I knew the sickness was deep when I found myself inexplicably singing along to my friend Caitlin’s ringback tone. It was as if I’d been possessed, my eyes widening and hand reaching upward to grab my throat like an overacting B-List celebrity in a sub-par horror film. Only instead of ominously being told, “You’re next” by the devil, it was my own voice that scared the shit out of me: I’d just sung along to the full chorus of “Defying Gravity.”
The words, it seemed, had ingrained themselves into my brain through Wicked-mania osmosis — the song had taken over my world seemingly overnight and against my will. My friends were slipping various songs from the soundtrack into our regular playlists like audio rufies. One second I was rapping along to “Colt 45” and then the next thing I knew I was hit with a heavy blast of positive messaging by way of two witches and their aversion to gravity.
In psychology class they taught us about a phenomenon called the Familiarity Principle: the more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. Annoying Angie from Accounting, for example, will eventually become tolerable by nature of seeing her each day. But when it came to me falling into the cult of Broadway sing-a-longs, it went deeper than office pleasantries because it was affecting my entire life.
I’d spent my childhood rebelling against my theater professor father, refusing to get sucked in the lure of musicals and yet somehow, against my own will, the disease took over. It happened first with Rent. Wicked was phase two. I’d avoided Les Mis up until last year’s Oscar fever, and now it’s happening again by way of a movie called Frozen and three evil words: Let. It. Go.
I swore I wouldn’t like this song. But even before the track became a hit, I refused to see the movie, mostly because I refuse to be an adult who watches cartoons (although Pixar’s success clearly denotes I’m the minority.) But a ton of my friends saw it. They told me I “had to see it too” so I blocked them on Facebook. Vogue got into it — they styled a whole imaginary wardrobe around “film.” Then the song won an Oscar and Danny Zucko messed up Idina Menzel’s name and the whole thing suddenly felt extremely unavoidable if not downright invasive.
It was on a recent three-hour train ride from Rhode Island to New York that I almost snapped; a very oblivious girl blasted the song for the entire duration. Had her eyes not been open I would have assumed she simply died with the song stuck eerily on her iPod’s loop, but no, she was alive. Completely cognizant and apparently extremely hard of hearing.
I learned all the words. I didn’t want to, but I did. Elsa the snow princess and my annoying seat-mate were in a duet that refused to be missed, no matter how loudly I turned up my own headphones or how blatantly I stared at her to SHUT THE FUCK UP. The lyrics were seared into my brain, the melody stuck like gum at the bottom of my Amtrak seat.
Immediately I empathized with university casting directors. This is how they must feel at open calls for college musical productions, as student after student belts the same exact audition song. For a while that very song was “Defying Gravity,” and I wonder if they, like I, eventually gave in by defeat. I wonder if after the anger dissipates and the fatigue sets in, the Familiarity Principle’s point proves itself once again. Like Angie from Accounting, the song doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it’s kind of catchy, and suddenly you find yourself…dare I say it…downloading the track you swore you’d hate from Frozen.
Another 99 cent piece of my dignity gone. Whatever. Let it go.