If I’ve gathered my facts correctly (and it’s quite possible that I haven’t), Darren Criss wrote “Not Alone” before the A Very Potter Musical came into being. It had conveniently been included in his repertoire when StarKid Productions realized they needed an uplifting song for Ginny to sing to the weary Harry Potter. Since then, Darren has released the song as part of his EP entitled Human, which came out in July of 2010. He’s performed it many times live, including a breathtaking performance for the Trevor Project, a meaningful organization that “provid[es] crisis and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth” (from the Trevor Project website). And since his work on Glee, “Not Alone” has become an anthem for the Blaine-Kurt relationship, as Kurt continues to lean on Blaine for guidance and (boy)friendly support.
The song is flexible, working flawlessly within the scope of musical theater, while simultaneously representing itself in the larger realm of the mainstream. Whether his fans find his music through his work with Glee or through their support of StarKid Productions, this song in particular crosses the boundaries of the music industry simply because the message itself reaches all audiences.
“Not Alone” is a beautiful rendition of a popular musical message; Darren follows in the tradition of his predecessors. In “Not Alone” we see the influence of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” which Darren sang for a Glee audition. We can also see the influence of Carole King whose music Darren has admitted to admiring. I know he’s performed a cover of her song “One Fine Day,” but I am talking, of course, about her song “You’ve Got a Friend.” I think Darren would be proud to know that his fans categorize him among their company.
“Not Alone,” is just one of many feel-good songs. If you are like me, these songs will have their own playlist at the forefront of your iTunes. It would include the songs previously mentioned, along with many others across genres – Josh Groban’s “You Are Loved,” Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” and even Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Yes, the one from Toy Story that reminds you most prominently of your childhood, and when things were easy for change.
Anything and everything that says: Baby, you’re not alone because you’ve got a friend in me. You are loved, so lean on me and every little thing is gonna’ be all right. But Darren’s song, “Not Alone” stands out; it is special. My story is just one of many that show how inspirational Darren’s music is, just how medicinal his music can be. So here it is:
A few weeks ago a friend of mine, who graduated from college last year, drove down to the campus to visit. Usually, she stays with me because I have a massive single (that I am quite proud of, mind you). But this time, unfortunately I had prior obligations. She stayed with a few other friends, and I wanted to make sure that I would see her before she returned to her home state of New York. We will call her Kay.
In the meantime I had been making plans with another friend. Let’s call her…umm… Jack…ie. We’ll go with Jackie (Trust me, she’ll get it). So Jackie and I had been making plans to go out to dinner, but we were struggling to figure out when and how because neither of us have a car on campus. Kay’s visit of campus was the perfect time, so we discussed it with her and the trip to Applebee’s was a GO!
Jackie and Kay both have an obsession with Aerosmith, while Kay and I both love Glee. Considering the fact that we are all musically oriented people, it was surprising that there were no arguments over who would be in control of the radio. Instead, we decided to alternate between Aerosmith and Darren Criss, catering to all of our interests. We even created the beautiful playlist of “Darrosmith”, which led first to an image of Darren singing “Dream On,” and second (and more entertainingly) to Steven Tyler dressed in a Warblers uniform.
But, of course, Aerosmith has a much larger collection of songs than Darren Criss, and I found myself struggling to find new things to play. By the trip home, I was really floundering around my Glee playlist, which is already decidedly small (I only buy the songs I really like, i.e. Darren Criss and Chris Colfer), for new songs. I made my way over to Darren’s EP for something new. It had an entirely different atmosphere than what we’d been listening to prior, but it felt right to represent this other side of Darren’s music after playing through the Glee songs. I started with “Not Alone.” It was my favorite. It made sense.
So, Kay was driving us through the beautiful countryside and the sun was setting to our right in bursts of orange when Steven Tyler’s rocking harmonica switched drastically to the soothing sounds of the opening piano chords that begin “Not Alone.” It wasn’t long into the song that I realized that choosing to play this song was a mistake.
Jackie had never heard the song before. I knew I’d sent Kay the song through the internet, but I couldn’t tell if she was singing along because I was sitting in the back of the car and couldn’t quite see her face through the car’s mirrors.
So there was me and Darren, with two of my closest friends listening. I softly sang the opening lines with him: I’ve been alone, surrounded by darkness. I’ve seen how heartless the world can be.
I felt horribly vulnerable, exposed. It was the first time I had ever played the song in the company of others. I wasn’t sure I liked the feeling. But it was too late to change the song without drawing attention to myself, so I played the song and sang along, shaking as I let the memories wash over me.
2. It’s Gonna Be Totally Awesome
The first thing fans discuss is when they discovered Darren – and whether it was through StarKid Productions or through Glee. Personally, I don’t think it matters very much when you discovered Darren. As fans, we all have different experiences, but that doesn’t mean the connection isn’t there. It just means that it’s unique among all of us. I do, however, feel like one of the few people who, when asked this question, can honestly answer: Well…it was a little bit of both.
Glee has always been an on and off type of thing for me. I’d get bored one evening, watch three episodes in a row, maybe watch the premiering episode that week, and then I’d forget about it. And then the next time I was bored with nothing to do, I’d pick it up again. This usually happened during the summer when I had free time. But I’d also heard about A Very Potter Musical long before I had the time to sit down and watch it. So the real answer here is that I honestly cannot tell you when I watched A Very Potter Musical; I do not know whether it was before or after I watched Darren Criss sing “Teenage Dream” to Kurt Hummel.
All I know is that one second I was ignorant to all things Darren, and the next I was absorbing as much as I possibly could. I finally had time to watch AVMP, followed by AVPS before I finally watched all of the other StarKid videos. I purchased Darren’s EP. I watched endless amounts of Darren’s live performances on youtube. I found the Disney covers.
I started caring about Glee. It was around the time of the Christmas episode that I started investing myself in Klaine. And then I made sure to watch Glee every week to watch Klaine unfold. I even skipped an evening class on the day of Blame it on the Alcohol to make sure they weren’t turning Blaine straight. Suddenly, he mattered to me, whether it was him as Blaine or him as Harry Potter.
Then, it was just him, Darren Criss, the musician and songwriter, that mattered to me.
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