I’ve been waiting almost a week to write this one. I’ve had the same song stuck in my head for nearly a full week, and I just hope it sticks around for a while yet. In fact, it’s such a strong earworm that I actually had trouble sleeping on Monday night because I couldn’t stop singing it!

It’s called Carnavale del Barrio and it’s from the musical In The Heights (I know, I hadn’t heard of it either, despite it being the Tony winner in 2008). It’s about a Latino neighbourhood in NYC, and from what I’ve heard of the cast album, the whole show sounds great (wish it was still in production) but this song is exceptional.

It’s songs like this that remind me how wonderful music can be. Every day I hear generic pop tunes that are catchy, but it’s rare to find songs that have this kind of profound effect on me – especially outside the genre of classical music. This song gives me chills. And I know, it’s just a piece of musical theatre – but there’s so much to it.

  • The build of the first theme (starting at 1:00) from a single singer to having the entire neighbourhood fill in the instrumentation and the background vocals – with horns! – by 1:30.
  • The Alza la bandera <raise the flag> theme at 3:30 sounds like a street party, full of cultural pride.
  • And the theme that follows at 3:45 – by this point I can’t help but sing along every time the crowd shouts “Hey!”
  • The sheer playfulness of singing (@4:47) “Benny and Nina, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” to a Latin rhythm! I lurve the male vocal line at 4:54 – it makes “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” sound like a Spanish phrase. So clever.
  • Then the kicker – at 5:47, with just a simple piano backing, the song gets a bit more serious, moving from melancholy (despair about the loss of the neighbourhood) to hopeful and joyous (embracing change and appreciating our time together). The music achieves this through a series of key changes and a fiery performance by the lead male. My heart is usually in my throat at this point; one of the few times that a section of rap has made me feel ANYthing.

Everything about the song is wonderful. The passion, the humour, the infectious rhythms and harmonies, the depth of emotion (both from the lyricist and the performers). I’m happy to have this as my earworm.


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