"Nashville": Come For The Music, Stay For ... The Music

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"Nashville": Come For The Music, Stay For ... The Music

By Sarah Carlson | TV Reviews | November 16, 2012 | Comments ()


Dustin is right: So far, "Nashville" is not entirely living up to our high hopes, no matter how much Connie Britton twangs her way through playing the part of a country music queen. Her character, Rayna Jaymes, and Hayden Panettiere's Juliette Barnes have been dancing around each other in various narratives that have only led them back to where we wanted them to be all along: the two women trying to work together/out-diva each other in an industry in which both are famous yet expendable. Previews for the next episode, airing in two weeks, hint at the impending drama, but viewers' patience likely has been tried by making us wait seven episodes to see the beginning of the battles promised in the pilot.

However, even though the soapy series is far from perfect, from its weak dialogue to unnecessary political plots, the wait for the Rayna-Juliette showdown has been worth it thanks to the show's music. Each episode features at least one good, and sometimes great, song. Creator Callie Khouri wisely turned to husband T Bone Burnett and others in the music industry, such as Buddy Miller, to harvest the real Nashville's talent pool for great songs from writers both up-and-coming and veteran. Better yet, ABC is spotlighting the songwriters online, taking fans behind the scenes and placing emphasis on the art involved, not just the business.

Here's the first feature of the On the Record series, focusing on the song "If I Didn't Know Better," written by John Paul White and Arum Rae. (You can also find a recording of the song by The Civil Wars, of which White is half, on that duo's free album "Live at Eddie's Attic.)*

These entries are generally more insightful than the actual show, and I appreciate the credit that is given to songwriters, most of whom usually go unnoticed outside of the industry. This is where "Nashville" succeeds where NBC's "Smash" largely doesn't. Sure, "Smash" enlisted Broadway heavyweights to write an original musical for the show, and the episodes are filled with nods to the Great White Way just as "Nashville" features nods to its setting. (Nice Hatch Show Print baseball cap, Juliette.) But "Nashville" actually feels like an ode to the those chasing their dreams of making music. Outside of the great original numbers for its Marilyn Monroe musical, "Smash's" characters' passion for their art and for theatre was easily lost as they were busy belting pop songs in "Glee" fashion. Those acts often distracted from the story, which ultimately lacked heart, instead of enhancing it. It's true that "Nashville" doesn't include dream sequences or outbursts of song typical to musicals; the only performances are just that -- artists recording in a studio or playing for a crowd. It's a different and safer dynamic, but it's working. It's believable.

Just look at this performance of "No One Will Ever Love You," another song co-written by John Paul White, this time with Steve Mcwean.

That duet is easily one of the best moments of the series so far, with Britton and Charles Esten (as Deacon Claybourne, Rayna's guitarist and former lover) conveying so much emotion in their voices and the looks they are giving each other. The song says everything, and it was a smart pick by the producers. I can put up with backstabbing and bed-hopping story lines if it means I'm also treated to moving musical numbers, which you can buy on iTunes just like "Smash" and "Glee" numbers.

"Nashville" is essentially like the music industry itself: You have to wade through a lot of crap to find a few gems. For now, it's worth it.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio.

*The Civil Wars being on a break because of "irreconcilable differences" kills me.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • d

    So you wanted Hayden and Connie to get in a catfight the very first episode.

    Thas real nice, then what the fuck do you do for the next 22 goddamn episodes you fucking mongloid retard fuckawad jizzsnizzler?

    Fucking idiot moron. "HHHHHHHHUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR I can't pay attention to anyfing for more than 5 seconds so how DARE a tv show build a storyline up over a number of episodes.



    Goddamn whiny spoiled brat crybaby.

  • frank247

    Dear d,

    you seem to have some issues that are spilling from your personal life into a forum for the discussion of a tv show.

    Were you teased at school for your sloping brow and lack of verbal communication?
    Did the teachers mock your writing skills, obviously hampered by the thick knuckles you have developed over the years of dragging them on the ground.

    Whatever the reason, we at Pajiba.com are here to help you.

    Any time you feel inadequate, come along and abuse someone (I recommend TK) and you shall receive two (2) shiny cents.

    With said gift, you will also find instructions for sticking your 2 cents right up your arse, you pathetic lowlife scumbag.

    We do not tolerate your type of hate monger here, please leave before you are removed.

  • mswas

    ... full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    Trolls gonna troll.

  • mrcreosote

    You sir have tarnished the good name of jizzsnizzler. Forsooth.

  • Jezzer

    There's a difference between "building up" and "spinning your wheels without going anywhere," just as there's a difference between "having a difference of opinion" and "being an absolute twat for no reason."

  • duckandcover

    Keep smashing your head against your keyboard and you'll publish the next Twilight novel.

  • "If I Didn't Know Better" is what convinced me to keep watching this show. The pilot was good, but the songs definitely hooked me more than the plot did.

  • jennym84

    Thanks for this - the music is why I'm continuing to watch as well. Plus I really do think Hayden Panettiere is doing a bang-up job as Juliette. Connie's excellence is a given.

    The show switched showrunners sometime around episode 3 or 4, so I'm hoping the direction of the last two weeks - IE having a plot and some semblance of a direction - is an indicator that good things are yet to come.

  • InternetMagpie

    I've only seen snatches of episodes, but the one Rayna's daughters did at the talent show was really great, too.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    "Snatches" . . . "Jizzsnizzler" . . . this post is one euphemism away from becoming a party platter.

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