Personnel: Andy Zulla (guitar, keyboards, drums); Clint Bierman, Ben Butler (guitar); John Dexter (cello); Joe Deveau (piano, keyboards); Marvin Laird, Joseph Joubert (piano); Shelton Becton (Hammond b-3 organ); Larry Lelli, Steve Ferrera, John Clancy, Lee Levin (drums); Kari Kimmel, Toby Lightman (background vocals).
Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY; Downtown Studios; Sound Decision, Austin, TX.
NBC's musical-within-a-musical TV series Smash was often called "Glee for grown-ups," and while the comparison rang true in many ways, Smash made a name for itself with mostly original songs instead of borderline-kitschy versions of established hits. Having the cast members perform songs about their lives outside of Bombshell, the Marilyn Monroe musical that they're trying to get off the ground -- as well as songs from that show -- means double the opportunity for different kinds of songs. The songs about the cast, which largely focus on the hopes and dreams of rival Marilyn wannabes Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty), have a contemporary feel that ranges from earnest, Rent-like songs such as "Stand" and "Who You Are" to the Lady Gaga-esque dance-pop of "Touch Me" and Top 40 fodder "Brighter Than the Sun." This radio-friendly feel isn't a surprise, considering that Smash hired a slew of hitmakers like Ryan Tedder and Carrie Underwood to pen these songs. However, one of the standout moments is McPhee's version of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," which has become something of a modern standard. Bombshell's songs, which were written by Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer Marc Shaiman, allow the cast to have some fun and explore their own dreams as well as Marilyn's. "Let Me Be Your Star" swoons and soars like a Disney princess theme song, while a Chicago-style brassiness dominates "The 20th Century Fox Mambo" and "Let's Be Bad," both of which sound the most like genuine show tunes. ~ Heather Phares