"Once More, with Feeling" is a musical episode of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which a mysterious force compels Sunnydale residents into songs that reveal their deep secrets. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon, the creator of the show. The lyrics and music were also written by Whedon, with a score by Christophe Beck and arrangements by Beck and Jesse Tobias.
Joss Whedon had wanted to create a musical episode since the first season of Buffy, but wasn't allowed to until the show was moved to a more lenient network, UPN. Another reason for his delaying the musical episode is revealed in his DVD commentary for the episode, where he comments that if he had placed the episode in season four, it would have occurred shortly after the Xena: Warrior Princess musical episode "The Bitter Suite" and would have appeared far less original. Supposedly, the episode "Hush" (which was nominated for an Emmy Award for its use of the absence of human voices) is located where the musical episode would have originally been placed.
The morning after, the friends find out such things have happened to them all. They suddenly burst into song again, first wondering what can possibly be the cause for this ("I've Got a Theory") - including a novel idea by Anya ("Bunnies") - and then, guided by Buffy, asserting their ability to deal with it together ("If We're Together"). They further learn that all the people in Sunnydale are forced to sing about their inner feelings ("The Mustard").
Later Tara sings a love song to Willow about the difference she's made in her life ("Under Your Spell"). Xander and Anya sing together about things they would otherwise have never told themselves or each other, namely their fears about their coming marriage ("I'll Never Tell"), and Spike sings to Buffy about the torturous nature of their relationship ("Rest in Peace").
It seems that a new demon in town, Sweet, is responsible for all the singing. Unfortunately, some people are singing and dancing so much that they spontaneously combust, due to the dramatic release of their pent-up emotions. Sweet has Dawn kidnapped by his minions, interrupting her as she begins singing a lament about her life ("Dawn's Lament"). When Dawn wakes up in The Bronze, she and two of Sweet's minions engage in an interpretive dance; this is Dawn's attempt to escape. ("Dawn's Ballet") Sweet explains that he thinks she is the one who summoned him, and intends to take her to the Underworld and make her his queen ("What You Feel").
Meanwhile in the Magic Box, Giles sings his thoughts, that his continued presence encourages Buffy to remain emotionally dependent on him and that he should no longer act as a father to her lest she never mature, thus he decides to leave again and return to England for good ("Standing"). Tara finds out about a forgetting spell Willow had cast the evening before to make her forget about a fight they had, and decides to break up with her. Giles and Tara duet about leaving as they look at Buffy and Willow respectively, the two of whom are distractedly chatting ("Under Your Spell/Standing (Reprise)").
The gang discovers through one of Sweet's minions the location where Dawn is being held. Xander, Anya and Willow are eager to help save Dawn, but Giles insists that Buffy should go alone. Spike, dismissing Giles' stubbornness, offers to back Buffy up, but Buffy takes him to task regarding his wish for her to stay away from him, and a humiliated Spike skulks away, telling her he hopes she will dance until she burns. Buffy leaves alone, once again singing about her inability to feel, as both a conflicted Spike and the Scoobies express their desire to fight along with her, accompanied by Sweet, who summons them in song ("Walk Through the Fire").
Arriving at The Bronze, Buffy starts to sing and dance defiantly, cynically expressing her current condition and the hardships of being the Slayer. Then she finally reveals to Sweet and her friends that, by resurrecting her, they had ripped her out of heaven rather than rescuing her from a hell dimension as they thought. As her friends react in horror to the admission, and once she has vocalized her anger and despair, she dances ecstatically to the point of fuming, in a somewhat suicidal effort. Spike arrives and helps her recover, telling her that the only way to mend her wounds is to carry on living, "so one of us is living" ("Something to Sing About"). Dawn ends the song by saying "The hardest thing in this world is to live in it" This is the same line Buffy used when speaking to Dawn in Season 5 finale "The Gift"
Applauding, Sweet prepares to leave with Dawn, but it turns out that it is not Dawn who had summoned him, but Xander - who had not understood the implications - leading to the demon giving up on the queen matter and vanishing. As he leaves he points out that due to all the hidden feelings he caused them to reveal to each other none of them can claim "it ended well" daring them to say that they are really happy "once more with feeling" ("What You Feel (Reprise)"). The group does, questioning the pyrrhic victory they've achieved and what to do next ("Where Do We Go from Here?").
The episode ends with Spike and Buffy kissing, as the curtains fall, as predicted in the previous song's final verse, as the chorus swells one last time ("Coda").
The opening sequence is completely changed from its usual form, featuring a 26-second main theme whose rock and dark atmosphere was eliminated through its use of percussion in the background and a stereotypical light drum sequence at the end of the theme, similar to the conclusion of heroic classical films.
The songs "Walk through the Fire", "Something to Sing About", and "Where Do We Go from Here" (all progressive rock-style) were musically inspired by Yes's fifth album Close to the Edge, one of Joss Whedon's favorites. The BBC's website about Buffy states that those are just from the song "Close to the Edge", but "Something to Sing About" is more in style of album's songs "And You and I" (that notably was the inspiration of Whedon's trademark "Mutant Enemy", too) and "Siberian Khatru" (Buffy's whirling dance).
