& Juliet OCR album song-by-song review
| By Jade Ali
On Friday 22nd November, the & Juliet Original Cast Recording album was released just a couple of days after its West End press night! Despite the show being brand new, the album was still highly anticipated and then even more so once it was announced that pop star Jessie J would be singing the only original song from the musical, of course by Max Martin, ‘One More Try’. Musicals don’t usually release an album so soon and sadly sometimes not an all, but this is one show that just couldn’t wait and it’s not hard to see (hear) why.
The & Juliet OCR album has been on repeat for me since it was released; each song excelling and there’s not one that you’d dare skip. This is why I’m going to give you a run-through on why each song is outstanding and why they all deserve the spotlight.
Track #1 – ‘Larger Than Life’
The first number is ‘Larger Than Life’, originally sang by Backstreet Boys, and was co-written and co-produced by Max Martin. This song is led by Oliver Tompsett, a West End leading man to be envious of; his vocals are insanely good! It is both ‘Larger Than Life’ in name and in measure and is the perfect way to both open the show and start the album. Like many songs on this album when in context to the show, it can be very amusing to have such popular and somewhat (very) cheesy pop songs sung by Shakespeare and in a Shaken(speare) up* play on Romeo & Juliet. So yes, it’s funny because it’s Shakespeare singing Backstreet Boys but it’s the perfect introduction to this musical and sets the bar high for the amount of energy that is exuded throughout.
* Please forgive the pun – this show is rubbing off on me.
Track #2 – ‘I Want It That Way’
Also, a Backstreet Boys number, this song has been so cleverly intertwined into the story that you can’t help but be in awe of just how genius David West Read is. This song is led by Cassidy Janson, another West End superstar, who plays Anne Hathaway, and Oliver Tompsett, along with the fabulous & Juliet company. It has to be said, and will probably be repeated many times throughout this, the Original West End cast of this Max Martin musical are astoundingly talented and there isn’t a song that doesn’t leave you hugely impressed. They’re intimidatingly talented! The cast gets to shine along with the leads in this song and it’s both a brilliant listen as well as being thoroughly entertaining as they make it their own and tell a story, making it uniquely theirs. Also, get ready for that tempo change that makes this song go off in a whole new way!
Track #3 – ‘…Baby One More Time’
One of the most well-known pop songs worldwide originally sang by the icon that is Britney Spears, this song has cleverly been inserted into a story and therefore changes the meaning completely and in a way you would have never otherwise imagined. Again, I have to sing the praises of the book by David West Read and of course, the brilliant catalogue of Max Martin music. ‘…Baby One More Time’ is the introduction of the leading lady, Juliet, played by Miriam-Teak Lee. The range of her voice is simply bewildering, her control of the bigger notes seemingly effortless and her tones positively hypnotising. Lee is a leading lady of dreams, with energy just as big as her brilliant voice, she’s one to watch and one to listen to all day long via this fabulous cast recording.
Track #4 – ‘Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely’
This track emphasises the insane amount of talent that comes from this cast, the limelight being shed on many of the ensemble who all shine just as much as the leads. If there was any show that proved just how important ensembles are to a cast, then & Juliet is the one. Every single member of this company is brilliant in their own way and it's mesmerising to witness. ‘Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely’ is another number that has been so cleverly slot in and, that in the context of the show, will have the audience giggling. Jukebox musicals don’t always have the best reputations, but you can’t deny how clever this show is, helped by the fact that the catalogue of Max Martin is so vast that they would’ve been spoilt for choice when choosing the perfect songs.
Track #5 – ‘Domino’
& Juliet is a fantastic musical and in many different ways, but one word that props up, again and again, is ‘fun’. This show is without a doubt fun and just might be the most feel-good show in the West End. ‘Domino’ originally by Jessie J is a huge upbeat song. In the show it remains upbeat but multiplied tenfold due to sass and attitude from characters Juliet (Miriam-Teak Lee), April (Cassidy Janson), May (Arun Blair-Mangat) and Nurse (Melanie La Barrie). The consistent drumbeat will ensure your heart races throughout whilst the song has you smiling from ear to ear.
Track #6 – ‘Show Me Love’
Written by Swedish singer Robyn and Max Martin, the lyrics could not be more apt and uplifting for this part of the show and fits perfectly into the soundtrack at this point. The arrangement for the & Juliet version is just beautiful and made even more so by the stunning voices of leading lady Lee and cast. Again, this musical shows off how clever jukebox musicals can be when it takes a song and tweaks its meaning without any drastic changes. A song can be whatever you make it and this is a perfect example of that.
Track #7 – ‘Blow’
‘Blow’ is definitely a standout track purely just because it is so packed full of energy and is so different from what you see in other musicals. It is crazy fun and to put it simply, “it goes off”. Originally sang by Kesha, this song is considered a party anthem and that is definitely fitting with the & Juliet version. It’s a dance-pop song and whilst it has huge amounts of energy when just listening to on the soundtrack, it is definitely worth seeing the musical because the choreography by Jennifer Weber performed by ensemble sets this show apart.
