Megan Hilty’s Album: SO Much Better Than ‘Smash’ (LISTEN)

Megan Hilty, unexpected pop star

Megan Hilty, unexpected pop star

Smash is an exploding train wreck of a show, and I can’t even take it. But for all its flaws, it has at least made Megan Hilty a bigger star. Her performance is always interesting, even when the material is crazy, and she delivers the most consistent vocals of anyone in the cast.  And now she’s transitioned that fame into the release of her first album, It Happens All the Time, which just came out yesterday.

And you guys? It’s really good, Like Cheyenne Jackson, she has made a pop record that actually sounds like a pop record. She’s obviously capable of brightly articulated, roof shaking musical theatre singing, but on her album, she gets smoky and bluesy. The title song, for instance, has a convincingly sleepy sexiness, and her cover of Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter” is devastating.

What makes all these songs work, for me, is how restrained they are. Instead of just belting the house down, she finds the power in nuance and sophistication.

And listen to “No Cure,” the first single. You could play this “I may never get over you” anthem after a Lumineers song or an Alabama Shakes hit. It’s got a touch of 70s lite rock, a touch of alt-folk, and this addictive guitar lick that keeps coming back over and over to keep you swaying in your seat.

Color me surprised, y’all. I’ve enjoyed her on stage many times, but I wasn’t expecting Megan Hilty to release a fantastic pop album. But here we are.

Mark Blankenship has written about pop music for The New York Times and NPR. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.