Kinky Boots and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Kyle Taylor Parker gives a soulful re-imagining to more classic and contemporary showtunes in Broadway Soul, Vol. 2, which released digitally and with physical CD and vinyl releases last month from Broadway Records. A follow-up to his 2019 album Broadway Soul, Vol. 1, Parker has teamed up with producer, arranger, and orchestrator Sonny Paladino on fresh takes of songs from Ragtime, South Pacific, Company, Follies, and more, with tracks spanning from golden age musical theatre to new, contemporary favorites and everything in between.
Find out the inspiration behind the album's songs—including how they can be listened to as a plot-driven musical theatre piece—in this track-by-track breakdown:
1. "New Music," from Ragtime
For me, lyrics are the most important part of the arranging process. In order to rework a tune I have to find something new to love about the lyric—a new way to express it. This is a song about realizing the loss of and desire for connection simultaneously. I wanted the listener to lean in and try to connect with the music in that same way. The a cappella rendition was brilliantly arranged by Sonny Paladino and features vocals by Josh Greenblatt, Arnold Harper II, and David Rowen. Fun Fact: The entire album was made remotely. Not a single vocal or musical part was recorded in the same time or place—"Strange new music" indeed. Shoutout to co-producer and mixing engineer extraordinaire Rich Mercurio and mastering engineer Oscar Zambrano for pulling together the sound and creating a seamless and vibrant landscape for the album.
2. "What Would I Do if I Could Feel?," from The Wiz
Some might know this song as the Tin Man's song from The Wiz, but for me this is a song about pondering all the possibilities of life without labels. Free from the chains of toxic masculinity, racism, gender roles, and all the stuff that gets in the way of authenticity. What would I do if I were free to be myself without judgment or penalty? Who might I be then?
3. "Love for Sale," from The New Yorkers (Featuring Jackie Cox and Blaine Alden Krauss)
Cole Porter is probably one of my favorite composers ever. I love the wit, audacity, and sexiness of his lyrics. [RuPaul's Drag Race star] Jackie Cox embodies those qualities effortlessly and immediately pulls you into the world of the song. The vibe of this tune was inspired by Soul Train, "Solid Gold" dancers, and Quincy Jones. Fun Fact: There are two ways to enjoy the album: A, Track by track, or B, listen while reading the plot outline in the liner notes. That's right! There's a plot. The track list was put together to tell a queer love story set in a post-pandemic world, and "Love for Sale" serves as the meet-cute for the young lovers of that story. Enter [Broadway Kinky Boots and The Cher Show star] Blaine Alden Krauss: #swoon. The digital copy of the liner notes is available at BroadwayRecords.com/bsv2.
4. "Some Enchanted Evening," from South Pacific / "All I Do is Dream of You," from Singin' in the Rain
I love the feeling of falling in love. That feeling when you first meet someone and your entire world is changed and it feels like every song about lasting, exciting, and overpowering love was written just for you. I wanted to tackle these classics from that point of view. The buoyant, rush of meeting someone new. The arrangement was inspired by Sam Cook, a major hero of mine, who captured this feeling masterfully in his music.
5."You Could Drive a Person Crazy," from Company (Featuring Natalie Joy Johnson)
This track is dedicated to my twenties. All the late night phone calls and cocktails with friends chatting about my luck in love. [Kinky Boots and Legally Blonde's] Natalie Joy Johnson plays the perfect gal pal on this track, cooing the house down with Marilynn Monroe-Karen Carpenter inspired vocals and serving a side of comedy. Sonny Paladino has outdone himself with this orchestration.
6. "Sugar Daddy," from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Funk funk funk funk it up, baby! This is a super funky take on the rock classic from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The song reminds me of the fun of going out with friends, flirting, meeting new people, making a scene and feeling in complete control of your being, also known as life before the pandemic. What drew me to the song initially was a lyric toward the end: "So you think only a woman can truly love a man? You buy me the dress, I'll be more woman than a man like you can stand." I jump at the opportunity to remind an audience that "love" is an inclusive word. The back up vocals on this tune are super fun. Fun Fact: We asked each singer to record a take of interjections as if they were commenting on a live performance. What came out of that experiment is a bit of magic. Remember—the album was recorded remotely with zero concept of what the other singers would be saying.
7. "What About Love," from The Color Purple (Featuring Blaine Alden Krauss)
"What About Love" is one of the very few queer love songs in the Broadway cannon, which is what initially drew me to it. I really wanted to put Black male vulnerability on display and make space for the listener to witness the beauty of Black queer love. Blaine Alden Krauss serves the dreamiest of vocals on this tune, while the orchestration is inspired by the R&B sounds of my childhood.
8."Till There Was You," from The Music Man
"Till There Was You" is the vocal entr'acte to act two of the album, Inspired by old timey gospel and doo-wop. I wanted to capture that feeling you get when you first find your person and life is in technicolor.
9. "Buddy's Blues," from Follies
On the other side of finding love is the frustration and fear of not knowing what to do with it once you get it. Ya know, some people are only in it for the chase. The lyric in "Buddy's Blues" spoke to that for me. This is probably one of the most daring reworks on the album. The goal was to turn this Sondheim vaudeville number from Follies into a bonafide blues tune as the title suggests, something Ma Rainey might sing and send the crowd into a spin. The blues has always been infused with attitude, humor, and grit, so at first sight the concept seemed like an easy task. This in fact was the hardest song to record. The blues is a communal experience. A call and response between the musicians and the singer, achieving this while recording remotely was a challenge. As a team we all worked really hard to keep the track as organic as possible and leave room for each musician to respond to what they were hearing while recording. The next challenge was honoring the composer and the new genre as we reworked the tune. Every arrangement I work on is with utmost respect to the original composer. As a team we bled over each sung note of this tune to satisfy the needs of the original tune and the tradition of blues music.
10. "Falling in Love With Love," from The Boys From Syracuse / "Mr. Pitiful"
It was really important to me that the album be a varied account of the experience of love and not 12 tracks of the ooey gooey good stuff. I wanted there to be something for everyone. This track is the anti-love love song, filled with guts, glory, and horns galore! What I love about Broadway is the stories. What I love about soul is the feelings. This track is a marriage of the two.
11. "The Glory of Love" (Featuring Shoshana Bean)
Who better to deliver the truth about love to us than [Wicked and Waitress star] Shoshana Bean? To me she is the keeper of light and goodness and only sings the truth. This song was not written for the theatre, and in a way that’s a part of the concept as well. The mission behind both Broadway Soul Vol. 1 and 2 was to challenge the look and sound of the American musical. I wanted this track to feel like that moment in The Wiz where Glinda appears and tells Dorthy she’s had the power to go home all along. Shoshana leads the lesson, guiding me on the path of understanding the truth and glory of love.
12. "What I Did for Love," from A Chorus Line
I really wanted to challenge myself to be as honest and vulnerable as possible with my storytelling as a vocalist throughout the album. "No gimmicks, just truth" was the big rule throughout the process. “What I Did For Love” is the perfect song to end our love story, and a perfect song to sing given the challenges many of us in the theatre industry have been facing. Even in the darkest hour, even after a year of great loss, what I know for sure is: there is always something left to love.