Anyone who knows me… and watches The Office… and knows that I watch The Office (yes, I have now eliminated everyone) would likely expect a RENT post after the latest episode.
In the show, the staff of Dunder Mifflin sang an adapted version of “Seasons of Love”, the emotional Act II opener in the musical RENT, to their almost former boss in Steve Carell’s penultimate episode.
I cried. I cried ugly. And since then I have been in a 1997 time warp — listening to my RENT soundtrack on repeat like it’s freshman year. RENT had just won the Tony Award for best musical and at a university known for its theater program and theater wannabes, you couldn’t go far without hearing it coming from someone’s open dorm window.
The musical has since been mocked on South Park, made into a horrible movie, ended its run on Broadway, and maybe even lost some of its cultural relevance. But man, this weekend, I fell in love again. So I thought I needed a new entry in my pop culture-devoted “Why I Love” series.
I don’t remember a lot from my freshman year of college. Not
only because of goldschlager and Dillo Day, but just because, you know, there are like so many classes. But I’ll never forget nights in the dorm room dividing up parts to sing along to the RENT CD. “You be Angel!” “No, I want to be Collins!” (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, we really went wild once we got a little independence.)
As proven this weekend, I can still sing every single word on that soundtrack — down to every last “moo.” It’s impossible to listen to “Without You” without getting chills as Roger and Mimi declare that life goes on, but they’re gone without each other. And I’ve always wanted to have an ATM code of A-N-G-E-L.
It probably inspired late 90s college kids to write songs, film a documentary or open up a restaurant in Santa Fe.
RENT is about relationships and marginalization. I can’t say I have ever felt on the fringe or, as Mark says it in the musical, “out of the mainstream.” I don’t mind saying that I’m pretty mainstream. I may even epitomize it. But I definitely can identify with the themes of friendship, the struggle to be an independent person outside of your family, and finding determination to accomplish your career goals.
But the biggest reason I love this rock opera is for how easily it can evoke such happy memories. What a way to find a little balance.
What CD from your past can you still sing every word? If you’re a RENThead, prove it. Since it’s not peace, according to the musical, what is the opposite of war?