I’m not entirely sure when substituting popular music for actual acting started happening (was it James Van Der Beek’s fault?), but it started bothering me during Grey’s Anatomy — specifically, the final scenes in the final episode of Season 3 (“Didn’t We Almost Have It All?”), when Sandra Oh’s character rips off her wedding dress after being jilted by that homophobe.
Watching that scene, you get caught up in the drama but you can’t figure out why — your heart races a little and you’re like “oh, so sad for Sandra Oh” — then it hits you — you’re feeling that way only because Ingrid Michaelson’s “Keep Breathing” is blasting in the background.
So you stop yourself — and you ask yourself A) Why the hell do I care about Grey’s Anatomy? and B) When did it become OK to simply insert a “powerful” song at a critical scene and mute the actors?
What is worse is that the song alone isn’t all that great (listen to it without watching the scene)! Instead, there’s this synergistic effect of two lesser dramatic elements . . . it’s disturbing — “His trumpet is gone” just sounds dopey without the song! — and at the end, Ellen Pompeo’s face says literally nothing.
The other example of this I can’t stand is the final sequence of the final episode of the Six Feet Under series, with the song “Breathe Me” by Sia (do I have to bother saying “spoiler alert”? OK, you’re warned). Why can’t Claire just drive off in peace without Sia invading my mental space?
The sequence is schlocky and dominated by the song — imagine without the song how dopey the Where Are They Now? stuff would seem. Without the music, you would have no clue what Claire was thinking. And people loved this ending. They are full of shit.
So yeah, TV is lazy now. Fine. I don’t care. But when this starts to penetrate the theatre world, we are really screwed:
The frequent musical interludes (the moody sounds of P. J. Harvey) only remind us of the production’s lack of authentic drama.
[Note to editor: Insert overwrought, ponderous Question-As-Statement “Does this signal the solidifying of a half-plus-half-equals-whole mentality in our very culture?” here.]