The Music of Nashville: Season 1 Volume 1

Band: Various
Album: The Music of Nashville: Season 1 Volume 1
Best song:  The radio mix of “Telescope” is the most catchy of the songs. “Buried Under” or “Wrong Song” are probably the strongest overall.
Worst song: “When the Right One Comes Along” isn’t great.

I won’t go over my love of the television showBreaking Badhere, largely because I would never stop writing were I to sing its praises. This blog post would be longer than the bible and no one wants that. But, the point is thatBreaking Badis my favorite TV show of all-time. The only live television I ever watch isBreaking Bad(and sports) and now I have nothing by which to structure my Sunday nights.

I’ve got Netflix, so I am now trying to figure out how to fill the Breaking Bad-sized hole in my TV watching. I currently have three shows I follow: Brooklyn 99, Sons of Anarchy and Bob’s Burgers. When The Americans, Community, and Louie come back on the air, I will certainly watch those.

(Side note: Holy fuck, I watch a lot of TV.)

I decided to binge-watch two shows and fill my brain/time that was previously used on Breaking Bad. The first is Scandal, which comes highly recommended from many corners of the Internet. Certainly Shonda Rhimes is wildly successful and Scandal follows her success. I really like the way the show plays a little with race while still keeping it in the background, as nothing is really said about race but the simple act of having Kerry Washington as the lead — and in a weird teenage/R+J love thing with the very white president — is pretty powerful. On the other hand, Scandal is super soapy, with crazy twists and tons of stacked ridiculous plot lines. There are conspiracies, love triangles, secrets and lies. It’s really quite silly.

But, my actual issue is more that the show does some silly stuff with DC-based things. In particular, there are a few scenes that are supposed to have taken place in Metro stations and the stations look zero like the actual stations. Like, not at all (here’s an hdr version of the actual station and here’s the show’s version). The station looks like a NY subway set on a lot in LA, which is what it is. Similarly, there’s a bit in one of the episodes where one of the characters has an assistant who is into “a hot bartender at Black Cat.”

I go to the Black Cat a fair amount. The dude bartenders are all ugly. Its a kind of dirty, definitely amazing punk rock bar. It’s a particular scene, but not the type that this particular character would enjoy. She is more of the club scene, sorority type. Not, uh, the Black Cat crowd. This kind of thing annoys me. It’s somewhat easy to fix by simply doing some research other than going on Yelp and looking for bars that young people frequent. Or, you know, getting photos of Metro stations on Flickr.

I don’t know jack shit about the city of Nashville and have never been there, so those things don’t mean anything to me when I watch Nashville, the other show I got into recently.

Nashville, like Scandal, is a prime-time soap on ABC featuring a female lead in an industry town. Like Scandal, the show was created by a female producer with awards and big projects to her name (Rimes in the case of Scandal, Thelma & Louise writer Calli Khoury in the case of Nashville).

My entry into the show — like most people, I’m sure — is the incomparable Connie Britton. Britton’s portrayal of Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights did not win her any major awards, but should have won her all of the awards. Shit, she could’ve gotten a science Nobel for that performance and I would not have complained. Her Nashville character, Rayna James, has a similar strength and intelligence, but it is not held down by the bleakness that surrounded FNL.

Indeed, one of the grand deceptions of Nashville is its strong “be careful what you wish for” themes regarding fame. A great deal of Britton’s character’s arc involves the transition from being the sexy “queen of country” to something different, all while fighting off the young upstart Juliette Barnes.

Barnes is played with excellent hyperbole — it is a soap, after all — by Hayden Panettiere. She screams a lot, she plays the villain a lot, she has a rags-to-riches character story, alcohol is involved. We’re an evil twin away from the soapiest of soaps and I cannot enjoy it more than I do. You can say a lot of bad things about Panettiere, but she was born to play this role.

The rest of the cast is delightful in their own ways, including Clare Bowen as naïve songwriter Scarlett and even overly earnest community college student Jonathan Jackson as her ex-boyfriend (who lost his record deal because he has principles, man). Charles (Formerly Chip) Esten plays Deacon, who is involved in many plot lines, but is kind of just a guy who can sing and is nice-looking.

Let’s go over something that’s important to keep in mind whenever I talk country music: I am as ignorant about it as I am anything. My sister liked country music when we were growing up and I made merciless fun of this fact. I am as far from the “trucks and beer” life as anyone can be and find blue-collar lyricism to be pretty fucking useless. Country music has those things in spades.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy country music in certain veins. I’ve seen the Old 97’s multiple times, I enjoy Uncle Tupelo quite a bit and I’m definitely on board with country music pre-1981 (as in: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, etc.). I don’t know that Taylor Swift considers herself country, but I like her stuff enough.

With that said, the music in Nashville is pretty good. Khoury’s husband T-Bone Burnett did the music supervision for the first season and that man has an Oscar. So, when the Juliette Barnes songs sound like something between Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, I buy it. For example, the folks at AV Club make fun of “Love Like Mine”, but the paralell structure of the chorus is nifty and fun. “Telescope,” similarly, is a pop song with the little country flourishes that convince me — again, someone who is ignorant with country — that it belongs in a country singer’s repertoire.

Similarly, the songs that Britton sings on the show fit an older Faith Hill-type (one of the inspirations for the character). “Buried Under” is has a blues riff, a confident vocal and a lyric that speaks to the wronged lover archetype of so much country music (though the grave-digging symbolism is kind of creepy). “No One Will Ever Love You” is a little softer, but nicely done by Esten and Britton (it serves a major plot point on the show around their love story).

Nashville‘s music serves the show very well. Nearly every episode ends with a montage featuring a song from the cast, adding an atmospheric element — possibly a crutch — to each episode. But, Britton, Bowen and Panettiere pull it off. Soapy as it is, the combinations work.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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