Numerous critics placed the episode on their "alternative Emmy" lists and it continues to win plaudits. It was recently voted the 13th greatest musical of all time in a poll conducted by the British TV channel, Channel 4. It has always been a firm favorite among fans.
The episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in the category science fiction/fantasy for best dramatic presentation, along with the films Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Monsters, Inc., Shrek and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The last won.
Shortly after the original episode aired, Singalongs and Rocky Horror-style re-enactments started becoming common at fan festivals and conventions. These events could involve audience members singing along with the projected episode, audience callbacks, props, costumes, and even live casts. (The official posting board party probably had the first cast in February 2002 and Dragoncon in Atlanta probably has the longest running.) Recently, Singalongs have become popular as individual events outside of fan conventions. The first of these events was held in Boston in 2004 and there is currently a group in New York City that has a monthly live cast. Many of these events and casts have evolved independently with no knowledge of other similar groups. Buffy Singalongs have recently received growing media attention with stories done by the AP, MTV News, and the New York Post. At the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival, a special screening and sing along was held on June 27th. Both Marti Noxon and Joss Whedon were in attendance and gave brief speeches to the audience. In October of 2007, after a dispute with SAG over unpaid residuals, 20th Century Fox pulled the licensing for public screenings of Once More With Feeling, effectively ending official Buffy singalongs.
A music CD has been released, featuring the entire score and some additional tracks, namely the demo of "Something to Sing About", sung by Joss Whedon and his wife Kai Cole, and three pieces of music from other popular episodes by regular composer Christophe Beck. The art for the CD — also used as cover for related items, such as the script book, the DVD and the poster — is by popular comic book artist Adam Hughes. The booklet includes liner notes by Whedon, the lyrics for the songs, and pictures from the episode.
|1||"Overture / Going Through the Motions"||02:57|
|2||"I've Got a Theory / Bunnies / If We're Together"||02:22|
|4||"Under Your Spell"||02:55|
|5||"I'll Never Tell"||04:01|
|6||"The Parking Ticket"||00:45|
|7||"Rest in Peace"||02:46|
|10||"What You Feel"||03:01|
|12||"Under Your Spell / Standing — reprise"||01:35|
|13||"Walk Through the Fire"||03:44|
|14||"Something to Sing About"||04:40|
|15||"What You Feel — reprise"||00:46|
|16||"Where Do We Go from Here?"||01:53|
|18||"End Credits (Broom Dance / Grr Argh)"||00:31|
|20||Suite from "Restless"||05:02|
|21||Suite from "Hush"||06:54|
|22||Sacrifice (from "The Gift")||02:55|
|23||"Something to Sing About" (demo)||04:27|
The region 2 version is slightly cropped at the sides as it shown in standard 16:9 (1.78:1) as opposed to 1.85:1 (this is most noticeable on the opening credits).
Because of the running time, UPN only aired the full, unedited episode once — delaying the start of the following program (a U.S. pilot of Iron Chef hosted by William Shatner). Unfortunately serious technical glitches plagued UPN's broadcast feed to some of its affiliates in the U.S. Eastern and Central time zones when the episode aired on November 6, 2001. In the case of one UPN affiliate, WKBD-TV in Detroit, the only "glitch" involved a few seconds where the picture "froze" during Sweet's initial meeting with Dawn. At UPN's insistence, Joss Whedon supervised the editing of the full length episode into a more advertiser-friendly standard length. UPN never aired the full length episode again, opting instead for the shortened version. The shortened version is also the one that airs in syndication on FX. The editing eliminated parts of certain songs, including Buffy singing "If We're Together" and several bars of "Walk Through the Fire." Loss of certain dialogue resulted in a confusing ending for the audience, with Sweet abruptly announcing "Big smiles everyone, you beat the bad guy," with little apparent cause.
This "one time only" dispensation to air a longer format is not unprecedented for Whedon and Buffy. A first season episode, "The Puppet Show", enjoyed only a single airing (on May 5, 1997) of a closing credits scene in which Xander, Buffy, and Willow perform a scene from Oedipus Rex in their school's talent show. The scene, however, was repeated at least one more time when it was first rerun on FX.
In an unusual effort to garner Emmy support, 20th Century Fox had the full length episode pressed onto special DVDs shortly after its airing for distribution with the industry trade publication Daily Variety. Regular DVD series collections also include the full length episode.
Also available for sale is the original script book (ISBN 0-689-85918-X). Besides the actual screenplay the book features pictures from the episode, articles, sheet music for all the songs and a behind the scenes.
David Fury, producer and writer of the show (who also appeared in the episode as the man excited they got the mustard out) asked Whedon if he could document it, and shot about 40 hours of behind-the-scenes material; part of this material is available on the Season Six DVD set.
All of the Region 1 DVDs have French and Spanish versions, and the songs are done in French and Spanish too.
In Italian TV and DVD version, while all other songs are as original with subtitles, the "Parking Ticket" song, originally played by Marti Noxon, for some technical problems had to be redubbed by an unknown singer.
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