Track #8 – ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’
Many of the songs on this soundtrack are, of course, beyond brilliant and cleverly fit into this show but the reimagining of the context of this song is something else. Yes, it’s clever and again something you wouldn’t have imagined that fitting into these circumstances but within the show and sang by Arun Blair-Mangat it excels as one of the standout songs. Blair-Mangat’s voice transcends beauty and is just otherworldly. And when it gets to the final verse, then hold onto your wigs and get your tissues ready, because you are about to be blown away. The talent that shines so brightly from this solo exemplifies just how special each and every member of this cast is.
Track #9 – ‘Overprotected’
Tim Mahendran leads this song along with Miriam-Teak Lee. This is the first song that we get to hear Tim on and we’re beyond glad it isn’t the last because that voice needs to be listened to again and again. This is Mahendran’s West End debut and he shines as bright as any seasoned West End performer. Like Lee he is one to watch! This song is another Britney number and if you haven’t seen the show yet then you wouldn’t believe just how perfectly they fit into the show – both for Francois (Tim Mahendran) and Juliet (Miriam-Teak Lee).
Track #10 – ‘Confident’
There aren’t many songs that wouldn’t be made better by having Miriam-Teak Lee and Tim Mahendran singing them, but this song certainly hits on a whole other level thanks to their gorgeous voices. This version of this song has quickly become my new mantra and a little warning for you, if you’re listening to this on your commute, expect to use tube/train platforms as a catwalk. ‘Confident’ like the title suggests is about confidence and in this case the characters accepting and learning to be confident. This song from Juliet’s perspective is so powerful because it is empowering and unabashedly so! It inspires me to be more confident, but I think about younger audiences seeing this show and what a positive message this song will send them, and it fills me with hope and happiness.
Track #11 – ‘Teenage Dream/Break Free’
This is the first mash-up on the soundtrack and not only does this brilliantly combine two great songs, but it gives us a duet from the incredible Melanie La Barrie and David Bedella. Simply speaking, this song is a blessing! It’s also one of the most fun numbers of not just this soundtrack but of any musical soundtrack. It is quintessentially fun and infectiously happy. And it needs pointing out that Melanie La Barrie has performed in many West End shows over the years but hasn’t sung in a West End musical in 8 years, and this soundtrack is proof that that should never be allowed to happen again.
Track #12 – ‘Oops… I Did It Again’
Here’s another song that will have the audience giggling and maybe you’ll have a chuckle when it plays on the album. The context of where this song fits into the show makes it so funny! It’s a brilliant duet by two of the stunning leading ladies Miriam-Teak Lee and Melanie La Barrie and wow does it surpass any expectations you’d dare to have. The original sang by Britney Spears is iconic, but this version has given this almost 20-year-old song a whole new lease of life! Note: wait until you get to that final verse – I don’t know who gave Lee and La Barrie the right to be that good, but they took it anyway and turned it up!
Track #13 – ‘I Kissed a Girl’
Katy Perry dominated the US Billboard Top 100 chart for 7 consecutive weeks and it’s obvious it is, for lack of better words, an absolute bop! If you haven’t listened to the & Juliet version yet, then you are not prepared for just how good this version sang by Tim Mahendran and Arun Blair-Mangat is. Both of them have voices that create a spotlight all by themselves, but when paired together, the power this song holds is unearthly.
Track #14 – ‘It’s My Life’
At this point in the show, you almost forget that Romeo was ever a part of the equation but after this number from Jordan Luke Gage you’ll never forget him again. The pipes on Gage are simply golden and you’re going to have to hold onto your seat when you listen to this one as he will blow you away. This song also features Oliver Tompsett and Miriam Teak-Lee, both of who match Gage’s phenomenal vocals and sing your face off!
Track #15 – ‘Love Me Like You Do’
Originally sung by Ellie Goulding, this song requires big vocals, and Jordan Luke Gage does not disappoint. His voice is a contradiction, being both sweet and delicate and then powerful and huge. His tones are perfectly matched to this number and the song is brilliantly slotted into the musical and receives some comedic effect that you would never have expected from such an emotional song.
Track #16 – ‘Since U Been Gone’
Hearing Miriam-Teak Lee sing in any compacity is an actual blessing because she is seriously a vocal queen. This song shows off her talent and capabilities once more along with the all-round phenomenal cast. It’s a super fun number and it fits perfectly into the show! It’s almost baffling how they’ve managed to fit in all these songs so well. It showcases this musical for what it is; a ballad of female empowerment!
Track #17 – ‘Whataya Want From Me’
Earlier when I said that when Tim Mahendran and Arun Blair-Mangat sing together, it holds an unearthly power, well I reiterate that but for this song, you want to multiply it by at least ten because holy Britney Spears it is something special. I couldn’t possibly rank the songs from this soundtrack in order of my personal favourites, but this just might be second on my list. Mahendran and Blair-Mangat is a pairing that is just dynamite, it's raw and beautiful and makes you feel every word so deeply that you’re swept up on the journey of their characters.
