For the past few weeks, I’ve been in (virtual) rehearsals for AU’s production of The Pliant Girls by Meghan Brown. It’s been such a fun process, and one of my favorite parts of it is the fact that many of my fellow cast members and I created playlists inspired by our characters to understand them more. This is my playlist for Kem, the hopeless romantic who’s just trying to seek connection amidst a messed up patriarchal system. (And yes, I am playing a boy.) From My Chemical Romance to the “Duck Song,” making this playlist has really helped me find all the layers of this character. I’ve found lots of songs that correlate to specific moments in the play, and I’ve also included some songs that I think are just definitely Kem songs.
“Connection” by OneRepublic
This is the quintessential Kem song - it’s literally all about connection and trying to reach other people, yet not getting it back in quite the way that I seek. With references like calling across the ocean that fit the island vibes of the play, and a fun, uptempo, bouncing beat despite the struggle, I think this would be Kem’s jam.
“Song For The Innocents” by Five For Fighting
Kem’s first monologue appealing to the girls is reflected in this song - he doesn’t quite know where to go or how exactly to call out to them, but all he knows is that he’s hopeful and he wants to make things better despite this horrible situation.
“High Hopes” by Panic at the Disco
This is also Kem at the beginning of the show. He has a vision of what he wants love to look like and what he’s looking for, and he just really hopes that someone will listen. He wants something better than what he’s been given. He wants to gear the system to work for him and could be viewed as “wanting everything” considering the unlikelihood of that.
“I’m So Sorry” by Imagine Dragons
Kem is just one big apology, and so is this song by Imagine Dragons. I knew I needed to have at least one song about apologies, and the fact that this song is about Dan Reynolds’ strained relationship with his stepfather made me think about Kem’s feelings as a son. I imagine Kem is fairly well liked given that he’s the second to pick, but he’s also definitely the most anxious out of all the boys and may not always feel like he’s truly one of his father’s sons.
“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance
At least one MCR song had to go on this playlist given Kem’s general sad boi energy. I love how this one acknowledges honesty and truth, because Kem is a pretty direct person who lays it all out and will be fully, honestly himself around everyone. You can tell when Kem is upset. And he's not okay.
“She’s So Mean” by Matchbox Twenty
This song evokes the feelings Kem has while trying to get to know Philomena, whose heart is so closed off to him. He gets the feeling that Philomena has internal struggles and there are many things that she can’t bear to tell him. But he still can’t let her go and tries so hard to get her to like him.
“Whataya Want From Me” by Adam Lambert
This is how Kem feels with both Philomena and Leta. Nothing Kem can do is ever enough to please Philomena, and later on Kem also expresses a similar feeling to Leta: “What else do you want me to do?”
“Not What I Meant” by Dodie Clark and Lewis Watson
Kem feels like he never quite says the right things. He feels somewhere in between, yet still wants to be fully seen by someone else. This whole song is about the feeling of things being unsaid and things not being taken the right way, which is Kem’s whole life.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by Imaginary Future
Another connection song: this is Kem realizing that he still hasn’t gotten the connection that he’s been searching for, even though he is literally going to get married.
“Give A Little” by Maggie Rogers
This is Kem just wanting Philomena to give him SOMETHING and get to know her better. She’s closed off. He doesn’t understand why and wants her to open up and try to love. It’s just not happening.
“Lost Boys Life” by Computer Games/Darren Criss
I imagine that Kem has just left from his date with Philomena when he stumbles across Leta. This song captures the emotions that Kem feels when he first meets Leta and is still reeling from the feelings of being lost and rejected by Philomena. And the Peter Pan references feel very Kem to me as well; it’s childlike in its way of thinking, yet the music itself feels retro and a little more mature.
“Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
This is the moment that Kem and Leta fall in love. The messages of finding hope, love, and connection amidst darkness completely fit, especially with “take this sinking boat and point it home.” Kem wants to create a new home with Leta. They really don’t have time. They’ll be in love anyway.
“Cool With Being Crazy” by Willow City
I think this song depicts the fun-loving side of the Kem/Leta relationship; they’re both cool with being crazy around each other and telling the jokes that they find funny, even if no one else finds them funny. They’re kindred spirits.
“The Duck Song”
Kem wants to open a duck pond. He’s afraid no one will come to his duck pond. That’s it.
“Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
I feel like Kem would have at least one basic cheesy love song on his playlist of favorite songs. This is Kem being stupid in love.
“Ease My Mind” by Ben Platt
This is Kem telling Leta that he wishes he picked her. That Leta eases his mind and life would have been so much simpler if he’d realized she was there earlier. That he no longer feels lonely with Leta in his life. The lyrics about fantasy and comfort that convey a sweet sense of love feels very Kem to me.
“It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” by The 1975
Kem’s definitely into more alt-rock bands, and this song by The 1975 captures the developing feelings that he has for Leta. He can’t imagine living without her and is now willing to risk it all and leave his family to be with her.
“Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” by The 1975
And this is what happens with Kem tries to get Leta to run away with him. It feels like she’s running away from him. But he still wishes he was still hers. “I guess I’ll take this pain instead of your name” fully encapsulates Leta’s feelings about choosing her sisters over Kem.
“Line Without A Hook” by Ricky Montgomery
Another beautiful song about the love that Kem feels for Leta, this song captures the feeling that Kem has about wanting to “pull [Leta] from the tide” and take her away from this island. And I also just love the metaphor of “line without a hook” - Kem’s feeling like he’s missing the hook that would get Leta to stay.
“happiness” by Taylor Swift
Kem would def secretly be a Swiftie. There was happiness before Leta, there will be happiness after Leta, but living in between is hard for Kem.
“Water Fountain” by Alec Benjamin
This is Kem reflecting about Leta when they can no longer see each other. They were both so young, and in love, but were forced apart. And Kem wants to go back to his version of the "water fountain" - the forest, and all their other secret places - and build the home he wanted to build with Leta. If she ever comes back, he'll want to be back with her.
“Arms Unfolding” by Dodie Clark
This is Kem’s letter to Philomena. He knows things will never be okay. But he is reaching out anyway, keeping his arms unfolding, because he knows what love is like. And he wants to rebuild and clear the air with Philomena as best as he can. And he still wants Leta to remember how much he loves her too.
“More Love” by Sara Bareilles
This last song is about putting love out into the world even when it is hard and believing in the power of love. As Philomena says at the end of the show in relation to Kem and Leta's relationship, isn't that what we're fighting for? It's the sheer happiness and genuine love and connection that people like Kem and Leta have found. I envision the eventual Kem/Leta reunion to have a song like this playing in the background.