08.02.2008

"For Good," Wicked Soundtrack, Stephen Schwartz

Posted by AJ Harbison at 12:47 am

“For Good” is the penultimate song in Wicked, and (as I mentioned in the introductory post) the obligatory piano ballad; but, despite its obligatoriness, it’s very good. The lyrics are very clever, and even moving–they play on the different meanings of the phrase “for good:” “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good….”

There are three musical things in particular I want to note about the song.

1. It marks the final appearance of the “unlimited” theme in the show. Elphaba finally admits “I’m limited–just look at me–I’m limited,” thus bringing that theme to a final resolution.

2. I like the introduction to the song, because part of the “hook” or riff idea in the piano is dissonant–instead of octaves or harmonious thirds or sixths, the high descending idea is in minor sevenths. (In the recording, it’s the second measure after Elphaba sings “Now it’s up to you….” Sheet music can be found here.) The song marks the point where Elphaba and Glinda finally part, and the dissonance portrays the sadness of their farewell.

3. The song also contains another subtle psychological detail. Throughout the entire show, whenever Elphaba and Glinda have a duet, Glinda sings the higher part and Elphaba the lower. In this song, they each sing their part separately and then sing the chorus in a duet–but Elphaba sings her part in a high register, above Glinda’s. In another reversal, she has taken on the role previously assigned to the “good” witch, confirming what we’ve known all along: that she is not really wicked but has only been perceived, painted and persecuted that way. Yet another example of Schwartz’s mastery of fine points that have a big impact.

This song was sung (as a solo) at the CSUF College of the Arts commencement ceremony last May when I graduated; following the song, the Dean of the college was in tears.

You can listen to the whole song, courtesy of iLike, here: I made it easy for you this time–click on the only play button in the list (next to “For Good by Stephen Schwartz”).

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    Albert on 08.03.2008

    I must say this song has grown on me. I still have a few little lyrical complaints (“a seed dropped from a skybird” being the worst offender), but I agree the play on “for good” is delightful.

    My main complaint against the song initially (and still now even) is that the lyrics don’t really seem to fit into the melody in the verses. “I’ve heard it said…” and it’s second verse counterpart “It well may be..” seem to kind of wander around words and melody independent of each other. The result is some very strange emPHAsis like “and we ARE lead” and “so much OF me.” Those are not really natural words to emphasize, yet the melody does (through higher notes and on-beats).

    The melody/lyrics marriage becomes much happier in the chorus (“Like a something changed by something…”). The little bridge part works fine, and the contrapuntal duet is delicious. I just wish the first part of the song didn’t wander so much. But maybe he was going for a sort of pseudo-recitative thingy. Who knows?

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