By: Kelli Gunning
A new version of Mean Girls is coming to theatres today, 20 years after the original. Now, before saying, “Who asked for this?” and “What does this have to do with music?”, let me reassure you that Mean Girls (2024) will not be a carbon copy of the 2004 classic. Instead, this version will be a musical adaptation. For some suspicious reason, it has completely avoided being advertised that way. Nevertheless, in honour of this new musical interpretation, I thought it would be fun to dive into the music of Mean Girls and what makes it stand out.
Let me be clear, it’s not always a good thing to stand out.
Nor is it a bad thing, but the Mean Girls soundtrack can’t seem to choose which way to present itself. Is it a masterpiece? Or another example of an adaptation that just cannot compete with the original?
The best thing about the Mean Girls soundtrack is that it leans into the 2000s rock style while simultaneously embracing that classic jazzy musical theatre sound. Many of the songs have that iconic driving bass, wailing electric guitar and crashing percussion that can transport you to the front row of a rock concert, while in others you’re hit with jazzy piano and violin ad-libbing (and do I hear the sound of tap dancing?). Surprisingly, it works. Blending rock and theatre captures the edgy and chaotic nature of the 2004 movie.
There are so many songs in the soundtrack that are excellent examples of this perfect blend. “Apex Predator”, written about Regina’s cruelty, has a wild electric guitar and a satisfying beat. Regina’s villain song “World Burn” has a slow start that builds and builds until it gets to a legendary climax with the energetic entrance of the ensemble. My personal favourite, “Sexy”, is truly the funniest part of the entire soundtrack. It’s about Karen’s love for Halloween, and how she can dress as sexy as she wants and get away with it. The song has an insanely fun disco style, and the incredible lyric “I expect to run the world in shoes I cannot walk in” is a highlight for me in the entire album.
Despite that line in “Sexy”, however, I believe the great tragedy of the soundtrack is the lyric writing in general. In the movie, there are so many examples of iconic lines (namely: “On Wednesdays we wear pink”, “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!”, “Karen, you can’t just ask someone why they’re white!”). You’d think the lyrics of the songs would reflect that sharp wit, but they fall flat, just barely doing the job. This is exposed in phrases like: “This whole school humps my leg like a chihuahua”, “Imagine a party with dresses and cake / And singing and dancing and cake”, and as much as I like “Apex Predator”, the line “Like a lioness / Only with less fur” is a one that I just cannot forgive.
There are many other examples of weak similes and jokes that don’t land, but the cringiness of the lyrics is not the only problem. In the movie, the great thing about Regina is that her awfulness is subtle. She puts on a mask of niceness and might even believe herself that she is a nice person, but underneath it all she is manipulative and nasty. Unfortunately, the musical’s lyrics don’t try to adapt this clever storytelling. Regina’s first sung lines in the musical are “My name is Regina George / And I am a massive deal”. In the song “Someone Gets Hurt”, Regina blatantly says of herself that she is the “Ice Queen”, and “People forget I’m human too / Yes, they do that”. Not only is this writing lazy, awkward, and boring, but it also completely removes the nuance of Regina’s character, when Regina is supposed to be the whole heart of Mean Girls.
All of that being said, the album is far from unenjoyable! The performances are top notch, and the music is exciting and fun in the way that Mean Girls should be. With a lyrical makeover, the musical could have matched the cultural significance of the original film.
So, should you go see Mean Girls (2024)? Despite my (and everyone’s) exhaustion with remakes in Hollywood, I think this movie deserves a chance. Who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised.