After watching Nashville Episode 4.05 ‘Stop the World (And Let Me Off) I had lots of thoughts that could have led to a full review. But the more I thought about this Nashville episode the more I became convinced that for me there was one particular moment on the episode I love the most and deserved more than one paragraph – the moment in which Rayna Jaymes and Layla Grant co-wrote and sang ‘You Can’t Stop a Heart’.
Therefore this is NOT really a Nashville episode review but thoughts about that particular moment, the characters involved and its context in the episode.
First: Listen to the song:
1. You Can’t Stop Her Heart
Layla is very young and very smart and that’s a confusing combination. On the one hand, she knows in her mind what is right for her but on the other she’s experiencing for the first time so her heart and her mind don’t talk together too well. In her mind she knows being with Jeff turns her to just another young woman who fell in love with an older man who also have a say on her career, but in her heart she loves him.
Aubrey Peeples, that deserves much more credit for her work, is wonderful in portraying this character and it’s especially notable because she too is very smart and very young so even though she isn’t Layla, exposing the vulnerability that comes from that stage in life when you’re in it in some ways (and not always in a flattering way) is not easy.
Layla doesn’t want to be a cliché and everything she did from the moment she stepped in Nashville was trying to prove she’s better and different than the way people perceive her. She rejected so many good advises and probably her own gut instincts and got hurt again and again.
But the truth is we are all clichés in our own ways. All the stories have been already told and there’s nothing new under the sun. What makes us special and unique is the way we feel and look at those clichés – it’s our interpretation.
What Rayna did to Layla in that session was drive her to create her own interpretation for what she’s going through and do it freely, without any judgement and most importantly – without the secrets we tend to tell ourselves when we’re worried about what others might think and want to leave a good impression (whatever that means).
Layla told the truth to herself and then to Rayna. She admitted she’s just like everyone else but that it’s very real and she’s completely in.
The song she sang was so intimate and exposed that even we, who are like the voices in Layla’s head that tells her she’s really just a cliché, were moved by the story we supposedly heard a million times before or even experienced ourselves. It happened because it was sang so beautifully, because it was so honest and because there was nothing intellectual about it – it was all heart!
Those big smiles Layla gave to Rayna throughout the song were the smiles of relief from a woman that lets her guards down and share her secret and of an artist that found a way to turn the ordinary into an extraordinary by owning up to her truth and making a common experience, her own.
2. Taking back the power
The other side of this beautiful Nashville scene was Rayna Jaymes. It’s been a long while since we saw Rayna writing music. This moment reminded me Rayna is really an artist first and made me crave for more of that because if anyone on Nashville has truth to share with the world in a distinct authentic voice its Rayna.
What Rayna did with Layla was similar to what she tried to do with Scarlett back at Nashville season 2 and that’s give them back their power. Rayna‘s very much aware of the delicate stage Layla and Scarlett are in their lives in general and their careers in particular and did her best to give them what they really need even if they don’t know it – time and space to develop their own voice (and backbone).
That’s why Rayna fired Liam and that’s why she resent Layla and Jeff’s relationship – because these are unequal relationship where one side takes ownership on the other’s talent.
Rayna knows what she’s talking about. All it takes is one look at the photos of her and Deacon around her music room to understand it. She knows what it means to be attracted to something dangerous and probably what it feels like when you think you can’t be/create without a specific person.
But Rayna is already a grown woman who knows who she is and that there are better collaborations for her than others but the control over her career and her talent is hers and hers alone! That’s why even when she said to Deacon in season 1 that there will be no Rayna Jaymes without Deacon Claybourne, she didn’t do it from a desperate or dependent place but from a place of love and generosity.
It was beautiful to watch how Rayna in Connie Britton’s nuanced performance push Layla gently but firmly to the point where there was no other choice but to ask hard questions.
She did it without humiliating Layla or dismissing her feelings but simply by showing her another way – a way in which instead of ruining her life to please someone else she can turn what she has into art.
How the world would be different if when women start their careers they’ll meet more Raynas than Jeffs and Liams.
When Music Tells the truth
There was so much drama during this Nashville episode. So much has happened and it seemed that even the music was part of it.
Maddie and Juliette’s duet ‘Telescope’ was the catalyst for Maddie’s decision to take her relationship with Colt to the next step and also a painful reminder for the severity of Juliette’s condition since that song, which we heard for the first time at the beginning of season 1, symbolizes more than anything the public persona named “Juliette Barnes” she tried to hard to fight against and escape but now hang on to it like a drowning man because that’s all she has left.
Luke’s song ‘Spinning Revolver’ was a turning point for Will Lexington, who wrote it. Will was always a great performer and knew how to deliver and “sell a song” but there was something missing since he was too scared of exposing his true self.
But now, when he finally came out, can be himself on stage and reach new heights, he has to watch Luke Wheeler doing what Will used to do – sell a song without truly connecting to it. When Will watched him he knew he can do a better job. For him just writing songs is not good enough especially since his strength was always his performance and not his songwriting skills. Now he just needs to find a way to do it.
And then there were Rayna and Layla with ‘Can’t Stop A Heart’. With them there wasn’t any dichotomy between what went “on stage’ and backstage. It was a quite intimate moment of beauty, truth and real partnership, where music didn’t hide or covered up anything but instead revealed so much. It’s the kind of moments Nashville knows how to do so well (and we wish would do more) that reminds us that in the end, all that matters are these three chords, the truth and someone who truly listen and see you.