The Unfettered Critic – June 2014

Maybe you’ve noticed. You’ll be watching the final moments of a television show. Just as the characters arrive at the quintessential pinnacle of dramatic closure, a pop song that isn’t part of the normal background music springs forth. The scene continues without dialogue, using the power of song to enhance the emotions playing out on screen.

Television producers use these songs as creative tools in order to support the onscreen content with a sort of musical shorthand. And that’s good news for the musicians who create them.

In this era of digital download, there’s no better promotional plug than having a song played on TV. Just ask The Fray. This Denver-based band recorded their first album in 2005. The title song, “How to Save a Life,” accompanied a particularly emotional moment during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Then it wafted through an episode of Scrubs. And then Grey’s Anatomy featured it a second time. Suddenly “How to Save a Life” jumped into the Hot 100—and stayed there for 58 weeks. If you’re a stranger to The Fray’s sound, critics tend to fit them into a musical category that includes Coldplay and Maroon 5. You can decide for yourself when they visit Jacksonville for the Britt season’s opening night, June 16.

The Head and the Heart, a rock group from Seattle, has been heard on TV shows since 2011. “Rivers and Roads,” from their first album, was featured on Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, and Sons of Anarchy. Another song, “Lost My Mind,” was heard on Hart of Dixie, and (bonus!) became an earworm as the backing track on the trailer for The Silver Linings Playbook. The band will appear on the Britt stage, September 2. We want to be there if only to see and hear violinist Charity Rose Thielen. (Hey, if you can rock on violin, you can rock!)

Then there’s Fitz & the Tantrums. The group plays straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with a welcoming 1980’s groove, even though they formed several decades later, in 2011. These six accomplished musicians performed to rave reviews one week after they’d met one another, and they quickly became the toast of Los Angeles. Less than a year later, they were touring with Maroon 5 and working with such musicians as Daryl Hall of Hall and Oats. TV producers picked their song “MoneyGrabber” for use on numerous shows, including Criminal Minds. Another number, “News 4 U” found its way into a promo for Desperate Housewives. And “The Walker” popped up on The Vampire Diaries and in the feature Identity Thief. Despite this visibility, the Los Angeles Times notes, “Fitz & the Tantrums is the kind of band that communicates best in concert.” They’ll communicate with us at the Britt on June 22.

Perhaps the most successful pairing of music and television comes courtesy of American Idol. Readers of this column may recall that we follow the show, and former Idol winner Scotty McCreery was a smash at the Britt just last year. So we applauded the late announcement that the American Idol Tour, consisting of this season’s Top 10 finalists, will hit Britt Hill on August 20. We’re especially look forward to seeing two of these singers. Twenty-three-year old Caleb Johnson hails from North Carolina, but his heart lives deep in the throes of rock ‘n’ roll. And Michigan’s seventeen-year-old Jena Irene sings like Barbra Streisand, plays piano like Liberace and tears at your heartstrings like a performer twice her age. These two talents alone are reason to grab a spot on the Britt grounds.