'Nashville' Forgoes the Whole "Soap Opera" Thing For a Live Music Episode and We Rejoice

Nashville, that show you love to hate, returns next week for an uninterrupted dash to this season's finish line. Some characters who had found peace will probably be doused in discord; others who have suffered all season will find some release. Rayna, of course, will continue to be the most dull leading character on a television show. Strong bet is on there being music.

This week we were treated to a different version of this show, one in which the soap operatics are ditched entirely in favor of an hour of songs and the backstories that accompany them. It was sort of great! Not every song was a winner, but the very concept — highlighting the singer-songwriters who provide Nashville its beating heart — is such a nice change of pace from a show that, we've established many times, has little idea what its actual strengths are and rarely if ever plays to them. Wednesday night was a show about music recognizing it's best when it sticks to the music.

Conspicuously absent? Connie Britton, aka Rayna, aka the star of the show. Why she wasn't there I don't know (maybe because she won't be appearing on the Nashville live tour?) but I'd be hard pressed to call this a crappy turn of events.

Anyway, Wednesday night featured seven delightful numbers, some of which we'd seen before, penned by Nashville musicians and performed by the stars of the show (minus Connie). Here are some highlights:

"I Ain't Leavin' Without Your Love"

ABC Music Lounge: Nashville on YouTube

It's got energy! Energy is good! And even though I'm pretty sure the show has already scrapped this trio in favor of whatever BS love pentagon it wants to conjure up for Gunnar/Scarlett/Avery/Zoe/Juliette, it would be great to hear them perform again. Nashville doesn't need to be filled exclusively with songs of unrequited love or general heartbreak; it could use some youthful optimism, too. More of this, please.

"Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet"

ABC Music Lounge: Nashville on YouTube

This was Juliette's "F.U." song she performed after being raked over the coals by that religious group, and it's arguably the best song of the season. Strong, confident, and fun — or more simply, what Nashville should be on a regular basis. As far as I'm concerned, this is the show's new anthem.

"Nothing in this World Will Ever Break My Heart Again"

ABC Music Lounge: Nashville on YouTube

Surprise! Another winning track from Juliette, who we've established is unequivocally the best part of Nashville. Slow, mournful, but — once again — confident. In the live show, Juliette was joined on stage by the song's two writers. They all sat on stools. I felt something.

Image: ABC