Obscure Tony awards performances, Twin Peaks and choreography videos – Laura Vincent’s YouTube Party of Five runs the full weird YouTube gamut.
From ANTM to ASMR, YouTube has been crucial to my wellbeing, something I tell you with neither hesitation nor exaggeration for comic effect. In 2007 my flatmates and I would bond over slow-buffering episodes of Top Model in ten minute bursts; now I soften my anxiety or drift off to sleep to ASMR and other similarly soothing videos literally daily, including right now as I write this.
These videos that I’ve chosen to share with you are listed in order of least to most well-received by my audiences. It was hard narrowing it down to just five – I was like, “Does this 14 minute supercut compilation of the final riff in ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical Wicked have broad appeal?” Does anything that I’m into have broad appeal?” Who knows, but we’re about to find out.
‘Turkey Lurkey Time’ (from the musical Promises, Promises) performed at the 1969 Tony Awards.
This video is very very stupid and I cannot express how emotional I get over it. The song itself is entirely throwaway but Michael Bennett’s choreography is unreal and iconic. Behold triple threat Donna McKechnie in the red dress! Watch how her neck appears boneless as she pops it at 1:36! See how she kicks and flings her limbs as though she’s made of rubber, like she’s somehow above having a spinal cord! While singing the whole time! Every time I see the end part when they’re running diagonally across the stage and then suddenly they’re in sync again I get chills. In fact sometimes I get tearful.
On your second rewatch look out for Baayork Lee in the green dress. She’s so dynamic and would later star with McKechnie again in A Chorus Line, choreographed and directed by none other than old mate Michael Bennett. Due to its seasonal nature I have a personal annual tradition where I watch this video on December 1st – no sooner – to herald the coming Christmas. Please…invite me to your parties.
Idina Menzel singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on Comedy Central in 1996
You know that meme with text laid over clasped hands about a thing shared by two separate groups of people? Well that’s me and your four year old child, we are a Venn diagram, united in Idina “Elsa from Frozen” Menzel’s enormous influence upon our lives. I’ve been a fan of Menzel’s work on Broadway since about 2005 – like, I swear I nearly blacked out the first time I heard her voice. As you can imagine, it’s a real treat for my alarmingly sincere self to see her achieve mainstream success of late.
Anyway, this video, from a comedy show in 1996, is so weird. The host Jeff Ross does a bit about how he can’t sing, and Idina Menzel – debuting in the smash musical RENT at the time – is planted in the audience to heckle him, and to show everyone how a real singer does it. And the song is ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’! And the host is so baffled and half-assed about the whole thing! And Idina is hilariously game, throwing down intense riffs while she’s singing this nursery rhyme to a confused audience! And absolutely no one seems to know what to do with themselves!
I love the shambles of it all, and it’s a wonderful showcase for Idina’s voice as it was in the 90s, so much more gravelly and raspy than the cleaner instrument it has evolved into. If you’re still reading, you may also get a kick out of this (audio only) recording of Kristin Chenoweth singing ‘For Good’ from Wicked with Alanis Morrisette – yes truly – in the Elphaba part. This is what it’s like when worlds collide!
Angelo Badalamenti explaining how he wrote ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ from Twin Peaks
Angelo Badalamenti shows us on his keyboard how he interpreted the ideas that David Lynch was pressing upon him in order to compose, on the spot, this intensely poignant piece of music. Badalamenti’s thickly emotional voice sounds like an old-timey storybook narrator, like he was born to speak about mysterious sycamore-filled woods. I’m transfixed by the part where he recalls Lynch instructing him that this moment is when Laura Palmer appears, and so in turn the music opens wide up – it feels like anything is possible, the sound of sunshine breaking through grey clouds – and then when Lynch tells him to make her retreat in fear, it’s suddenly unbearably melancholic. It feels like you’d do anything to convince Laura to stay.
We’re at a time when, from a child’s fifth birthday to a silver wedding anniversary, someone in attendance will probably try to talk to you about Twin Peaks, so this video will at least be likely to have relevance to your party guests. I (a person with no relevance to your party guests) cry every time I watch this. Hell, I’m crying right now.
Tricia Miranda choreography to ‘Trini Dem Girls‘
Tricia Miranda is an exceptional, influential choreographer who has worked with Beyonce and Missy Elliot, and this video from her studio has group after group of dancers interpreting her choreography to Nicki Minaj’s song. Everyone has their own spin on the complicated moves and you can really see who’s merely technical and who’s got innate charisma. The particularly skilled dancers somehow create space in the milliseconds between moves, effortlessly hitting their mark with crispness yet total insouciance. If it looks easy, try it yourself. My favourite dancers are in red shorts and DOPE t-shirts – you’ll know when you see them.
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(I also recommend the 1 MILLION dance videos from Korea, I’m obsessed with Mina Myoung’s choreography to Beyonce’s 7/11 and May J Lee’s choreography to Boom Clap by Charli XCX.)
Bob Ducca’s lists of things he’s allergic to
It’s audio only but I nevertheless urge you to click through! This is very simple: comedian Seth Morris has this character called Bob Ducca who, with solemn indefatigability, lists his various ailments for the hosts of a comedy show. As well as being immensely silly and massively funny it’s also useful: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people quite genuinely that I have “a hyper-tolerance to lactose” forgetting entirely that I was quoting this video.
You can read Laura Vincent’s other writing at her blog ‘Hungry and Frozen‘.
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