Lyrics: “Just For Tonight” ~ Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical, 2023
This might be the most niché blog post I’ve written in a while; possibly only interesting for people who have already seen “Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical”. Or those who at least have listened to the album, which was released on Friday. But I guess most people who listened, did so, because they have seen the show before. I can’t help it, when I love a piece of art / entertainment, I sometimes feel the need to shout about it from the rooftops. And my blog is the best rooftop for me to do so. That’s why I’ve shouted about Mincemeat here many times before. I’ll link to those posts at the end.
Anyway: we’ve finally got the cast recording. With proper orchestration. Some strings, some brass, some woodwinds, more percussion. All the bells and whistles and it’s marvellous and it makes these gems of songs dazzle so prettily.
I guess it’s time to dust off my old assertion that I don’t know anything about making music and thus lack the vocabulary to properly talk about music. I deal with words. They use more than enough words in this musical as well and I will gush over those in a minute.
But the opening song “Born To Lead” is a good example of why I love the music in this musical so much. It’s this wonderful blend of catchy melodies, impressive rap and beautiful harmonies – either as almost instrumental backdrop e.g. for the rap section or shining in full force in the chorus. I’m also always impressed, when they sing different and sometimes contrary lyrics at the same time; Johnny and Monty here towards the end. It’s almost impossible to catch all of the words while sitting in the auditorium, because you also need to watch what’s going on. Which is why I’m so happy that I can finally listen to theses songs over and over and over again to focus on different parts of it.
I also absolutely love the prelude of this opening song and thus the show, as it gives the first glimpse of the scope of instrumentation. Such a far cry from the piano, bass guitar, drums they had on previous runs of the show. It’s a proper West End musical now. I will never get tired of saying that.
But back to “Born to Lead”. And don’t worry, I won’t dissect every one of these songs to this extent. But I absolutely adore this one, because it sets the tone for the whole show so wonderfully and introduces all the elements: Three of the main characters, the basic plot of what it’s all about, the variety of voices and musical styles. The witty lyrics and the humour, without brushing over what’s at stake. It’s this perfect blend of exciting (and yes, Monty, it’s fun) spy operation and necessary pathos for a nation at war. While at the same time poking fun at the establishment, that existed back then and still does in the UK today, which in my eyes makes this WWII story quite relevant to modern audiences.
A few examples, starting with the biggest shout-out to Zoe Roberts in the role of Johnny Bevaon for her impeccable rapping skills all through the show. So many words in such rapid succession, it just blows my mind.
Gotta make Hitler believe Sicily isn’t where we’re gonna be
Gotta proceed with some dishonesty
Gotta deceive cos what I wanna see is hundreds of thousands of Germans getting off our property.
The pathos comes from Johnny Bevan with these words
We are not heroes, we play our parts,
We do our duties, nothing more
And when this war is done and fades to dust
There’s no applause or fame for us
while Ewan Montagu at the same time proudly claims the role as born leader
For some were born to follow, but we were born to lead
We are the masters, we are the clever men who hold the reigns. […]
And when this war is done and fades to dust
The world will turn and say to us that we were born to lead
As audience you only forgive this arrogant stance, because it’s right away juxtaposed with it’s ludicrous sides, you can only laugh about
I’ll definitely get a knighthood
And a Victoria Cross or three
Look up victory in a dictionary
There’s a picture there of me
Oh, just have a listen, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’ll try to keep the rest of this to a more general commentary, I promise.
The wonderful instrumentation helps to set the mood in all the other songs as well. Sad and melancholic with sparse woodwinds. Full of suspense with more percussion and some strings. Cheerful and triumphant with the brass section. That’s the beauty of a bigger musical ensemble, but also of skilled people who write the scores and arrange it all. I love it.
Being able to listen to the songs without distraction now makes me notice and consequently appreciate the harmonies of these five beautiful voices even more. As mentioned above either as a backdrop (e.g. at the end of “Act As If You Do”) or as the centre point in quite a few of the songs. Most of all probably in “Sail On, Boys”, which in it’s purest form is just a beautiful sea shanty.
I love that they created such a variety of signature motifs which are picked up in other songs later on. So many tiny details I only noticed now while listening with headphones and not being distracted by action on the stage. The reprise of “Born to lead” in “Just For Tonight” for instance. There are probably more I still haven’t figured out yet.
Last but not least I’m in awe of how they managed to blend all of this together in one single – albeit 9:30 minutes long – song: “Making a Man”. It is their musical theatre masterpiece. Period. Closely followed by “The Glitzy Finale”, which excels at bringing all the themes (plot and music) back once more and ending on such a wonderful tribute to Glyndwr Michael.
Let me now bring the focus back to some lyrics. There are too many to pick from to showcase SpitLip’s skills with rhyme & rhythm, so I won’t even try. But I also do appreciate the social commentary in some songs, besides the aforementioned poking fun at the establishment. I’m glad they kept the “empowering women” theme from the very first version in 2019. “All the Ladies” is the perfect “call to arms” anthem (pun intended) for me with lyrics like these
No more riding side saddle
It’s time for our battle to start
Get in the system, rip it apart
The other theme is fascism and more importantly the current rise of it in the western world. There are sections in two songs which made me stop short and gulp the first time I heard them. Because they are delivered in such a fun context, but they are so true.
You think were badass, you ain’t see nothing“Das Übermensch”
Democracy you won’t see us coming
And later on the US pilot Watkins sings about the defeated Nazis
They’re losers but they just don’t mind“The Glitzy Finale”
‘Cos when the chips are down and you’ve lost your way
There’s a home for you in the USA …
(Make America Great Again!)
Not quite social commentary, but something I can very well relate to is the theme of Charles’ song “Dead in the Water”. From the very first time I heard it in 2019, I was in awe how well it reflects my own fears of not being good enough. Not smart enough. How well it reflects my tendency to let that fear hold me back. Reflects my wish / dream to magically overcome it all and show people what I’m capable of. I’m happy to say that I think I’ve taken some helpful steps in that direction since then. Or at least cope better with some of the fear. (Three cheers for therapy!).
One day I’ll metamorphosise“Dead in the Water”
The scales shall tumble from their eyes
And thus shall end this wretched old routine
They’ll hear all these ideas of mine
And realise that all this time
There’s more to me than they have ever seen
I want to end this long, fangirling post with sharing the lyrics, which I probably will have engraved in a simple silver bracelet this summer; similar to the few Frank Turner lyrics I’ve already done this with. I just love the simplicity of these words and the inspiration I take away from them. I also have a thing about the sea, so I’m partial for any good sea metaphor.
Set your hearts to the horizon“Sail On, Boys”
Leave your fears upon the shore
I could go on and on on about “Operation Mincemeat”, but I’ve already done that before. And I might again. I’m scheduled to see the show twice more this summer. Next time in about three weeks time and I can’t wait!
My previous reviews of the show
April 2023: “Be Proud, Cause Baby You’re The Best Thing Ever”
July 2022: Big Flash of Joy: Operation Mincemeat – The Musical
January 2020: “Operation Mincemeat” – Gets Better & Better With Every Run
May 2019: Operation Mincemeat” – Absolutely Brilliant