As I wrote a few months ago, I wrote about how I watched the 25th anniversary gala version of The Phantom of the Opera. I hadn’t listened to the music in more than a decade, but suddenly felt like revisiting the show.
One of the first things I discovered: “Think of Me” is a terrible song.
I am not talking about musically. I have no musical background so I cannot discuss that. However, the lyrics are horrible because they tell us nothing about Christine.
The problem stems right from the beginning. I found an interview with Charles Hart, the lyricist for The Phantom of the Opera. He describes how he got the job writing the lyrics for Phantom. Andrew Lloyd Weber sent Charles Hart a recording of the music of “Think of Me.” He told him nothing about the show, he just asked him to write lyrics based on the music he heard. Charles Hart sent him back the lyrics for “Think of Me,” and they hired him.
It doesn’t appear that they ever changed the lyrics.
What a missed opportunity.
The song does not tell the audience anything about Christine.
Compare this to the song “Mein Herr” in Cabaret.
The two songs are very similar. Both are songs that the character performs in a theater (whether an opera house or cabaret) and show the singers in their element and performing their craft.
However, the lyrics of “Mein Herr” are doing double duty. They are demonstrating Sally’s character to the audience, since we understand that the song is also about Sally herself. It is also a bit of foreshadowing; any relationship with Sally ends badly because she is fickle.
“Think of Me” does not do this.
It is a song about a woman saying goodbye to someone she loved, and asking him to remember her. But this doesn’t really make sense in the context of the show. Who is Christine singing to? The Phantom? Did she really love him that much and is she really afraid that he won’t remember her once she is gone? Possibly, but I am skeptical that she loved the Phantom the way this interpretation suggests. Is she singing to Raul? That doesn’t make any sense, since they end up together at the end of the show. It can’t be her father, since her father is dead. She would be the one thinking of him, not the other way around.
This is a problem. The character of Christine is very, very thinly drawn. “Think of Me” would have been a great opportunity to give her a song that actually fleshes out her character. Sadly, no one bothered to take it.
Critics often point out that The Phantom of the Opera is more style than substance. “Think of Me” is a perfect reason why. The writers passed up a perfectly good opportunity to give tell the audience something about Christine’s character in favor of, well, nothing.