Learning to believe in “Another Day of Sun”

“Climb these hills / I’m reaching for the heights”

Have you seen La La Land yet? The modern musical and critical darling from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle recently gained a wealth of attention for tying the record James Cameron’s Titanic set in the 1990s for the most Oscar nominations. Whether or not the film wins those awards doesn’t matter now because I am not here to discuss The Academy or the film’s worthiness of such adoration. Instead, I want to focus on something more personal. Something deep that La La Land manages to touch upon in its opening moments and leverage in order to win our adoration.

“Another Day of Sun” is the name of La La Land’s opening number, and it is one of the few numbers in the film to not feature stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in lead vocal roles. In fact, the song is sang before audiences even meet Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone). If you have yet to hear the track or simply want to experience it once more you can do so below:

The scene itself has not been uploaded to YouTube just yet, so this stream will have to do.

La La Land is billed as a movie for dreamers, and it wastes no time appealing to that crowd with this song and its accompanying performance. Set on a crowded Los Angeles freeway, dozens of singers and dancers emerge from their vehicles for an elaborate performance that touches on the many things people do to express themselves. There is singing and dancing of course, but also extreme sports, hula hooping, and a wide variety of other talents on display as well. Most, if not all, of the people seen in this sequence are never seen again, but it doesn’t matter because they are nothing more than the movie’s version of us, the audience, who it believes to be dreamers.

The opening verse, delivered by a female vocalist, details the adventures of an aspiring actress who flees her lover and hometown in order to try her shot at fame. The reason for this, simply enough, is the movies. She has spent her entire existence watching the way life could be projected onto a silver screen stretched 50' wide and now wants to see if she too can become someone that moves people from inside those darkened rooms.

“Summer: Sunday nights / We’d sink into our seats / Right as they dimmed out all the lights / A Technicolor world made out of music and machine / It called me to be on that screen / And live inside each scene

The second verse, delivered by a make vocalist, doubles down on this concept and builds on it. The perspective changes from film to music, but the struggles and inspiration remain the same:

“The ballads in the barrooms / Left by those who came before / They say “you gotta want it more” / So I bang on ev’ry door”

“Another day of Sun” recognizes that wanting something is still not enough to succeed. True success only comes to those who accept these facts and push forward, but it’s still no guarantee. Every recording studio and venue is filled with the forgotten dreams of aspiring musicians who kind-a, sort-a, maybe once were onto something great. The world is filled with people and things that are good, but not good enough, and you — filled with self-doubt as you likely are — have to find a way push on a little further and rise above. As the second part of the verse explains:

“And even when the answer’s “no” / Or when my money’s running low / The dusty mic and neon glow / Are all I need”

The beauty of “Another Day of Sun,” much like the beauty of La La Land itself, is the always present understanding that the stereotypical idea success may never come. All dreamers must inevitably accept this outcome as a possibility. You can be the best at what you do, but that does not mean the world at large will recognize it, nor does it mean they have to in order for your talent to be real. You are talented and unique regardless of whether or not you become a celebrity.

La La Land and “Another Day of Sun” tell us that if we look to the world at large for praise and adoration you may be left waiting forever. Happiness in your work must come from within, and no amount of external praise will change the way you feel about yourself when looking in the mirror. If you believe in you then that is all that matters. In fact, the end of the second verse highlights something that may be even more rewarding than short term monetary success:

“And someday as I sing my song / A small-town kid’ll come along / That’ll be the thing to push him on and go go”

You may not be the next Chris Pratt, Carly Rae Jepson, or Harry Dean Stanton, but you may be able to influence someone’s life in a similar way if you stay true to yourself. Live by example, and by doing so you will lead others to believe it is perfectly okay to chase their wildest dreams. Who knows? Your work may inspire the next chart-topping artist or big screen starlet to try their luck at the world of entertainment.

Hard work and quality breeds more of the same. Do the best you can do and find satisfaction in doing so. Everything else, the fame and the glamour, will fade, leaving you with the sum total of your decisions. It is incredible easy to not appreciate the weight of regret until that time comes, but why dare leave any path unexplored?

Every day you wake is “Another Day of Sun,” and the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. You might go far or you might go down in flame, but what matters right now — each morning — is that you dare to take a chance. Go for it. Dream big.