Even if you don't watch Smash or have any interest in musicals, Megan Hilty's music is worth checking out. Hilty is a premiere vocalist who sings with the kind of nuance that allows her to deftly jump genres and deliver performances that range from playful to strident.
Smash's tendency to straddle both the pop music world and Broadway works in part because of Hilty's ability to flourish in both contexts. This year's Bombshell soundtrack (which features music from the fictional Broadway show that is the center of Smash's plot) is a surprisingly enjoyable mixture of old Hollywood pastiche, 42nd Street showiness, and pop-balladry. The best entries on the album feature Hilty's rich and charismatic presence. She particularly excels with love-songs, like the charming duet, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," which finds her reaching for subtlety over flash. However, Hilty is a belter, and nothing is more fun than listening to her tear through a song, as does on the cheeky and catchy, "History is Made at Night;" the song works because she can balance coy moments with vibrato-drenched lustful waling.
The singer's solo record, It Happens All the Time, has more mixed results, but its shortcomings have little to do with Hilty. Her debut's production favors adult-contemporary-style arrangements that do not always compliment her varied and textured delivery, but her vocals are consistently warm and compelling. When the production successfully rises to the quality of her performance (or simply gets out of her way), you get a gem like the lovelorn, "Be a Man." During the track's verses, Hilty sides on restraint, but she delivers open-throated choruses that play with blues and soul elements. She sounds both strong and broken, making the song what will likely be one of the most emotionally rich but unnoticed ballads released this year.
While it would be grand to say Hilty's debut or the Bombshell soundtrack are some of the better records out in 2013, the singer does deliver beautiful performances on both. As a solo artist, she could use a producer who might help her find more adventurous or nuanced settings for her voice. Nonetheless, she is a rewarding performer--certainly the best person singing on television right now.