“Climb these hills / I’m reaching for the heights”
Have you seen La La Land yet? The modern musical and critical darling from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle recently gained a wealth of attention for tying the record James Cameron’s Titanic set in the 1990s for the most Oscar nominations. Whether or not the film wins those awards doesn’t matter now because I am not here to discuss The Academy or the film’s worthiness of such adoration. Instead, I want to focus on something more personal. Something deep that La La Land manages to touch upon in its opening moments and leverage in order to win our adoration.
“Another Day of Sun” is the name of La La Land’s opening number, and it is one of the few numbers in the film to not feature stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in lead vocal roles. In fact, the song is sang before audiences even meet Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone). If you have yet to hear the track or simply want to experience it once more you can do so below:
La La Land is billed as a movie for dreamers, and it wastes no time appealing to that crowd with this song and its accompanying performance. Set on a crowded Los Angeles freeway, dozens of singers and dancers emerge from their vehicles for an elaborate performance that touches on the many things people do to express themselves. There is singing and dancing of course, but also extreme sports, hula hooping, and a wide variety of other talents on display as well. Most, if not all, of the people seen in this sequence are never seen again, but it doesn’t matter because they are nothing more than the movie’s version of us, the audience, who it believes to be dreamers.
The opening verse, delivered by a female vocalist, details the adventures of an aspiring actress who flees her lover and hometown in order to try her shot at fame. The reason for this, simply enough, is the movies. She has spent her whole life watching the way her existence could be projected onto a gigantic silver screen and now wants to see if she too can become someone that moves people from inside those darkened auditoriums.
“Summer: Sunday nights / We’d sink into our seats / Right as they dimmed out all the lights / A Technicolor world made out of music and machine / It called me to be on that screen / And live inside each scene”
The second verse, delivered by a make vocalist, doubles down on this concept and builds on it. The perspective changes from film to music, but the struggles and inspiration remain the same:
“The ballads in the barrooms / Left by those who came before / They say “you gotta want it more” / So I bang on ev’ry door”
“Another day of Sun” recognizes that wanting something is still not enough to succeed. True success only comes to those who accept these facts and push forward, but it’s still no guaranteed. As the second part of the second verse explains:
“And even when the answer’s "no” / Or when my money’s running low / The dusty mic and neon glow / Are all I need”
The beauty of “Another Day of Sun,” much like the beauty of La La Land itself, is the always present understanding that the stereotypical idea success may never come. You can be the best at what you do, but that does not mean the world at large will recognize it, nor does it mean they have to in order for your talent to be real. You are talented and unique regardless of whether or not you become a celebrity.
La La Land and “Another Day of Sun” tell us that if we look to the world at large for praise and adoration you may be left waiting forever. Happiness in your work must come from within, and no amount of external praise will change the way you feel about yourself when looking in the mirror. If you believe in you then that is all that matters. In fact, the end of the second verse highlights something that may be even more rewarding than short term monetary success:
“And someday as I sing my song / A small-town kid’ll come along / That’ll be the thing to push him on and go go”
You may not be the next Chris Pratt, Carly Rae Jepson, or Harry Dean Stanton, but you may be able to influence someone’s life in a similar way if you stay true to yourself. Live by example, and by doing so you will lead others to believe it is perfectly okay to chase their wildest dreams. Who knows? Your work may inspire the next chart-topping artist or big screen starlet to try their luck at the world of entertainment. Hard work and quality breeds more of the same. Do the best you can do and take satisfaction in that. Everything else is secondary.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the Film Editor for Substream Magazine, host of the Inside Music podcast, and ten-year music writing veteran. For more stories and nonsense, follow James on Twitter.