Lord Of The Sings: A Chaotic 2000s Jukebox Musical

Love Middle-earth and early 2000s pop music? Wonder what would happen if we combined the two? Let’s go on an adventure and find out!

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Characters from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy get ready to join a band together.

Epic in scope and enduring in nature, readers old and young have enjoyed J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle-earth for the better part of a century. It’s impossible to not get swept up in the magic, compelling characters, near-flawless worldbuilding, and the battle for good to prevail against evil. A huge Middle-earth nerd myself, I’ve spent the past couple years turning my home library into a comfortable hobbit hole. I also watched the films several times last month and forced my family to endure me singing every song in the trilogy (yes, even the ones in Elvish).

While my poor relatives recovered from excessive exposure to my latent Theatre Kid Energy™, I decided to put my obsession with singing elves to good use. Since the story itself is so dramatic in nature and Tolkien himself included several poems and songs in the original novels, I wondered what it would be like to create a Lord of the Rings jukebox musical.

A jukebox musical is different from a normal musical because the songs are pre-existing and the narrative is usually crafted around the theme of the songs. The Lord of the Rings already has a narrative, so in order to create this musical, I would have to find songs that fit either the plot, a certain character, or both. Also, since the award-winning films directed by Peter Jackson came out in the early 2000s, I decided to choose pop/rock songs from around that time period as well.

While some song/character pairings are made in earnest, others are pure silliness and none should be taken too seriously. Of course, spoilers lie ahead, so read on at your own risk.

Without further ado, Bookstr Theatre Company presents…Lord of the Sings: The Unofficial Musical!

Act I – The Fellowship of the Ring

Cover of The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins – “Get The Party Started” by P!nk

Starting this musical off with a fun bop, we’ve got the normally antisocial adventurer Bilbo Baggins turning up to his 111th birthday party in style. Drinks are flowing, fireworks are popping, and the party is rocking until Bilbo (who is killing P!nk’s belted high notes) disappears into thin air.

Gandalf – “Because I Got High” by Afroman

After seeing his old friend Bilbo off to Rivendell and instructing his nephew Frodo to keep Bilbo’s mysterious ring safe and secret, Gandalf the Grey disappears for several years to do “research.” If you ask me, his extended absence from the Shire might have less to do with dusty books and more to do with Gandalf’s preference for pipe-weed. While Gandalf might not sing the more raunchy verses in Afroman’s stoner anthem, the sentiment of lost ambition in the song certainly applies to how Gandalf is perceived by everyone except the hobbits.

Saruman – “Toxic” by Britney Spears

Christopher Lee as Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

With back-to-back wizard numbers, it would be too expected to use an emo ballad to emphasize the depth of Saruman’s betrayal by teaming up with Sauron. But Saruman dancing in heeled go-go boots and fishnet stockings while singing about his unhealthy relationship with the Dark Lord? Shocking. Innovative. Hilarious. It’s a taste of a poison paradise, and I’m addicted.

Galadriel – “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia

Galadriel is a queen, so naturally she needed a song to reflect how awesomely invincible she is. The oldest elf left in Middle-earth, she has lived through many ages and survived, and even managed to withstand the temptation of the One Ring. Powered by starlight, the Lady Galadriel is a sight to behold, a force to be reckoned with, and won’t fall if you shoot her down.

Boromir – “The Reason” by Hoobastank

It is true, Boromir is not a perfect person. We see this when he betrays the Fellowship and attempts to kill Frodo for the One Ring. Overcome with grief, he sings Hoobastank’s classic ballad until the Orcs and Uruk-hai attack their camp, desperate to kidnap some hobbits. Seeing his “reason to start over new,” Boromir sacrifices himself for Merry and Pippin, and dies a hero’s death in the arms of his king and friend, Aragorn.

Act II – The Two Towers

Cover of The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Gollum/Smeagol – “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys

An unconventional choice for a villain, sure, but despite Gollum’s split personality, he and Smeagol can both appreciate the single-minded devotion inherent in The Backstreet Boys’ pop hit. Forged from the fires of Mount Doom, the ring is his “one desire,” and if he has to strangle a couple tricksy hobbitses to get what he wants, then he wants it that way. Of course, if someone did try to tell him why his love for the Precious ain’t nothing but a heartache, he’d never wanna hear them say it.

Arwen – “My Immortal” by Evanescence

Immediately following Aragorn breaking up with her (unbeknownst to her, at her father Elrond’s insistence), our favorite elvish princess smears on the eyeliner, turns up the stereo, and sings her heart out to Evanescence. After giving up her immortality to be with the mortal Aragorn, he encourages her to leave Middle-earth with her people and goes to fight in a war from which he may not return. However, Arwen’s love for Aragorn is so strong that she still feels connected to him, and as she grows weaker, she comes to terms with the idea of her father’s prophecy coming true. Death is all that awaits her if she stays.

