Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jenn's Pick: 15 Favorite Musical Moments on TV

Sometimes I wish that my life was a musical. Wouldn’t it be amazing to walk down the street where everyone on it was a dancer, where there was a catchy song playing, tempo picking up while the chorus joined in? Sometimes I hear songs and think to myself: “If my life was a movie, this would be the song I’d want to play over the credits.” The truth is that a vast majority of us can relate to this because we can relate to music. Music is such an integral part of not just our daily lives but also our emotional ones. We connect to songs and artists. We hit the repeat button on tracks on Spotify and blast albums in our car. We make playlists upon playlists and whether you love The Beatles, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, The Jonas Brothers, Katy Perry, or anything in between, music is personal and music is an experience.

I love when television series integrate musical numbers into their episodes. And this post is to celebrate fifteen of my personal favorite musical numbers! Whether it’s on a show that constantly features music (like Smash or Glee) or on a series that utilizes a musical number to parody a series (like Community), I’ve picked some of the stand-out performances. These make me laugh and cry and they’re also up for debate. So sit back, grab a cup of something hot, and hit play because we’re about to take a musical journey through television!

15. We Went to the Moon - Even Stevens

I’m not even going to lie – I knew very little about the moon landing as a child except for the fact that it occurred in 1969. And I know when this occurred thanks to the Even Stevens episode called “Influenza: The Musical.” In it, Ren has a fever dream that she has a presentation due at school (she’s got the exact same type-A and perfectionist personality that I possess) and – panicking – cannot manage to learn anything substantial in order to present. The only thing she recalls is that astronauts went to the moon in 1969. And, in her dream, she decides to present this information via song. It’s a hilarious, catchy, and wonderful song that is so typical of a musical – Ren literally knows NOTHING else except for the date in which the landing occurred and it seems highly reasonable, then, given the absurd nature of a musical that Ren would pass her project. She defeated the odds and presented a catchy, upbeat number!

… That’s, of course, not what happens. Dream!Ren fails her presentation. But at least she gets an accompanying song, right?

14. I Heard Your Voice in a Dream – Smash

For as terrible as Smash was writing-wise (and it was BAAAAAD), its musical numbers were usually quite good. I placed “I Heard Your Voice in a Dream” in my list because of how insanely catchy the song is, but also how well Jeremy Jordan performs it. It’s a song performed within the fake musical “Hit List,” in which Jimmy is the star. In addition to being a catchy song with rather great lyrics (“so sing to me and I will forgive you / for taking my heart in the suitcase you packed”), the choreography for the number in the show was really wonderful. As much as I detested Smash as a series for how off-the-rails it was, I really did – and still do – love this performance.

13. Friendship - I Love Lucy

I grew up watching I Love Lucy. I think my mom gave me a boxed set of episodes for Christmas or my birthday one year, and I devoured them. The musical performance between Lucy and Ethel in this episode is particularly hilarious. In the number, the two best friends are fighting. And, of course, there’s inherent irony in the fact that they’re singing “Friendship.” The best part of the entire number for me, of course, is that the women continue to sing while physically destroying each others’ dresses (they’re wearing identical ones by accident) and that they have to be pried apart by their respective husbands. Whatever happened though, in the end Lucy and Ethel would always be okay. No matter how much they fought or argued, how much they refused to compromise, the truth was that these two had an inseparable bond.

And THAT is friendship.

12. Grenade - The Sing-Off

Maybe I’m cheating here by including a singing competition performance in this list, but I just HAD to. Watch Delilah’s rendition of “Grenade” and tell me that they don’t deserve to be mentioned. I began watching The Sing-Off because – duh – I absolutely am enthralled by a cappella music and by the groups who perform songs like this. The Sing-Off gave us Pentatonix, but this was by far my favorite performance of the entire series. Delilah left the competition shortly after this rendition, but I definitely know they made a lasting impression on at least one viewer.

