I’m sure you all have that one friend who’s like, “Dude, bruh, dude, dude, you totally need to listen to this song. The lyrics are totally, like, my life. It’s sooo good.” And then you drive around the block listening to this song for the next three to five minutes. After it’s over, the friend is like, “See, wasn’t that the most amazing song everrrr?”
And you’re like, “No. Can we go home now?”
So, yeah, I’m gonna be that guy for a bit. I hope you’ll indulge me as I refer to the song, “For Forever.”
It comes from the hit Broadway play Dear Evan Hansen, which is a great play in its own right. I fortunately saw it live just before the pandemic hit. So, what’s the play about?
Dear Evan Hansen is a story about friendship and other relationships, along with the effect social media has on our lives.
Evan Hansen is a high schooler with a social anxiety disorder yearning for connection and friendship with his classmates. When a classmate named Connor commits suicide, a misunderstanding ensues in which the deceased boy’s parents mistake Evan as their son’s best friend. Shy and flummoxed by the situation, Evan goes along with the misunderstanding and pretends to have been best friends with Connor, all in a misguided effort to help the grieving parents.
Evan’s lie mushrooms when he becomes head of the “Connor Project” to help other depressed and suicidal youths. He becomes seen and popular with his classmates, just like he always wanted. Unfortunately, his new status is all based on a lie — a lie that starts to unravel once it negatively affects his other relationships, including his mother.
So, where does “For Forever” enter the story? The song first plays when Connor’s parents invite Evan over for dinner. Still falsely under the impression that Evan and Connor were best friends, they pressure Evan into telling them about his friendship with their son. Connor had been so closed off and rebellious to his parents that they felt like they barely knew him before he died — but maybe Evan did?
Flustered by their questioning, Evan doesn’t know how to respond. Seeing the parents’ pain, he relents and begins to sing about his friendship with Connor:
When I first heard this song, I hadn’t heard of the play and didn’t know its context. Even still, this song and its lyrics frankly hit me to my core. Remember the infamous scene in Ratatouille when the snooty critic tries the ratatouille dish for the first time? Yeah, this was pretty much my own reaction to “For Forever.”
It was the first song I’d ever heard that touched upon my most simple yet desperate longing; buried beneath the pangs of my sexuality, a clear yet unattainable desire —
To have a best buddy, someone who tells me he wants to be with me, someone to goof off with, someone to sit beside in a country field. Someone by my side when I’m hurting.
While Evan’s song basically lies to Connor’s parents, many other layers also exist. On the one hand Evan mourns someone he never knew, having only seen Connor in passing at school; at the same time Evan also elaborates upon what he so badly wishes to have but cannot obtain with his social anxiety.
In musical terms, an “I want” song gives a character a solo moment to sing what he or she desperately wants most in life, like Belle’s “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere!” in Beauty and the Beast. In a sense, “For Forever” is a stealthy sort of “I want” song for Dear Evan Hansen.
To quote the movie Amadeus, this song is “filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing.”
My own high school experience was quite similar to Evan Hansen’s. I was very much a shy kid with some social anxiety. I so badly wanted to connect with the other kids at school, but I couldn’t.
No one seemed to notice me, and with no exaggeration I can only count one time in my four years of high school that I hung out with kids outside of class. During lunch breaks I stood in the stairwell and looked out the window to see other boys throwing a Frisbee around.
I wanted to join but . . . couldn’t.
I wish things had been different in high school, but what’s done is done now. Perhaps God had something more in mind for me in the future, as hard as those past trails once were.
I believe “For Forever” speaks to a desire in the hearts of all men and boys: this desire for brotherly intimacy with other men and boys, completely divorced from homosexuality, something males of all sexualities feel.
I have intuited this feeling ever since I was four, something I call the “fraternal instinct.” I know it sounds rather pseudo-spiritual or psychological, but it’s the only way I can describe it.
During the end of May or early June of 2017, while “For Forever” was still fresh in my mind, I actually hung out with a local community member at the time. We went on some hikes, and we sat together at the lake’s edge. We shared some details from our lives, and he told me about some friends he’d cried with.
I loved him. But then he inexplicably moved on. I haven’t seen or heard from him in years.
But I still think of him now and then, often remembering that perfect day where we sat by the lake and all we saw was sky for forever.
How did you enjoy Dear Evan Hansen or this song, “For Forever”? Do any other songs speak to your desire for brotherhood? Also: check out YOB’s “Heart of a Brother” playlist on YouTube or Spotify, which features “For Forever” and other favorite songs that strike the heartbeat of our community!