‘After You’, written by Alex Parker and Katie Lam, is a new musical following a romantic encounter from ‘First Drink’ through to ‘After You’ starring Alexia Khadime and Bradley Jaden. Parker’s score has a pop-rock groove with catchy rhythm and riffs. Lam’s lyrics are, at times, conversational and witty with relatable dilemmas of dating and beyond. The composer/lyricist partnership echoes similarities with Pasek & Paul or Kerrigan & Lowdermilk.
The soundtrack itself doesn’t give too many clues into the world of the story. We meet two characters who share a drink on an Ocean Liner to New York. “He’s looking for fun and adventure, and she’s just trying to keep her head down, when a chance encounter gives rise to an unlikely companionship”. This exposition isn’t clearly laid out in the material which covers a lot of emotion and very little context. Khadime’s unknown “character” gives us an upbeat confirmation of chemistry between the two of them in “Easy” while Jaden’s ballad gives us a meta lullaby with metaphor after metaphor – confusing right? Perhaps this is a romantic gesture delicately accompanied by Jaden’s soft vocals.
There seems to be a lot of repetition with slow chord progressions and self-possessing questions posed in the lyrics: “how can we both keep this all inside”, whilst having very little interaction between the two, reminiscent of something like The Last 5 Years. This culminates in “Touch Me” where both characters sing their desires for action upon the chemistry they both have felt up until this moment. The “Easy Reprise” gives us a musical hint that perhaps there is more to this story than two star-crossed lovers, adding a layer of mystery that I’m sure the book would pick up on.
The mellow repetition of the lovers’ heartfelt emotional ballads is resumed with yet another song from Jayden spilling his emotion in metaphors throughout “The Voice Inside My Head”. There is a musical response with “See The World” as Khadime shares her story of sailing to the horizon for “a world to discover” in a similarly repetitive and plain composition. In this song, we do get a glimpse into the stability of the potential relationship as she shares that she “once thought she would see the world but left it far too late”, “the world” being a metaphor for this man she has met on this Ocean Liner.
The Studio recording finishes with the title song “After You”, another slow plodding and somewhat depressing song as the two share their emotional experience, where they appear to accept this isn’t a long-term thing and share the effects that they’ve had on one another: “After you, I will build a life that’s better.”
The recording as a whole is repetitive, almost blending into one track with little variation. Without the book, the story is very unclear and comes across as two characters singing about themselves with no real connection to the other whom they are supposedly falling for? I can imagine the book fills in for a lot of the lack of clarity which leaves the function of the score to produce some metaphor-filled showstoppers which unfortunately lack creativity and excitement.
Review: Sebastian Calver