We’re used to hearing about songs in film and TV get the short shrift when it comes to awards shows, like when Jason Segel wasn’t allowed to perform “Man or Muppet” at the Oscars a few months ago. Now, with the Emmys approaching, there’s a similar conflict for NBC’s musical drama Smash: Despite writing 19 original songs, they were able to submit only two.
According to Variety, Emmy guidelines dictate that only one entry from an “identical team” of songwriters on the same series is allowed. Musical team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) wrote 18 very different songs together, so it’s frustrating that only one song indicative of their style can be nominated. Thankfully, the producers smartly decided to go with what could be considered their strongest song, and one of the musical’s first: “Let Me Be Your Star.”
This was the song that got everyone so jazzed about Smash: Just as the powerful number earned both Karen and Ivy callbacks, it ended the pilot on an achingly hopeful note. How could you not watch the next episode? It also set up the Karen/Ivy dynamic, as the former came to the audition looking like Norma Jean and the latter in full Marilyn costume. If the rest of the songs were as good as this first offering, then we could easily see the show completing its arc to Broadway once the TV season ended.
And for the next 14 episodes, Shaiman and Wittman turned out several more numbers that we could see up on stage: The sweet falling-in-love song “History Is Made At Night,” and “A Thousand and One Nights,” which I couldn’t help but be drawn in by. But the other nominee was the only song not written by the team: “Touch Me,” from the episode “The Coup,” where Derek hires One Republic to write a song completely divorced from the tone of the Bombshell musical.
I hated the song the first time it premiered, and a second watch doesn’t do anything to endear it to me. I got a lot of shit from Crushable commenters for being unable to appreciate this number, which they said was “exactly what the show needed” and retold the tragic Marilyn story in a contemporary context. But to me it still sounds brittle and fake, not even worth making it to dance clubs like another commenter suggested. And let me reemphasize: I think the writers intentionally inserted this song to show how wrong Derek was to try and give Bombshell a facelift. But within that context, it’s strange that it could be up for an award.
Maybe I should just be happy that Smash has two chances to win, but on principle I’m not. I’d love to hear from commenters and Smash fans—do you still love “Touch Me”? Do you think a different Shaiman/Wittman song should have been nominated? Anyway, it may be a moot point if Smash is up against Saturday Night Live‘s final digital short “Lazy Sunday 2.”
Photo: Smash Wiki