11. Soft Kitty (Round) - The Big Bang Theory

Imma let you finish, but “Soft Kitty” is probably the greatest contribution The Big Bang Theory has made to society and definitely the greatest it has made to my life. It’s the song that Sheldon’s mother sings to him whenever he’s sick. In this episode, however, after Penny dislocates her shoulder and is put on pain medication, she requests that Sheldon sing the song to her. But the young woman puts a twist on the tune: she requests that she and Sheldon sing it together in a ROUND.

It’s honestly one of the best Sheldon/Penny moments ever so just watch and enjoy as much as I do. (As an aside: whenever I get stressed at work, I have a poster on my desk that says ‘Keep Calm and Sing Soft Kitty’ and I look at it and hum the tune to myself.)

10. Somewhere Out There – Community

Rounding out my top ten musical performances in a television series, I just HAD to include Troy and Abed’s rendition of “Somewhere Out There.” And honestly, I love their song but I also love the stories that intersect over it. The fact that Troy joins Abed to sing to their Biology rat, Fivel, is extremely significant because it’s the first time in the series that Troy ever does anything to further his friendship with the filmmaker. The presence of Troy is touching, as is the support of Pierce at Shirley’s speech presentation and Jeff bringing Chang and his wife back together through dance. In typical Community fashion, the show managed to perfectly encapsulate everything emotional in a moment that would have – at the helm of any other show – been complete absurdity. And while Community has done some pretty absurd episodes and scenes, the “Somewhere Out There” performance was the perfect blend of character development, humor, and heart that made me fall in love with the show in the first place.

9. Hopelessly Devoted to You - Pushing Daisies

You can’t cast Kristin Chenoweth in a series and NOT have her sing. And so, it was inevitable that at some point in its run, Chenoweth would put her vocal skills to good use on Pushing Daisies. The performance that she delivered was so delightful and sad (poor Olive, constantly pining after Ned) and the main reason it lands onto this list is because of how hilarious it was as well. We always felt bad for Olive because Ned was so helplessly in love with Chuck and Olive was so hopelessly in love with her pie maker boss. The performance of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was wonderful because it also made a sort of sly meta commentary about musical performances (there are people who interrupt Olive during her song).

Ultimately though, this is a performance that demonstrates just how much Olive cares and has always cared about Ned. I did always think it to be quite wonderful of to never make us choose sides when it came to Chuck and Olive – we were allowed to love both women equally but differently, and I think that makes all the difference in a television show.

8. Skyfall - The Voice

I was completely and utterly aboard Team Adam during Amber Carrington’s season of The Voice. Interestingly enough, I didn’t really become a fan of hers until later in the competition, but once I did, I fell completely in love with the young, bright, blonde woman. Adam announced during one night of the competition that Amber would be closing out the show with “Skyfall,” which is – of course – an Adele song. I remember sitting on the couch with widened eyes. It’s taboo to perform anything by Adele at a singing competition (and generally anything by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, too) and so I thought it odd and potentially dooming that Adam would choose this song for his little country darling.

I was wrong.

I was SO very wrong. Amber absolutely nailed everything about the performance, managed to make the song her own, and impressed not only all of the coaches but also all of America. I was a fan of Amber’s, but this is the performance that skyrocketed her to “favorite” territory. Unfortunately, Amber was cut from the competition, but I will always revel in the perfection that was her rendition of “Skyfall” and look forward to all she does next.

7. Rumour Has It/Someone Like You – Glee

It wouldn’t be a list of my favorite musical moments if I didn’t include something from Glee, now would it? Much like Smash, Glee has disappointed me in recent years but one thing has continually impressed me: the music and talent of the stars. Where writing has failed, renditions have soared and one of my absolute favorite mash-ups of all time on the series is the “Rumour Has It/Someone Like You” one performed by Mercedes, Santana, and Brittany in the – way too short-lived – all-girl glee club group called The Troubletones.

