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Watch: Anna Kendrick sings Sondheim’s most exhausted survival anthem, “I’m Still Here”

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Traditionally, whenever Anna Kendrick hits The Late Show on a press tour, she and fellow musical theater obsessive Stephen Colbert will nerd out about Stephen Sondheim and then sing some show tunes together.

But when Kendrick visited on Tuesday to promote her new book, Scrappy Little Nobody, Colbert explained that he hadn’t had a chance to learn a song to sing with her. “I’ve been a little busy in a mild panic about the election,” he said.

“2016’s been kind of a bitch,” Kendrick agreed.

So she went solo with one of Sondheim’s classic diva songs: “I’m Still Here,” from Follies. The song is about surviving America in the first half of the 20th century — bread lines, the red scare, and so on — and at the end, the singer concludes that the best she can say for herself is that she’s still alive. Eartha Kitt used to cover it; so did Elaine Stritch, and Barbra Streisand liked it so much that she had Sondheim write her a variation about her own life. “I’m Still Here” is at once rebellious and hopeful and cynical and exhausted, which makes it a perfect fit for the feelings many progressives have in the wake of the election.

“It just makes me feel empowered,” Kendrick said, “and like we’ve been through it but we can get through it.” And when she sings, “I got through all of last year, and I’m here,” it feels like one of the most hopeful things you can say at the end of 2016.

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