Legolas and Gimli – “Bodies” by Drowning Pool

John Rhys-Davies as Gimli and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Beginning at the Battle at Helm’s Deep, warrior besties Legolas and Gimli frequently compete to see who has the highest kill count at the end of each skirmish. Therefore, I can think of no one better than these two to duet the metal banger “Bodies,” which also keeps count of how many bodies hit the floor. The song is bloodthirsty, angry, and just the right amount of crazy to keep the dwarf and elf pair killing Orcs instead of each other.

Merry – “Drive” by Incubus

Meriadoc Brandybuck undergoes a lot of change in this portion of the tale. He survives an Orc kidnapping and spends time with Treebeard and the Ents. He’s seen the damage Sauron and Saruman’s forces have caused throughout Middle-earth, and he is eager to be brave and stand with his friends. Similar to Incubus’s hit song, Merry feels he should be the one behind the wheel and is determined to be there in spite of what tomorrow brings. He may be small, but he’s full of heart, which is what makes him such a great character.

Samwise Gamgee – “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne

In lieu of one of the most iconic monologues in literary and film history in the ruins of Osgiliath, Samwise the Brave uses his countertenor vocal range to sing this iconic Avril ballad from the Eragon movie. To comfort his friend who feels like he’s fighting a losing battle with the One Ring, Sam expresses his undying loyalty and encourages Frodo that they can destroy the Ring and save Middle-earth as long as they are together. A short hobbit with a stout heart, Sam won’t give in and will be by Frodo’s side until the end.

Act III – The Return of The King

Cover of The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Aragorn – “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” by Five For Fighting

As the titular king and the character most like Superman in Middle-earth, Aragorn sometimes doubts himself. He exiled himself for decades from the kingdom he was meant to rule because he was so worried about becoming his problematic ancestor. He may think that he is “only a man in a silly red sheet” (or silly magic sword), but when the fate of his beloved and the entire world is at stake, Aragorn will rise to the challenge and save the day every time.

Faramir – “Because Of You” by Kelly Clarkson

Out of all the messed-up character backstories in this world, Faramir, brother of Boromir, has some serious daddy issues. Once his father Denethor admits he wished Faramir had died instead of Boromir, Faramir launches a suicidal final stand against the Orcs invading Minas Tirith. I imagine him singing this heartbreaking Kelly Clarkson song about the damage caused by a father abandoning his children while riding into battle, tears streaming down his face. He never strayed too far from the sidewalk, but he would have this last chance to “show his quality.”

Pippin – “How To Save A Life” by The Fray

Far from the screwup dunderhead he was at the beginning of this journey, Peregrin Took has looked death in the face and refused to let it break him. Although in this case, the face he looked at is very much alive, and Denethor is on his way to burn his son alive. Despite his newfound bravery, Pippin is still quite short and easily pushed out of the way by Gondorians intent on murdering his friend. On his way to find the more powerful (and taller) Gandalf, Pippin laments his failure at losing his friend and wondering, “Where did I go wrong?” Had Pippin known how to save a life, perhaps Faramir would have escaped his father’s clutches without sustaining third-degree burns in the process.

Eowyn – “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera

Miranda Otto as Eowyn in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

A shieldmaiden of Rohan, Eowyn knows how to defend herself with a blade, but she is less adept at protecting her heart. While she initially attracted the unwanted attentions of the awful Grima Wormtongue, Eowyn fell for the emotionally unavailable yet polite Aragorn. After having her heart broken, she snuck into battle and is now face-to-face with the formidable Witch King of Angmar, leader of the Nazgul. Channeling all her rage from all the men who have hurt or underestimated her, she fights the Witch King while riffing her lungs out and stabs him in the face. As he explodes, she thanks him, because he “made her that much stronger.”

Frodo Baggins – “In The End” by Linkin Park

At last, we have arrived at the climax of this saga with our tortured hero, who now stands on the precipice of Mount Doom, the One Ring poised to be thrown into the fire. “He’s tried so hard, and come so far.” But in the end, it doesn’t even matter because Frodo falls under the One Ring’s control. Sam is there, screaming, “I put my trust in you!” but Frodo can’t hear anything as he slides the ring onto his finger. But even this act doesn’t even matter in the end, because Frodo loses a finger and the One Ring is destroyed with Gollum in a gruesome, volcanic end.

Sauron – “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay

With the One Ring destroyed, any remnant of the Dark Lord’s soul has been killed. As the Great Eye fades away, Sauron muses on how he “used to rule the world,” but now “Roman cavalry choirs are singing,” and his reign is no more. Sauron dies, but the melody is picked up by the armies of men. “The crowd would sing, ‘Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!’” and Aragorn becomes King Elessar of Gondor.

Whether you love or hate these song selections, it is a testament to the quality of Tolkien’s storytelling that his work has endured for so long and has touched so many lives. May this tale be as immortal as the elves in the Undying Lands, and may you rock out to as many nostalgic songs as possible.

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