from Playbill’s Track-By-Track Breakdown (3/27/20):
I remember Jamie Pachino and I read an article back in 2014 about an Asian woman who came to America and seduced rich and powerful men as a way to gain status herself. It made me think about Evita and how in certain cultures and times, the only way for a woman to climb a social ladder would be by attaching herself to a man who’s on a higher rung. I also remember thinking about how Gloria Steinem and Helen Gurley Brown existed in the same historical moment and had very opposite ideas about what feminism means. If success requires us to call upon all of our skills, is female sexuality allowed to be part of that? There really is a fine line between strategy and manipulation, isn’t there? So this song is a character study about ambition, specifically in how it manifests in women, even more specifically in how it manifests in this one woman who changed her entire life and culture to be part of the American Dream. E.J. Zimmerman, the fantastic singer on this track, and I spent a lot of time talking about authenticity, about giving voice to a woman and making sure she’s not a stereotype. Pearl Sun also helped me, years ago, when an earlier draft of the lyric might have been a little cringey.
MY COUNTRY SAID, “UNWANTED.”
MY MOTHER SAID, “DON’T SPEAK.”
MY GENERATION LEARNED:
BE GRATEFUL. BE QUIET. BE PATIENT. BE MEEK.
MY HEART, INSIDE, WAS SCREAMING
BUT STILL MY VOICE STAYED LOW.
ONE THING MY COUNTRY TAUGHT ME:
SOME PLACES GIRLS DON’T GO.
SO I PUSHED ONWARD, BEYOND.
I CROSSED AN OCEAN ALL ALONE.
I LEFT MY FAMILY, MY HOME,
IN SEARCH OF SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER KNOWN.
MY FIRST JOB HERE WAS BRUTAL
BUT SOON I LEARNED THE GAME.
I CHANGED MY ATTITUDE,
MY PASSPORT, MY ACCENT, MY CLOTHING, MY NAME.
MY HEART INSIDE, STILL SCREAMING,
BUT I SURVIVED THE WORST.
ONE THING THIS COUNTRY TEACHES:
NICE GIRLS DON’T COME IN FIRST.
SO I PUSH ONWARD, BEYOND.
LOOK FOR ATTENTION, MAKE SOME NOISE.
BUT MY SUCCESS ONLY COMES
WHEN I LEARN HOW TO KEEP UP WITH THE BOYS!
I PAY MY WAY THROUGH M.I.T. (AND ONWARD.)
WATCH MEN ADVANCE IN FRONT OF ME. (AND ONWARD.)
THEY DON’T EXPECT ME TO BE SMART,
BUT THAT’S THE SECRET AND THE ART:
WHY SHOULD I PROVE TO THEM WHAT’S TRUE?
I LEARNED WHAT I HAVE TO DO!
THIS COUNTRY LOVES AMBITION.
THIS COUNTRY DOESN’T REST.
THIS COUNTRY TEACHES ME
BE SHARPER, BE QUICKER, BE FEARLESS, “BE BEST.”
MY HEART WILL NOT STOP SCREAMING.
BUT NOW I PLAY TO WIN.
THE ONLY WAY IS FORWARD.
I CAN’T GO BACK AGAIN!
SO I PUSH ONWARD, BEYOND,
THE HIGHEST BARD THEY SET FOR ME!
YOU WANT TO TELL ME I CAN’T?
LET ME REMIND YOU WHO I USED TO BE.
IT’S THE AMERICAN DREAM:
THIS PROMISED LAND OF OPPORTUNITY!