Remembering the iconic music Jonathan Larson brought to NYC 20 years ago

By Andrea Towers and Dana Rose Falcone
January 26, 2016 at 06:29 PM EST
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
  • Movie

Rent is celebrating 20 years since debuting in New York, and while the beloved musical returned off-Broadway last fall, we felt there was “no day but today” to revisit Jonathan Larson’s lyrics. During the cast’s reunion at BroadwayCon Friday, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played Angel in the original Broadway staging, said he initially didn’t consider himself a musical theater person but suddenly “got interested real fast” when he first heard the music for the show. “I realized almost immediately that it was something real, bigger than me, something that had never been heard before.”

The show follows a group of friends living in New York City and covers everything from struggling with paying the bills to living with AIDS. After moving to Broadway four months after arriving in Manhattan, Rent eventually sparked multiple restagings throughout the county, as well as a 2005 movie starring many members of the original production. Larson died on the eve of his show’s first public performance in NYC, but his music continues to resonate two decades years later. In honor of the famed musical arriving in the city where it takes place, EW presents a definitive ranking of the songs from Rent.

[Disclaimer: This list does not include any reprises, voicemails, “B” songs, etc.]

23. “Your Eyes”

Seriously, this is what Roger comes up with after feeling the pressure to come up with one final masterpiece?

22. “Christmas Bells”

Again, Rent should just leave the holidays to the classics. Still, we’ll take a kiss in the snow.

21. “Contact”

Rent shows it’s true late ’80s-early ’90s side with this sexed-up synth dance jam, which would be much better suited for Rock of Ages.

20. “Happy New Year”

Come on Mimi, no one actually gives up their vices in the new year. Despite Mark’s reference to an obscure Long Island town (we see you, Hicksville!), we’ll stick to “Auld Lang Syne” for all our New Year’s needs.

19. “I Should Tell You”

Larson should’ve told us how many times we’d hear this song throughout the show. #overit

18. “You’ll See”

Probably the only time the word “injunction” has been used in a song on the Broadway stage.

17. “Santa Fe”

We’re thwarted by a metaphoric puzzle as to why New Yorkers would leave NYC’s dining options in favor of starting their own in New Mexico.

16. “Goodbye Love”

Yeah, yeah, we can’t believe it’s goodbye either, but we could easily say farewell to this sad, selfish recalling of Angel’s death.

15. “Over the Moon”

Kids’ stories with a political message are always fun. Poor Elsie the cow.

14. “Without You”

Mimi and Roger’s tender, guitar-backed duet proves love isn’t dead even when you’re dying.

13. “Will I?”

That harmonization though.

12. “Tango: Maureen”

Because your SO’s been skirting the issue since before Tinder — hell, before iPhones — even existed.

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11. “Today 4 U”

Perfect for when you’re feeling like a #boss.

10. “I’ll Cover You”

Because Angel and Collins are the sweetest. And life would be so much easier (and germier) if you could pay for certain things with kisses.

9. “Rent”

The theme song for when the first of each month rolls around and you realize you still haven’t sent your landlord a check.

8. “What You Own”

Though it’s no longer the end of the millennium, you’re still living in Ameeeerricaaaaa…

7. “Light My Candle”

Mimi and Roger’s love anthem has us rooting for them forever and always.

6. “Out Tonight”

Before the “Sexy Getting Ready Song,” there was “Out Tonight.”

5. “One Song Glory”

The first moment we all fell in love with Roger.

4. “Seasons of Love”

There are 525,600 reasons to love this one.

3. “Take Me or Leave Me”

Joanne and Maureen were preaching to accept yourself the way you are well before Pinterest and women’s magazines took over the responsibility.

2. “La Vie Boheme”

The overall performance of this eight-minute opus earns it the No. 2 spot on this list. You’ve probably tried to memorize the lyrics, if only to use the phrase “mucho masturbation” for artistic purposes.

1. “Another Day”

Nothing empowers a Renthead like the cast’s optimistic promise of success in this empowering pump-up anthem. And because “Seasons of Love” lost its touch after you sang it in middle school choir.


  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 135 minutes
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