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Flashback Friday: My Sister and I on the Dreamgirls Soundtrack

Ever since I started getting my work published, my sister Sarah has been complaining that I haven’t written an article about her. I’ve now found a way to do so, but not without her getting involved.

When I came to her with the idea to review an album together, it was tough to think of one.

My sister and I couldn’t be more different. She admits that she wouldn’t have been able to write this herself as naturally as I can. On the other hand, she has a lot more confidence while speaking (anyone that knows her will tell you that the talking never stops), as well as a wider general knowledge. I also envy her ability to reframe from crumbling in emotional situations, while I’d cry enough tears to fill a swimming pool.

We finally settled on the soundtrack for the 2006 film Dreamgirls, which is one we both loved during our childhoods. It focuses on a group of girls, with a career similar to that of The Supremes, who are determined to make it in the music industry. As I assumed when I sat my sister down to write this review, she had A LOT to say about it.

We started with the film’s first song Move. I immediately acknowledged its funky upbeat nature. Sarah agreed, remarking that the heavy percussion complements the vocals. She described the song as empowering, recalling how male dominated the music industry was during the 1960s and 1970s (which was when this movie was set) and how the women had to “rise up” in order to succeed. These women are taking control of their lives, telling the people in their lives who don’t believe in them to “move out of [their] life.”

“That in itself empowers me because it demonstrates that you don’t have to keep toxic relationships in your life,” Sarah said.

Family was the first song from the album that came to mind when I mentioned it to my sister. I soon discovered that it was the first on hers as well. Her favourite thing about it is the lyrics. The words “don’t think you’re going / you’re not going anywhere” stood out to Sarah as she reflected on the relationships in her life.

Like me, my sister also suffers from anxiety. She recalls how the people in her life haven’t abandoned her, just as she wouldn’t abandon anyone in a similar situation. As Italians, family is one of our most important values. It is second nature for us to take sacrifices for each other when times are dire. The stringed instruments are prominent in this song, portraying an organic, tender feeling that perfectly embodies the closeness and love that many families have.

It’s Not Over showcases powerful vocals and high levels of emotion shown through the music. At this point in the movie, Effie, played by Jennifer Hudson, has been acting out and the rest of the group decided to replace her. The anger and frustration is strong in the tones of their tones, as well as the use of trumpets and other loud instruments as they create more noise among the chaos of their argument.

The heavy emotion creates an easy transition to the powerhouse ballad I Am Changing, in which Hudson’s character tries to explain her behaviour. “I need a hand” shows her strength in admitting that she needs help with her struggles. It reminded us that everyone needs help sometimes. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask or stop ourselves from being tolerant of others.

“This has taught me that I don’t have to go through anything alone,” Sarah said. “At the same time, I should be there for others when they need it.”

As we continued through the album, we realised Beyoncé’s passionate ballad Listen has the same significance for both of us. My sister mentioned the loss of security her character has when she sings the words “I’m not at home in own home” and how that symbolises how we feel about our struggles with mental illness and not feeling like ourselves.

Still being a teenager, Sarah also reminded me of a problem I had forgotten. Our parents are famous for being highly-protective and stubborn. They’ve loosened their grip on me now that I’m Officially an Adult, but Sarah is still under tight control. To make things even harder, she has another parent telling her what to do; me.

She recites a manta that I wished I had thought of when I was in high school. “You have to listen to your heart at times and do what makes you happy.”

Sarah had wanted to stop there, but I thought it was incomplete without Hard To Say Goodbye, especially given the significance it has in her life at the moment. She agreed, remembering the stage in her life she is at. My sister is currently in Year 12 and only has a faint idea of what she wants to do once high school is over.

“It’s hard to say goodbye my love / it’s hard to open up that door,” the group sings as they wave goodbye to their career together. Sarah says while she’s sad to say goodbye to her friends and childhood, she’s excited about the future and being able to develop her identity.

To tell you the truth, I’m excited for her too.

Today is her 18th birthday. That surprises a lot of people because she looks quite young for her age. As a big sister, I can hardly comprehend that she will be finishing high school in a few short months, getting ready for the next chapter in her life. Even though I am worried for her, I know she is brave enough to handle the real world.

She is now an adult, ready to take on the world. To me, however, she will always be my little sister.

Forever three and a half years behind me; constantly by my side.

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Co-written by Jessica and Sarah Testa

Image: YouTube