Retro music: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Last month Sundance channel was having a queer month, literally, by which I mean that every Saturday and Sunday night they’d play queer films. So I was happy to get to see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” one more time. I remember the first time I saw it, my jaw just falling open and staying unhinged through the whole film. It was nice to see it again and be able to concentrate on the little details I missed.

Now, Hedwig didn’t just discombobulate me because I’m a straight white girl whose closest experience with a transsexual was during Fasching when I was a kid. I mean, sure, I do believe Hedwig is prettier than I am, and she’s got a thing for sticking her head in an oven, but she’s actually a very relatable character. What really dropped my jaw was the music.

Hedwig almost transcends gender, because her ultimate goal is the same as everyone else’s — to be loved. I’d say 99.5% of the human population can understand that, whether they’re man or woman. Hedwig chases love, scrambling after it in her high heels, mostly slipping and falling, but always picking herself up and continuing on. All the songs in the musical reflect that chase: there’s “The Origin of Love,” the most obvious, that tells the story of how we all have a soulmate somewhere who was torn from us physically, and we’re always searching for that person to make us whole. “Sugar Daddy” is the promise that, if you bring the sugar, Hedwig will do anything for you in return. “Midnight Radio” talks about being freed from the ugliness of your life by loving “Patti and Tina and Yoko, Aretha and Noni and Nico.”

The most interesting song is “Wicked Little Town.” It’s been covered several times, and it’s covered in the movie by Tommy Gnosis, who is Hedwig’s lover and enemy. Hedwig follows Gnosis from town to town, ranting in nightclubs at the same time as Gnosis is playing sold-out stadiums. But where Tommy sings it in an ultimately soulless way, Hedwig lends truth to the words: “And if you have no other choice, you know you can follow my voice, through the dark turns and the noise of this wicked little town.”

I don’t mean to simplify the movie to one theme, or to ignore the gender issues, but it’s also a mistake to simplify just to gender concerns. Hedwig’s experiences are human experiences, and there are a lot of people probably living right now in a wicked little town. I know I talk too much, so I’ll stop and give you the music already, but like any other musicale, the music doesn’t live as well without the story behind it. So if you like the music, check out the movie. That’s all. :D

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
Hedwig & the Angry Inch – Sugar Daddy
Hedwig & the Angry Inch – Wicked Little Town (Hedwig version)