Hear, hear, TV fans. The Jukebox is back for another week with a selection of the most inventive, emotional, and surprising songs to hit TV screens this week. With another season of The Sing-Off afoot, a cappella was naturally on tap — but we also found an affecting a cappella inclusion in the most unexpected place. Elsewhere, things got naughty on The Good Wife, civil disobedience gave Lionel Richie renewed relevance on Community, and a new show established its place in the moody CW wheelhouse. Check out our picks below! (Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!)
The song: Lionel Richie, “Hello”
The episode: “Geography of Global Conflict”
The hook: The show used Richie’s classic blind girl stalker anthem as an absurdist counterpoint to an ongoing war of wills between Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and new security guard Chang (Ken Jeong). Seeing that an old friend had been imprisoned in Syria, Britta got a taste for civil insurrection and resolved to stir up trouble at Greendale’s Model U.N. Not on Chang’s watch! They faced off several times during the episode, each of which was played over Richie’s melodic crooning as Britta chewed up paper and spit it out, declaring, “And that’s how we do that!” or blurted, “Are we Facebooking this?” as Chang dragged her protest cage out of a room. Ridiculous…ly awesome.
Watch it! The hilarious aural motif occurred throughout last night’s episode. You can catch the first instance at 4:39 on Community‘s Hulu page, and then I command you to watch Richie’s original 1984 video, which appears to have been set at a community college, too. Connections!
THE BIG C (Showtime)
The song: Straight No Chaser, “Auld Lang Syne”
The episode: “Crossing the Line”
The hook: The Big C has been masterful in its combination of comedy and poignance throughout its two seasons on air. In the second season finale, cancer-stricken Cathy (Laura Linney) decides to compete in a New Year’s marathon. In the very last minutes of the episode, she reaches the finish line to find her family, friends, and even the ghosts of her past are standing by in the freezing Minneapolis winter to support her. With its upbeat delivery, Indiana University a cappella group Straight No Chaser’s version at first seems to underscore her personal victory and hope for the new year. Then Cathy’s son Adam (Gabriel Basso) says, “Yeah, except Dad’s not here yet.” Cathy can see her husband Paul (Oliver Platt) and realizes that he is now among the ghosts. As we cut to paramedics trying to revive Paul (Oliver Platt), Cathy’s devastation imbues the song that was so comforting just a moment ago with a sense of tragedy.
Watch it! The Big C is only available to Showtime subscribers, but you can listen to Straight No Chaser’s rendition of the New Year’s classic here.
THE X FACTOR (Fox)
The song: “I’m Goin’ Down,” originally by Rose Royce
The episode: “Auditions #4”
The hook: When 16-year-old Jazzlyn Little took the stage, she was a ball of nerves so tense she could barely squeeze the breath between her lips. When Simon Cowell asked her if she’d tried to market herself online, she self-consciously admitted she’d uploaded one video, but it had only gotten 500 hits. “That’s terrible,” Cowell grimaced, and so we were expecting Little’s voice to be as well. Instead, she launched into a pro-level rendition of Mary J. Blige’s 1995 cover and blew the roof off. The judges gave her a standing ovation (well, except for Cowell, who raised his hands over his head to clap, but that’s basically as complimentary as he gets). Nicole Scherzinger deemed Little “a tiger,” and Cowell quipped, “Jaslyn, I’d love to see what you’re like when you’ve got confidence.” And, yeah, the whole “shy girl” set-up was probably just that, as Annie Barrett suspects in her recap, but if that’s what it takes to bypass the tone deaf fame whores, then bring it, X Factor.
Watch it! Judge for yourself whether Little was nervous for real on The X Factor‘s site.
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)
The song: Chris Isaak, “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”
The episode: “A New Day”
The hook: A strong woman she may be, but Alicia Florrick has taken a lot of crap over the past two seasons of The Good Wife. Then she made many viewers’ fantasies come true during last May’s finale by finally giving in to the long simmering attraction she has shared with her boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The title of the season 3 premiere, “A New Day,” says it all. From the top of the hour, Chris Isaak’s blues-infused rocker set a perfectly sultry, unrepentant tone as Alicia emerged from the elevator at her law firm with an empowered smirk on her face. We’re betting things are going to very naughty for Alicia this season indeed. (And thank you, Good Wife supervisors for finally replacing the traumatic memory of Eyes Wide Shut!)
Watch it! Check out the naughty coming-out-of-her-shell moment on CBS.com.
RINGER (The CW)
The song: Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”
The episode: “If You Ever Want a French Lesson…”
The hook: The artist formerly known as Lizzy Grant has certainly experienced her share of controversy, as EW’s own Nuzhat Naoreen pointed out earlier this week. Tonally, though, there is nothing controversial about choosing “Video Games” to complement Ringer‘s increasingly moody ambiance. With tinkling harps, building strings, and a pulsing drum beat building behind Del Rey’s Sia-esque vocals (“It’s better than I ever knew / they say that the world was built for two”), the song is an atmospheric counterpoint to Bridget’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) reconciliation with Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) on behalf of her twin Siobhan (also SMG), even as Siobhan discovers she’s pregnant with her lover’s baby.
Watch it! The CW hadn’t uploaded this week’s episode at time of press, but you can listen to “Video Games” here.
THE SING-OFF (NBC)
The song: “E.T.,” originally by Katy Perry
The episode: “Week 2”
The hook: Texas electropoppers Pentatonix brought new levels to Katy Perry’s alien love anthem from all sides. Whether it was their top-notch vocals or the freakishly accurate robotic noises provided by resident beatboxer Kevin Olusola. Even if you’re not a fan of the group’s hot pink and argyle aesthetic choices (it is The Sing-Off, after all), you’ve got to give them credit for bringing a complexity on par with (and some might argue superior to) Perry’s studio-heavy pop sound solely with their voical arrangement.