Study Guide

Grease Music

Music

Summer What-in'?!

Grease wouldn't be the same without its soundtrack. The music gets the audience up and moving, but the lyrics are where characters reveal their thoughts and feelings, for better or worse.

One of the best examples of characters revealing themselves through song is "Summer Nights," written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote most of the songs for the original state production. In this song, Danny and Sandy are singing about the same event, yet each one appears to be telling a radically different story. Here's a sample:

SANDY: He ran by me, got my suit damp.

DANNY: I saved her life, she nearly drowned.

SANDY: He showed off, splashing around. 

As the song progresses, the men get more traditionally masculine in their boasting about sexual exploits, and the women act more traditionally feminine, singing instead about love, not sex. Danny sings this line,

DANNY: She got friendly down in the sand. […] Well, she was good. You know what I mean.

But Frenchy asks Sandy this question,

FRENCHY: Was it love at first sight?

And finally Kenickie sings the line that has plagued Grease fans for decades:

KENICKIE: Did she put up a fight?

Kenickie's line (perhaps unintentionally) points out the consequences of what happens when these hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine narratives collide: the men steamroll over the women and take what they want, without asking for consent.

Stay in School, Kids

Not all the songs are as date-rapey as "Summer Nights." Some are pure energy dance songs, like "Born to Hand Jive" performed by Sha Na Na. Others, like "Greased Lightnin'" are classic Broadway "I want" songs. What do the T-Birds want? Girls. What do the Pink Ladies want? Boys. Or at least to make fun of Sandy for not being boy crazy, as Rizzo does in the song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."

And what does Frenchy want? We haven't a clue. "Beauty School Drop-Out" is one of the weirdest songs in the movie. Sung by Frankie Avalon, hero of the films Grease is an homage to, the song tells us that Frenchy missed her midterms and flunked at shampoo, so she might as well drop-out of beauty school and return to high school.

This song, on the surface, is a song that urges Frenchy, and girls like her, to give up on their dreams and conform. Is the "Beauty" only skin deep, or is there more to it than that?

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