Once Glee discovered that Naya Rivera had a gritty, unique, and amazing voice, they began to feature her more prominently. And I absolutely love how she was utilized in this mash-up and how well her voice complimented Amber Riley’s. Honestly, every time I hear “Rumour Has It” on the radio, I’m baffled because I’ve become so accustomed to THIS version. But a great musical moment is more than just the song itself; there has to be real emotional weight behind it in order to allow it to stick with the audience. “Mash Off” is an important episode for Santana, who nearly breaks down during the song because Finn had outed her to the school earlier in the episode. It’s a performance with Santana at one of her most vulnerable moments and she utterly shines in spite of her pain, channeling it into the song with her glee club women beside her for support.

Even if you don’t like Glee, just listen to the mash-up. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

6. Sydney, You're So Fine - The Crazy Ones

Sydney, you’re one of a kind / Sydney, you’re so fine.

If you don’t watch The Crazy Ones, this won’t make much sense to you. But if you DO, then I’ve probably gotten “Sydney, You’re So Fine” stuck in your head, now haven’t I? “Sydney, Australia” is my favorite episode of this freshman comedy thus far and it features Josh Groban as Sydney’s stalker who happens to enjoy writing songs about her. One of the songs, if you haven’t guessed, is the one I noted above. It’s so simple, so catchy, and so hilarious that I just had to award it a spot on this countdown.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m also off to watch the performance of “I Barely Knew You” as well!

5. Second Hand White Baby Grand – Smash

I said above that I really disliked the way Smash was written as a series, but that the performances always exceeded my expectations. Megan Hilty is phenomenal and though I was never a fan of Ivy as a character (or a complete fan of Karen for that matter… really, I was only there for Tom), this performance sticks out as one of the moments I remember emotionally connecting with the character. I still get chills listening to Hilty’s beautiful and quiet falsetto. She can belt, that’s for certain, but it’s performances like this one that really grab my heart. You can feel how vulnerable Ivy is, but also how determined she is to take her broken and beautiful life and give everything she has over to those she is performing for. I think it’s one of the most understated musical numbers in Smash’s history, but it ranks among my top five because of how absolutely flawless and tear-inducing it is in that quietness.

Hilty proves that you don’t have to be grand and intense all of the time in order to be noticed. In fact, it’s the gentle and spot-on way she sings “Second Hand White Baby Grand” that causes me to lean in closer and to listen closer and to actually CARE about Ivy. This is one stellar performance and one of the best and most underrated musical moments from the series.

4. Guy Love – Scrubs

(As if I was going to write a post about my favorite musical moments in television series and NOT include “Guy Love”!)

“My Musical” is one of my favorite episodes of Scrubs ever because it a) contains amazing and hilarious and insanely memorable musical numbers, b) provides genuine plot development, c) capitalizes on what the series does best – punches you in the gut. The episode focuses on a patient that’s brought into Sacred Heart who keeps hearing music in her head. She sees everyone in the hospital as if they were performing in a Broadway number and it initially frustrates Dr. Cox, who believes the woman to be crazy. But then it’s revealed that the reason for her musical mind is a giant tumor in her brain. (Again with Scrubs being able to go from absurd to emotionally staggering in the course of a few minutes.)

But one of my favorite musical numbers ever is “Guy Love.” I love it because it’s hysterical and the lyrics are fantastic. I mostly love it because I love the relationship between Turk and J.D. These are two guys who have always cared about each other and will do everything in their power – no matter how weird or wacky – to prove it. Moreover, though Turk sometimes acts embarrassed, neither of them are afraid of their love, nor are they afraid of letting everyone know that they’re the best of friends.

Honestly, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Scrubs in your life, just watch “Guy Love.” It will literally change you for the better.

