bit scary really, and I think it really makes audience think harder about Jamie and way he puts so much blame on Cathy, while never really admitting to his own wrongdoings. 'Don't we get to be happy, Cathy?' well I don't know about Cathy, but for the audience the answer is a resounding NO! Because we all know what's coming. Bring a box of tissues to the cinema with you. Not a packet...a box!

Track 12
I Can Do Better Than That
My favourite Cathy song and perhaps my favourite TL5Y song of all. When this was released early along with Moving Too Fast I had it on repeat for a whole evening so I'm pretty familiar with it. There's something addictive about Anna Kendrick's voice when she sings JRB's music. Her voice is noticeably less 'big and belty' than Sherie's, but both approaches work. I LOVE the coyness of the line 'very well placed tattoos!' People have complained about how autotuned she sounds, but I don't think she sounds autotuned that much, if at all. Although admittedly the rough contemporary tone to her voice is very different to Sherie Rene Scott's.

Track 13
Nobody Needs To Know
This song is beautiful, but such an uncomfortable listen. Cathy has just sung about her past disappointments, and how she and Jamie can do better, so It makes your stomach hurt and gives you butterflies, in a bad way, to hear Jamie singing this gentle song to the woman he's having an affair with. Jeremy Jordan sings the music of JRB with ease, he has such a beautiful voice and of course the lyrics are gorgeous but also make you very uneasy. It's incredible how just a song can make you feel such incredibly extreme emotions.

Track 14
Goodbye Until Tomorrow / I Could Never Rescue You
The most painful song in the whole show. Cathy is reflecting on her new-found love for Jamie, right at the beginning of their 5 year long relationship. It's heartbreaking that distance factors so much into the breakdown of their relationship, and here, right at the very beginning of their relationship Cathy is singing about how she cannot wait to see Jamie again after their last meeting. It's tiny, but it's the suggestion that right from the first moment, the pair were never meant to be together. The way the motif from 'I Could Never Rescue You' plays before Still Hurting, showing that the story has finally been completed, is the cruelest part of this whole score! Jeremy Jordan is stunning in I Could Never Rescue You. I'm still to this day not sure how I feel about Jamie as a character. It seems like he really loves Cathy throughout their relationship, but then he treats her so badly (not that she's a saint either). I really do ask myself just how honest I think he's being as he tells her he loved her before leaving.

All in all, having listened through this recording a few times while writing this review, I'm pretty sure it doesn't suck! I'm definitely in love with the leads, and having already fallen deeply in love with the story and songs, I would say that personally I've found it as close to perfect as can be! The thing about The Last 5 Years is that as cheesy as it may sound, you really are taken on an an emotional rollercoaster ride. Every song is like another layer of bandage on a wound that refuses to heal. It's ridiculously sad, and as the story moves on, although for the most part the songs continue to alternate between happy and sad, your knowledge of what is to come makes the happier moments at times ever more tragic than than the sad ones, and that is what makes Jason Robert Brown's The Last 5 Years so incredibly moving!