It's easy to see why the music programmers at Grey's Anatomy have featured Ingrid Michaelson four times on the hit series. The Staten Island, New York native, who was discovered on MySpace by a music-licensing agent, writes soaring pop tunes often based on her romances and the self-reflection they inspire; she chooses her words with playful wit and a flair for the visual and sings them in a clear, bright voice that makes her seem utterly sure of herself — no matter how mixed her emotions. For the unlucky-in-love doctors of County General Hospital, Michaelson is just the tonic — even if, at times, she is strange medicine.
The world has no shortage of competent singer-songwriters, but Michaelson's songs have a rare double-edge. At one point on Girls & Boys, her excellent self-released debut album, she's so appreciative of her boyfriend that she promises she'd buy him Rogaine if he needed it (“The Way I Am,” which was featured in an Old Navy commercial in 2007). It's a funny line, but it's also a little like hugging someone and then punching them in the gut. In the piquant “Overboard,” she sees love in a man's eyes and wonders if she should throw herself overboard so he can catch her — a sentiment that suggests she's still wondering how to be both self-sufficient and vulnerable. In “The Hat,” Michaelson recalls the cap she knitted for a boyfriend who kindly wore it even though it was too small for him. He was her first love, and she feels she should have told him. She also feels like nothing would suit these sentiments more than handclaps, strummy guitars and cascading vocals. In Michaelson's world, as in the world at large, nothing is just one thing — so why not allow the ecstatic and the rueful to coexist for a few finger-snapping minutes?