3. Teach Me How to Understand Christmas – Community

I knew, upon making this list, that I would have to include a song from “Regional Holiday Music” and it was a no-brainer to which song that would be. “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas” is a song that gets stuck in my head so often, it’s not even funny. It’s got an irritatingly catchy little tune and easy-to-remember lyrics so of COURSE I’d find myself sitting at my work desk just humming it to myself. Apart from the song being ridiculously funny (if you don’t find Alison Brie slowly dissolving into incoherent baby talk funny… I don’t know if we can be friends), it’s also just such a good way to poke fun of the “Santa Baby”-esque songs that exist. This Community original song calls attention to the unbelievable nature of those other tunes while providing a memorable musical number in return.

Apart from it being a Jeff/Annie song, I genuinely love everything about this number. It’s fun and enjoyable and also opens with the nice reminder that Annie is an adult and for her to act like and be treated like a child is demeaning to her. I don’t think words can really adequately express how much I enjoy “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas.” Alison Brie completely and utterly sells the comedy in the song, sells every single word and phrase, and Joel’s faces and reactions throughout are utter perfection.

I hope the song is now stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

2. Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit - How I Met Your Mother

Much like with Kristin Chenoweth, it’s impossible to cast Neil Patrick Harris in a series and NOT have him sing anything. And so, How I Met Your Mother celebrated its 100th episode with a musical number that is so legen – wait for it because it’s totally worth it – dary that it owns the metaphorical silver medal of this blog post without question. As much as I’ve always loved/cringed at Barney and his conquests, there is nothing I really love more in this series than the man’s love for his suits and constant desire for Ted to “suit up.”

Obviously, the team at How I Met Your Mother love Barney’s obsession with suits just as much as we do because they centered an entire musical number around the fact that the man would pretty much choose to be with his suits above all else. I think that at the end of the day the real OTP of this show is Barney/suits. Nevertheless, “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit” is a fantastic use of Neil Patrick Harris’ vocal ability, dancing ability, and it flawlessly incorporates the rest of the cast into his fantasy. All in all, this is a musical moment that is deserving of a spot on my list, don’t you think?

1. Make You Feel My Love – Glee

If you’re rolling your eyes right now, that’s okay. I don’t blame you for automatically disregarding anything and everything that has to do with Glee – I often do. But there’s a reason Lea Michele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love” stole the #1 spot from this post and I think I’ll give a few lines of explanation as to why. I won’t imagine how utterly difficult her life has been in the last few months. I won’t pretend that I can understand her pain and her tragic loss. I can’t wrap my head around it, and I’m not sure I ever want to get to the place where I can. What I do know is this: Lea Michele is one brave woman. She didn’t have to return to Glee in the wake of Cory’s passing. Rachel Berry didn’t HAVE to appear in Lima again and she certainly didn’t have to sing.

But like writers process their emotions through writing, so performers process theirs through their art. Lea gave such a stunning, raw, emotional performance during “The Quarterback” that it drove me to tears (well, even MORE tears than I had already shed during the airing of that episode). You can feel every line. You can hear her pain but also see the slight flecks of hope there are she recalls his memory. Again: much like Megan Hilty’s Smash performance, this is one that is ridiculously understated. I could have chosen “Here’s to Us” or “On My Own,” but though those were wonderful performances, nothing on this show has ever touched me quite like this moment did and I doubt anything ever will again. Lea wasn’t acting in that scene; she was mourning and she was processing and she was sharing those emotions not only with her co-stars and friends but with the world. With US.

What makes a brilliant musical performance is that emotional connection with the audience. “Make You Feel My Love” is quiet in its intensity, but that doesn’t diminish the intensity at all. This is a beautiful, powerful performance and one that I feel deserves the top spot in this post.

And now it’s your turn! Hit the comments below and let me know what musical moments have been your favorite throughout the years (sorry, I don’t watch Buffy or else I would have added “Once More With Feeling,” I’m sure).

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend! :)

1 comment:

  1. I agree Make me feel you love was just too moving. Other performances have true meaning but this was on a different level. I have actually heard people complain saying she should have sung it live but my lord she is only human. I probably would have chosen Don't rain on my parade too from glee tbh.

    Anyway I still love and adore Hopelessly devoted to you from pushing daisies.