Musical comedies and dramas on TV have always been a fix for musical lovers who can’t make it to Broadway. And just like the solo performances that make the audience rise to their feet in applause at a live show, there are several solos performed by your favorite TV characters that call for tears and a standing ovation at home.
In looking at TV's top musical solo moments, we’ve judged the power of each performance by the music, lyrics, visuals and plot points. Without further ado, here are the best of TV’s musical solos that are guaranteed to shake your core.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: "Rebecca’s Reprise" performed by Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom)
You wouldn’t expect a musical number about getting a UTI or a rivalry between two JAPs (Jewish American Princesses) to be so entertaining, but The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend focuses in on obscure but relatable feelings and experiences. With that said, there aren’t many Rebecca Bunch solos that are core-shaking, but her reprise in the Season 2 finale is chilling. The song reprises favorites including “You Stupid Bitch,” “I Love My Daughter (But Not In a Creepy Way),” “We’ll Never Have Problems Again” and several others. The song is simple and short, yet draws a bigger picture about Rebecca’s perspective on love and how she can achieve happiness. It also foreshadows the shocking and revealing twist at the end of the episode that left viewers speechless.
Smash: “Don’t Forget Me” performed by Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee)
The rivalry between Karen and Ivy (Megan Hilty) over the part of Marilyn Monroe takes center stage for most of the show’s two short seasons, which gratefully gifts viewers with each character's rendition of the same song. Although most would prefer Ivy’s execution of “Don’t Forget Me” for her full vocals, the drama in Karen's version trumps all. As Karen takes the stage as Marilyn, Ivy feels defeated and contemplates suicide in the dressing room. Her longing look in the mirror as Karen reprises the lyric “let me be your star” depicts both Ivy's and Marilyn desperate desire to make it big. This performance is both breathtaking and pivotal to the plot, thanks to Karen’s gentle yet realistic depiction of Marilyn, and Ivy’s inner turmoil.
Glee: “If I Die Young” performed by Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera)
Santana delivers this heartbreaking performance in an episode titled "The Quarterback," a tribute to main character Finn Hudson, played by Corey Monteith, who passed away in 2013. In the episode, several characters perform solos in honor of Finn, including Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), who was Finn's girlfriend in the show and in real life. Of course Rachel's performance is noteworthy, but Santana's breakdown in the middle of the song relays the struggle of addressing death from a performer's perspective. While other characters fight through the tears, Santana isn't able to finish the song and refuses comfort from her friends. For a show that's centered around performers, this striking scene proves that sometimes the show can't go on.
Empire: "Good Enough" performed by Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett)
Jamal's voice and the complex relationships of the Lyon family are only a couple of the reasons why Empire is so addicting to watch. These elements together create an impactful and powerful performance that speaks to the show's musical genius, and to Jamal and Luscious' complicated relationship. Integrated with Jamal's performance on stage, a flashback to Jamal's childhood depicts Lucious' (Terrence Howard) feelings towards his son's sexuality: Jamal enters in a pair of women's red heels, which angers Lucious to the point where he picks up Jamal and puts him in the trash can outside to curb his homosexuality. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) rushes to his side to comfort him, confirming her unwavering love for Jamal. If for some reason you're on the fence about watching Empire, this compelling scene will convince you to binge the whole series right now.
The rumors about a Prince-themed episode are true!
This Is Us: "We Can Always Come Back to This" performed by Ricky (Brian Tyree Henry)
With each episode, viewers fell more in love with William (Ron Cephas Jones) for every surprise and unexpected trait. In the "Memphis" episode, his musical abilities shine with his composition of "We Can Always Come Back to This" performed by his cousin. The song has an incredible buildup and conveys Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) relationship with his father and the greater message of the show: You can always come back to your loved ones. If This Is Us hasn't made you cry yet, this song and the bursting energy between William's band and the crowd will most certainly turn on the waterworks.