Do you want to know something that never fails to make me cry? Watching someone do what they were born to do. Not just something they’re good at—or even great at—but to paraphrase A League of Their Own, something that gets inside of them and lights them up. There’s nothing quite like watching someone with a God-given gift bask in the joy they feel while using that gift. It’s a feeling of pride for someone you’ll never know, a strange sense of secondhand accomplishment.
It’s the feeling I get every time I watch a Rachel Berry solo on Glee. Lea Michele is truly a once-in-a-generation talent; she was born to sing big songs on big stages to big ovations. And I love that she has always infused her portrayal of Rachel with that same sense of devotion to performing. The stage is and always will be Rachel’s first love—her happy place, her home. And there’s something so moving about watching this character—who has dreamed of being something special her whole life—find the one place where there is no one better, no one more special, than she is.
Everyone has their favorite Rachel Berry solo, and mine is “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” I’ve been a fan of that song since I was a little girl, and to hear it sung with such passion and such strength made me fall in love with it all over again. But this moment is about so much more than the song choice. It’s about a love story deeper than any other Glee has ever tried to sell: the love Rachel has for the stage.
Michele glows in this performance; her inability to contain her own happiness is what makes this scene so powerful. You know you’re not just watching a character do what they love; you’re watching an actress do what she loves, too.
The moment when Rachel sees Carmen Tibideaux sit down to watch her is my favorite moment in the whole scene. As soon as she sees the woman behind her rejection from NYADA, Rachel turns her performance up to another level, almost daring Carmen to continue to doubt her. That confidence is something this character almost lost after that rejection, so to see it come back in such a definite way was incredible. Rachel may doubt a lot of things about herself, but she knows she’s a great performer—and it’s beautiful to watch her prove her greatness on the biggest stage.
The joy of performing is something nearly impossible to describe. It’s something that can only be felt, and only the best of the best can translate that joy into something tangible for audiences to latch on to. Michele is so good at making you feel everything Rachel feels as she’s singing—whether it’s pain or joy. In this moment, she’s feeling a kind of joy and sense of purpose unlike any she’s ever experienced, and if that’s not a powerful thing to behold, then I don’t know what is.
This was a relatively slow week in the world of TV for me. Most of my shows were on hiatus, although Once Upon a Time was new and incredibly well-acted and well-paced. However, “The Queen Is Dead” was just too sad for me to think of it as the best thing I saw on TV this week. It was beautifully executed, but it was such a heavy hour of television.
With that in mind, I chose something lighter and more fun for this week’s pick for TV’s best moment of the week. Last night, Justin Timberlake came back to host his fifth episode of Saturday Night Live, and it was as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. I was always more of a Backstreet Boys fan growing up, but ever since Timberlake began his solo career, I’ve become a major JT fangirl. Apparently I’m just a sucker for a good song-and-dance man (with the emphasis on dance).
Timberlake’s performances of “Suit and Tie” and “Mirrors” on SNL showed off his characteristic style of performing—making doing it all look almost ridiculously easy.
What was your favorite thing on TV this week?
Earlier today, I posted my favorites from the world of TV in 2012, and now it’s time for me to take a look at the best of the rest: the music, movies, books, and pop culture phenomena that made this year so memorable.
Favorite Song: “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen)
I know it’s a cheesy pop song, but it is one great cheesy pop song. When I think back on 2012 years from now, this will undoubtedly be the song I remember. It was fun, it made me want to dance, and it was the kind of song that never got out of your head until you found yourself no longer minding that it was stuck in there.
Runner-Up: “Some Nights” (FUN.)
Favorite Movie: Silver Linings Playbook
Anchored by career performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, this film was a surprisingly uplifting and yet realistic look at mental illness and the many different ways we can cope and heal. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me feel hopeful. It was the most fascinating love story I’ve seen in a movie theater in ages because it was grounded in both humor and a whole lot of heart.
Runner-Up: The Avengers
I love television, and I love music. When those two things are put together in the right way, they create magic and have the potential to elicit incredibly strong emotions. The right song choice has the ability to enhance a scene in a way that even the best writing or the most talented actors can’t accomplish.
Today at NGN, I want to take a look at five of the television shows I’ve watched over the years that I feel best use music to advance the story and enhance the emotional resonance of a scene. For each series, I’ve picked three musical moments that best represent why the show made my list. You never know—maybe you’ll find some new music to add to your iPod thanks to these shows (I know I have!).
“California” (Phantom Planet) – 1.01 (“Pilot”): This song will always remind me of The O.C. It was the show’s theme song, but it was also used brilliantly in the pilot episode, with the intensity of the song growing as Ryan leaves Chino and enters the world of Orange County. That moment perfectly set the tone for the show, and the use of this song plays a huge part in that.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” (Jem) – 1.27 (“The Ties That Bind”): There is something hauntingly sad about this stripped-down version of such a classic love song. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to a scene of love and loss for Marissa and Ryan. The song is simple, and this moment is simple—free of the over-the-top drama this show was famous for but still heartbreaking in its own quiet way.
“Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley) – 1.27 (“The Ties That Bind”): This episode of The O.C. clearly had some phenomenal music choices. This is one of those moments where all that an episode needs is the right song to reduce audiences to a weeping mess. The pure longing in this song (which is one of my all-time favorites) perfectly encapsulates the mood of each character in the closing minutes of the finale. No dialogue is needed, just the voice of Jeff Buckley reminding us all that “love is not a victory march.”