POP CULTURE REVIEW
“Anatomy” of the Fray
By Jessica Miles
We’ve all seen those romantic comedies where boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl sees boy as just a friend, and girl later realizes through a series of quirky events that she really does love the boy. And then there is the famous scene: boy is walking through the airport after returning from a business trip feeling hopeless and rejected. The beat of the background music kicks in; a slow drum beat that eagerly picks up as the crowded terminal parts and there she is, waiting for him from across the way. They run toward each other in slow motion and the music consumes the scene.
This way of using music in movies and television can be quite effective. The latest radio hits are constantly featured on primetime shows and this creates buzz among fans. Such attention has also acted as the “big break” for several artists and bands, as fans dash to iTunes to download the featured song.
Often these songs are much more than simply background, especially on television. They can play an intricate role in a show, setting an explicit tone and helping to guide the characters through each scene. Some series are very successful in bringing the music and the storyline together. Grey’s Anatomy, a series about the lives of five surgical interns and their superiors, is one such show that has been praised for its attention to detail regarding music.
Music is not just incidental to Grey’s Anatomy. In an article in Variety.com from 2009, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes commented that the music is very important to the show and is a vital piece in the evolution of its stories. She noted, in fact, that music has been an essential aspect of Grey’s Anatomy since the pilot episode, igniting the emotions of the characters and the audience.
The decision by Grey’s Anatomy producers to prominently feature the Fray’s song “How to Save a Life” is one strong example of this. The song sets the mood for the series’ viewers as they intently follow the characters and plot.
“How to Save a Life” also has fundamental connections to elements of the show’s narrative. It especially relates to the story of the Meredith Grey character in the show. The song’s lyrics are reflected in the downhearted storylines in which Meredith (played by Ellen Pompeo) faces several major conflicts, including her unstable relationship with her mother, abandonment by her father, and the ending of her relationship with Derek (played by Patrick Dempsey).
This connection is not surprising. In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, the Fray’s lead singer, Isaac Slade, said that the narrative behind “How to Save a Life” is a tribute to a teen he mentored through a drug addiction and how there are no guarantees in such a struggle. This intricate combination of themes such as hope, risk, and cynicism, parallels the successes and failures of the interns on Grey’s Anatomy.
As important as the music may be for a series, the decision by Grey’s Anatomy producers to notably feature the Fray’s music has helped fuel the band’s success. They have risen to fame in tandem with the rising success of the series. The Denver-based band is now recognized internationally for sincere lyrics and infectious melodies in songs such as “Over My Head” and “You Found Me.”
The Fray came from humble beginnings, however. Before their current success they were like countless other undiscovered musicians. Vocalist Isaac Slade, drummer Ben Wysocki, and guitarists Joe King and Dave Welsh sent their songs to local radio stations, hoping for a break. That finally came in 2004 on a Sunday night radio show featuring artists in the Denver area. “Over My Head” became a hit in the Denver music scene, and fans began flocking to their shows.
Then came exposure on Grey’s Anatomy. When the Fray’s song “How to Save a Life” became a staple on the hit show, it gave their career an additional boost. They have been in fast forward ever since.
The Fray will likely continue to have a presence on television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy. Meanwhile, the band has been busy making new music and is traveling throughout the country on a U.S. concert tour to promote their latest album, simply titled, “The Fray.”
Jessica Miles is a Bread and Circus Magazine contributing writer.
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