Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sondheim State Of Mind

It started when Gibbs asked his readers to tell him their favorite Stephen Sondheim song. He then revealed that one of his was “Losing My Mind.” I said to myself, “Hey, that has the same title as the song that Liza Minnelli recorded with the Pet Shop Boys!”

When I first heard that song in 1989, I thought it was the PSB trying to help reinvent Liza-with-a-z-not-with-an-s’ career, and make her relevant again in the 90s. And it sure sounded like a Neil Tennant-Chris Lowe collaboration, with sharp, smart lyrics, mournful melody and thumping beat, mixed with a generous amount of wry, throwaway sense of irony and casual wit. But then my friend (who first alerted me about the song) mentioned the songwriter; thanks to having too much trivia stuffed in my head, I vaguely remembered only one fact: it was originally a song from Broadway.

So imagine my surprise when I watched Michael Ball’s performance: “Oh eM Gee! It’s a Sondheim original!” It really helps that the guy who played the Phantom of the Opera is not just a great singer/actor, he’s also cute to watch!

Losing My Mind by Michael Ball

And here are Liza and the PSB at the BBC, performing their synth-pop rework of the song. (Liza plus PSB equals gay, gay, gay!)

Losing My Mind by Liza Minnelli and the Pet Shop Boys

I love how the song best illustrates the helpless of someone teetering between knowing and not knowing, of being hopelessly in love yet afraid of hoping. It is the agony and the ecstasy of uncertainty.

“All afternoon doing every little chore,
the thought of you stays bright.
Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,
not going left, not going right.
I dim the lights and think about you.
Spend sleepless nights to think about you.
You said you loved me
or were you just being kind?
Or am I losing my mind?”

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