Megan Hilty

It Happens All the Time

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When It Happens All the Time was released, Megan Hilty was best known for her show-stopping turns in Broadway productions including Wicked and 9 to 5: The Musical, as well as her role as Ivy Lynn on NBC's musical-within-a-musical TV series Smash. However, the songs she chose for her debut album weren't show tunes or standards; they were contemporary pop with a capital P: a glance at the liner notes reveals songwriting credits for Ne-Yo, Carrie Underwood, and Glen Ballard. Her desire to bring something unexpected and perhaps more personal to It Happens All the Time is admirable, but Hilty's approach to these songs is too reverent and stripped of her best work's vibrancy and nuance. It doesn't help that the production and arrangements tend toward pop's milder side, draining more daring choices like Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" and Taylor Swift's "Safe and Sound" of much of their rawness. It Happens All the Time succeeds with lighter fare such as the airy "Hopin'," the Ne-Yo and Underwood-penned "Walk Away," and the single "No Cure," which is one of the best examples of when this album gets the balance of intimacy and polish right. "Wise Up" is another highlight, with Aimee Mann's subtle songwriting allowing Hilty to deliver one of the album's most sophisticated vocal performances. Of course, she never sounds outright bad -- "Dare You to Move" and "Be a Man" showcase her powerhouse vocals particularly well -- but a lot of the album ends up underscoring that conveying the sentiments of a pop song isn't the same thing as portraying a character in a show tune (even if it's a particularly heartfelt one). As always, Hilty is a dynamic performer with a beautiful voice, but It Happens All the Time is often so sanitized that a livelier set of more traditional songs might have made for a better debut.

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