Promos for the ABC hit drama Nashville would have you think it’s about some petty squabble between an aging country queen and a manipulative up-and-comer, played by Connie Britton and Hayden Panetierre respectively. But the show speaks to something much greater. At the heart of it all, there is a musical feud. Now, popular shows that have taken the musical route (i.e.Glee and to a lesser extent NBC’s Smash) would have you believe that they’re about music, but realistically, Glee transforms Top 40 hits into auto-tuned shells of their original source material and, well, Smash is still in its infancy and trying to figure out whether it wants to brave the unforgiving world of original musical material or play it safe with covers of pop music. To put it plainly, both network shows add very little to the world of music, besides trite renditions of already mediocre music. Smash has proven to be at its best with its own musical within the show, but until it sheds its training wheels and stops doing covers of Florence + the Machine and Colbie Caillat, it’s hard to imagine the show maturing.
Nashville, besides being a different caliber of show, has proven itself in a matter of mere episodes. Beneath the sleek veneer of Nashville’s country scene lies a battle much bigger than the show’s two female leads. In essence, Nashville is the squaring off between “old country” and “new country.” “Old country,” for the sake of this piece is more grounded in an acoustic, stripped-down vibe with lyrics about love lost and the regrets of a lifetime. “New country” is a much more positive sound. It prides itself on bringing a pop sensibility to what was originally a more melancholy sound. At the center of the show is an ideological battle between the two genres: old country trying to remain solvent, while new country is working to gain legitimacy in the world of music. After all, Nashville buries this meaning just beneath the surface with Rayna’s money troubles and Juliette’s increasing frustration over her musical career.
Truth be told, this is a dangerous route for a freshman show to take. Country has a rabid fan base and to insult one or the other may alienate fans. Luckily, Nashville found itself a solution. Their names are Lennon and Maisy Stella. Viewers may recognize them as Rayna’s two daughters, but for the internet savvy, the two young girls will always be Lennon and Maisy. For those who are unaware, the sister duo first received recognition for their YouTube videos of them performing covers of popular music, such as Robyn, Jason Mraz, and Ingrid Michaelson. Fans of the show should not be surprised that the two rose to such prominence. Their talent took center stage in the third episode of Nashville when the two performed an acoustic cover of Juliette Barnes’s pop country single, “Telescope.” However, more than an opportunity to show off the young girls’ vocal talents it provides a crucial cross-over for the show.
Suddenly, the lines between old country and new country are blurred. The poppy hooks of new country have been slowed down to match the old country style of playing. The melancholy woes of a life misled are traded for the optimism of new love. It truly represents what both musical worlds have to offer. Factor in the stars of this particular rendition (Lennon and Maisy Stella) are products of new media, the cross-over is that much more remarkable. In what could easily be written off as an inconsequential scene, Rayna’s children may have found the solution to the writer’s problem of who will win out in the series.