Track #18 – ‘One More Try’
Now, this is possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever and is also the only original & Juliet song; Max Martin haven written it especially. It’s all about, as the title suggests, trying again. ‘One More Try’ is incredibly inspiring, with a message of getting back up after you fall, to keep trying and fighting and for being who you are and who you aspire to be. It’s made even more beautiful by Miriam-Teak Lee and Jordan Luke Gage who are a harmonious match made in the stars. This track appears twice on the album – with a special guest cover from Jessie J! Just in case, this wasn’t already the coolest new album.
Track # 19 – ‘Problem/Can’t Feel My Face’
This isn’t just a song mashup but a song battle and of epic proportions. The world wasn’t actually ready for these levels of sheer awesome but & Juliet doesn’t wait for anyone. The Original West End cast are here, and they are raising the bar for musicals, soundtracks and pop albums alike. If you need the perfect number to get your blood pumping and for an extra boost of serotonin, then this is the track for you. It requires turning up to the max and will have you breaking out your best moves!
Track #20 – ‘That’s the Way It Is’
& Juliet really snapped when it paired a Celine Dion song with the West End powerhouse that is Cassidy Janson. This song is utterly heartbreaking with her incredible delivery and definitely tugs on the heartstrings when Janson and Lee sing together. However, it is that final verse when Janson takes to the spotlight that will give you goosebumps, have your hair standing on edge and your heart in your throat. Her talent, of course, shines through always but this song really showcases just how magical she really is.
Track #21 – ‘Everybody’
Backstreet Boys walked so that De Bois Band could run! Sang by Tim Mahendran, Arun Blair-Mangat, Oliver Tompsett, Jordan Luke Gage and David Bedella – you are in for a treat! This song is already one of the most upbeat, fun-filled tunes of all time but the levels of happiness that overtake you whilst listening to this song is insane – and amplified to the dozen when actually watching the show. There just aren’t enough words to describe how infectiously happy this song will have you feeling.
Track #22 – ‘As Long As You Love Me’
A shortened version of the original and a lot more comedic too but sang by Tim Mahendran and I could listen to it all day long. The way the different verses/choruses are used in this song to apply to the musical is just brilliant – once again earning a lot of chuckles of appreciation during the show.
Track #23 – ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’
‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ was surely not just slotted into this musical, as the pun is so damn strong that it has to be that they wrote elements of this musical around the song. Mahendran once again commands the spotlight, as he engineers his voice to give this song a gruff element and paired with the absolute angelic vocals of Blair-Mangat, this song will have you erupting into applause even when you’re listening to the soundtrack on your commute to work.
Track #24 – ‘Shape of My Heart’
& Juliet is, for the most part, a hugely feel-good, bop after bop, musical. With ‘Shape of My Heart’ originally by the Backstreet Boys, you will find yourself moved a whole heap more than you’d have bargained for. This version is led by David Bedella along with Tim Mahendran and Arun Blair-Mangat, and it’s a combination that will completely blow you away. It’s truly beautiful and conveys another important message from & Juliet which is acceptance.
Track #25 – ‘Stronger’
The female empowerment certainly is stronger than you might have thought a musical filled with songs from the likes of the Backstreet Boys would give you, but don’t let cheesy pop songs have you fooled. Yes, it’s cheesy and fun but don’t underestimate this show. It is every bit as important and inspiring as it is feel-good and exhilarating. Then, when Miriam-Teak Lee starts hitting out those notes… there are no words! She radiates power, talent and certainly strength, making her the perfect leading lady for a role that needs to be filled with fire and stardust.
Track #26 – ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’
Here is the perfect song, that gives you the words that not just Juliet needs to hear but everyone, so when you’re feeling down or unsure of yourself, listen to this. Sang by Melanie La Barrie, her incredible voice paired with these beautiful words, just might leave you in tears. It’s a song that reminds us that even the strongest people get down and it’s the perfect reminder that you’re perfect as you are.
Track #27 – ‘ROAR’
Miriam-Teak Lee certainly does ‘Roar’ when singing this number! Possibly one of the most perfect songs integrated within this musical as it really does tell the journey of a woman who has been pulled down, finds her strength and she gets back up. She’s a fighter! In case this musical didn’t give you enough mantras to have you feeling on top of the world, it hits out this number and blows you away, leaving you feeling empowered and like a queen!
Track #28 – ‘I Want It That Way – Reprise’
The words are changed up for this reprise and to quote both Pink and Melanie La Barrie, it’s “fuckin’ perfect”! First, it’s a duet between Oliver Tompsett and then Jordan Luke Gage and Miriam-Teak Lee, along with the stunning backing vocals of the cast. It’s the perfect way to round up this soundtrack and musical.
Track #29 – ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’
In the words of Anne Hathaway (no, not the actress) “this is a comedy, and everyone has to go home happy”. This musical is through and through intoxicatingly happy and the best night out in the West End that will have you skipping home. ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ is sang by the whole cast for the most perfect finale and having it on the soundtrack means you always have it there to make even the most mundane days shine brighter.
The & Juliet Original West End Cast recording is out now, and you can get it here. This is an album you’re going to want on repeat, only pausing for when you go to the show at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Don’t forget to book your tickets for & Juliet so you can hear these incredible songs live!
🎫 Book your & Juliet tickets here.