Like its undeniable predecessor and enabler, Glee, NBC’s Smash is about to go all “ancillary markets” on us. That is, it’s about to cash in not just via TV revenues or even downloads, but in CD and album sales.
Glee has issued around 15 CDs already — with just its third season still in progress. Smash is a bit slower from the gate — and in downloads, so far — but still is poised to release The Music of Smash on Columbia on May 1.
This debut disc for the Broadway-geared show will have 13 songs — a respectable number for an album, but actually far less than Smash’s recorded output to date, which is closer to 30 songs.
Of course, not all of those songs have the kind of full-length studio versions that the CD will offer. Some — like the series-opening Over the Rainbow or a brief but biting stab at Rumour Has It — are mere snippets wedged into the narrative.
But it’s interesting to note that two songs set for CD also have had only slight versions so far: Who You Are and Brighter Than the Sun. The latter has been released only for the telecast in which Karen (Katharine McPhee) sang it in a studio and was briefly interrupted by a guy at the mixing board. As for Who You Are, Ivy (Megan Hilty) plaintively but stirringly sang it alone in her room onscreen, where it ran under two minutes.
I’m thinking both songs will be fleshed out and extended to full-bore studio tracks on the new album. (This just in: Brighter Than the Sun gets a 2:40 full-bore rendition for the CD — nice.)
As for the other tracks, one — Stand — hasn’t been issued yet onscreen or online, and if that status stays the same by May 1, it will be the disc’s sole song to be making its debut for the album.
The other 10 tracks are all previously heard onscreen with recordings released in some form, if only on YouTube. They are: Touch Me, Crazy Dreams, Beautiful, Haven’t Met You Yet, Shake It Out, Let Me Be Your Star, The 20th Century Fox Mambo, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Let’s Be Bad and History Is Made At Night.
It’s interesting that five numbers from the in-development Marilyn Monroe Broadway show, Bombshell, are clustered at the end, while eight non-Broadway songs lead off the album. I do think Smash can work well musically in both realms, though the pop songs are hit-and-miss on screen, since some feel forced into the action.
But one of my pop favorites is here: Shake It Out, Karen’s oh so tuneful and rousing set-ender for the bar mitzvah where she performed. Nice contemporary original, Smash.
Most of the other tracks also are superb choices for a debut CD. Still, with so much music left untouched, let’s make a brief survey of what they left out:
One major omission is Cheers (Drink to That), Karen and Ivy’s impromptu Times Square sensation. Another no-show is Karen’s boisterous country fun for Redneck Woman while back home in Iowa.
But I fully agree with leaving out solo songs sung by Will Chase’s Michael, a discredited character who’s on his way out anyway. Who needs to hear his dreadfully overwrought and strangely angry Grenade? (Glee has been far better for Bruno Mars, I’d say.) And his On Lexington and 52nd Street, from Bombshell, is far too edgy if not angry. (Is there a pattern here?) Get a grip.
His A Song for You? That one’s not bad — but it’s not here either. Next.
I’m also delighted Columbia left off Bernadette Peters’ ill-advised Gypsy numbers. Rose’s Turn and Everything’s Coming Up Roses are both painfully histrionic and painfully dated. (Glee also worships this show — and shouldn’t.)
The National Pastime, from Bombshell, is similarly stale-sounding for an allegedly new show, while Blondie’s Call Me felt forced and irrelevant onscreen and is wisely ignored here.
But for the 13 songs making the cut, you can’t do much better than most of these, especially Let Me Be Your Star, a fantastic “I want” song in the grand Broadway tradition of the heroine singing of her dreams in the first act. This song was born to be performed on stage, and I hope it gets there. (Completists like me probably also have truncated reprises of the song, too, from the telecasts.)
I can do without Nick Jonas’ tepid and wimpy Haven’t Met You Yet — a track for a cameo? — but Touch Me is a galvanizing song to lead off the disc (just try not to visualize its silly scene on screen), while Crazy Dreams and Beautiful are lovely balladry.
Speaking of which, let’s hear it for another fine song from the so-far fictional Broadway musical in the making, Bombshell. It’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, one of the prettiest, sweetest songs I’ve heard in many a moon. I liken it to Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors — and that’s fine company.
Overall, this is a solid CD in terms of its lineup. And by Smash’s season one finish there should be ample material for a second disc before fall brings season two.
If so, cheers — I’ll drink to that.
— Bruce Westbrook