Deja vu: the feeling that you've done something before. How is it that, when this series of posts is only in its infancy, I can dare to suggest that you should absolutely have two songs from the recent flop musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in your music library? Easy. I don't want to send you off on a backwoods path to the Carrie: The Musical bootleg recordings to insist you download "And Eve Was Weak" for your music collection. In truth, I believe "Time Stood Still" is one of the more compelling recordings to come out of a NYC show in a long time. It's the perfect combination of performer, concept, style, and execution. Everything about it drives me wild.
The song opens with a recording of a pop song. It has that great grainy production quality that sets it apart from everything else in the song. About 25 seconds in, Lucia (sung by Patti Lupone)--a woman recently released from a mental hospital--giddily starts singing along as if no one else could hear her. As soon as she starts singing, it switches from the recording to the live orchestra. It's seamless.
The song just has a great pop groove.I could imagine this being a hit in the past. It has this cheerful, almost Beach Boys, kind of pop feel. The melody is very repetitive and the song just gets bigger and bigger as it goes along. There's even a surfy/distorted guitar solo before the bridge.
You can just hear the joy in Lucia's voice. You can imagine her singing and dancing around the room, having the time of her life.
Then the record skips. Her sense of calm is destroyed by the malfunctioning music. Lucia starts singing a variation of a very emotional song from earlier in the show, "Lie to Me," about unrequited love and the inability to ever let a relationship go. It's a deeply personal thought for Lucia that she doesn't know anyone else has in her life. It goes from a fun and light performance to something devastating. Lupone's Lucia is so desperate to find that love again that she'll clearly never be happy.
Then the record starts skipping again and she slowly builds to a manic climax at the end of the song. She is shrieking like a mad woman by the end. It's shocking and engaging at the same time.
When you listen to the song again, you realize all these lyrics on the random pop record aren't random; they are Lucia's story. "Time Stood Still" when her relationship suddenly ended and she's looking everywhere for it. The part of the track that skips is "Looking at the reason/Looking at the reason/Looking at the reason." This leads her to fall back into her past state of longing that she spent so many years getting over. Lucia herself pulls the record off when it starts skipping again at "Looking at the reason." She doesn't need the record because she knows it all too well.
What we have here is a beautifully engineered track that encapsulates a very distinctive character in a little over three minutes. It's a must have for any music collection because there's something in the recording that anyone can relate their own tastes to.
The video below is not the recording of which I speak. That's still not uploaded on YouTube. It's a live performance. The back-up vocalists and record are much louder and Patti takes a lot more liberty with the song because she's living it in the moment. The recording is much better.
"Time Stood Still" by David Yazbek from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is available to download at every major music service.