My daughter and I love musicals, and I even remember taking her to see the film, so I was surprised that she didn’t remember Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” from the 2014 remake of Annie.
We were driving along listening to a CD (I know…so 90s…) of show tunes when Idina Menzel’s version of “Tomorrow” came on. This prompted us to start talking about Annie and reminiscing about all the songs.
We skipped through Jay-Z’s version of “It’s The Hard Knock Life” and I asked — what about Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”?
I wasn’t ready for the blank look I got in return…so just in case you don’t remember it either, I thought it was high time to give that brilliant version of a classic song the attention it deserves…
Remakes of classic films can be a little tricky. It’s hard not to become a pale imitation of a much better original. And updating a story from the 1930s to the 2010s raises the “trickiness level” to the max.
The producers of the 2014 remake of Annie took those challenges in their stride and delivered on every bit of the original concept, as well as lightening the tone a little and making it an accessible, contemporary piece for young people in the 21st century.
The cast were excellent…especially Cameron Diaz as the bitter, sozzled, “I could have been a contender” character which she performed really well for someone normally more accustomed to the glamorous end of the movie business.
But good acting is a bonus. Any musical worth the description must be about the songs. You’ll be glad to know most of the original songs are in there, mostly getting a sympathetic remake and update of their own.
The original music for Annie was by Charles Strouse and the lyrics were by Martin Charnin, including “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”, my favourite song from the film.
I like this song not just because it’s a well-written, uplifting song, but because the lyrics introduce such a delightful concept.
Most lyrics tend to be about how much you love someone, or how sad you are that someone you like doesn’t like you as much as you like them. They can be artfully written, deeply meaningful and impactful. But they rarely introduce a new concept.
Lyric writers can take the concept of love as a given. Even if it’s just from movies, romantic songs or our own imaginations, nearly everyone has a picture in their mind of what true love looks like. We’re either lucky enough to know it exists and experience it every day, or we have the hope that, even if we don’t have it in our life at the moment, one day true love might reach out and find us.
That’s why lyric writers don’t need to introduce the idea of love to us. They just work with the concept of deep, abiding love that already exists in our minds.
Now, there are a million and one ways to describe love, express it and eulogise about it. The lyric writer earns their money…and our respect…when they come up with an interesting way to describe an already well-understood concept.
There can be incredible artistry in this, of course. But to introduce an entirely new concept…well that’s a different matter altogether. And that’s what Martin Charnin did in his lyrics for “Annie”.
He introduced the quite magical concept that, without a smile on our faces, we could no longer consider ourselves “fully dressed”. You wouldn’t go out the house improperly dressed…so now we know you need to paste a broad smile on your face to be considered “fully dressed”. It’s such a clever and insightful idea.
As the updated lyrics put it…
Yeah, check out our style
’Cause you know you’re never fully dressed without a smile
Chanel, Gucci, your shoes crocodile
But baby, you’re never fully dressed without a smile
That’s the brilliance of this concept. The lyrics describe something that nobody has put in quite the same way before…yet the minute we hear the words, we know exactly what the song is trying to say. As metaphors go, this is an exquisite one.
There’s an important lesson in here too — the difference between fake smiles and real smiles. As Annie discovered…and I suspect we all have…there are those who smile to our faces, but who have no intention of being nice to us, they’re just using us for their own ends…
And there are others whose smiles deliver on the promises their mouths make and help the world become a better place.
Fake smiles count for nothing…not in the long run. We all see through them eventually. Only real smiles matter…
But if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for it all
’Cause we got all we need, got love and more
You’re never fully dressed without a smile
And if you stand for something, you can have it all
’Cause if it’s real, you’ll open every door
You’re never fully dressed without a smile
The original songs from Annie were sympathetically updated by Sia and Greg Kurstin to inject a more contemporary feel. There’s no better example of how to take a song that was already brilliant and make it even better than Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”.
Of course Sia, in addition to being a fantastic songwriter herself, is a phenomenal singer. I don’t know how she does what she does…I only know that hardly anybody else even tries to replicate her style, and those who do always end up several orders of magnitude short of Sia’s own high standards.
From the 2014 remake of “Annie”, a film that didn’t have the warmest critical reception from moviegoers (their loss, in my view…) please enjoy Sia’s wonderful version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”…
The video is below or, if you prefer, you can enjoy it on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/6x0v6SaLC9E4XY39efEeCs
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.