New Year’s Eve is a time for
getting so wasted that you forget your own name reflection. As 2010 comes to a close, many of us will undoubtedly spend time crying into our tenth glass of champagne making out with that dude in the corner with the tongue ring looking back on the past year, and seeing how it “measures up” to previous years. And I’ll be the first one to admit that all the gut checking and personal evaluation that we tend to do during these last few days of the year . . . well . . . it kind of sucks.
But you know what doesn’t suck . . . evaluating TV shows, instead!
If you read entertainment magazines at all, or just spend time talking to TV viewers, you probably already know that Glee, while still a ratings darling, in every sense of the word, has, for many, fallen short of the high expectations it created for itself, during its spectacular premiere season. (That vastly overused term “Sophomore Slump” has even been bandied about.) And while I agree with a lot of the criticisms that have recently been lodged against the show, I still think that Glee gave us fans a lot to love this year . . .
But I’m going to talk about the musical performances, instead.
What follows are (in no particular order) my picks for the Top Ten Musical Moments from the first half of Glee’s second season:
(1) “One Love” – Puck Puckerman and Artie Abrams (originally sung by Bob Marley)
One of my biggest complaints about the second season of Glee had to do with its CRIMINAL underuse of my FAVORITE character on the show, Mark Salling’s Bad Ass Bully with a Heart of Gold, Puck. Yes, I do realize that Mark Salling was absent from the show for a few episodes, while he was promoting his own album. But would it have KILLED the writers to throw the poor guy a bone or two, in the storyline department? Wasn’t it bad enough they took his girlfriend, Quinn, away, and inexplicably paired her with that Macauley Culkin-look alike?
But I digress. Puck’s single solo of the season thus far, came in the form of a mellow Bob Marley cover, sung while strumming on an acoustic guitar, during lunchtime, at McKinley High. At first blush, one would think that Salling’s Puck and Kevin McHale’s Artie would be an odd choice to sing this particular duet. Yet, Puck’s rebel mystique and crushed velvet voice complimented Kevin McHale’s Artie’s Elvis Costello-esque geek chic mystique surprisingly well. See for yourself!
You see? A little Puck can go a LONG way in making this blogger happy!
(2) “Forget You” – Holly Holiday (originally sung by Cee Lo)
Initially, when I read that (1) the often stodgy-seeming Gwyneth Paltrow would be guest starring on Glee, to promote her star turn in the upcoming music-heavy film, Courtry Strong; and (2) she would be performing a neutered version of Cee Lo’s “F*&k You,” (a song who’s success is largely based on its ingenious pairing of an innocent Motown backbeat with highly explicit lyrics) I was extremely skeptical. Yet, when the actual episode aired, I was surprised by the inherent likeability and youthful energy Paltrow put into the Holiday character. And “Forget You,” while admittedly no where near as awesome as the original “F*&k You,” was fun and compulsively watchable in its own unique way. After all, Cee Lo’s version of the song doesn’t feature Heather Morris’ Brittany doing “The Robot,” in time with the music!
Check it out!
(3) “Sweet Transvestite” – Mercedes Jones (originally sung by Tim Curry)
Speaking of neutered versions of racy songs that surprisingly didn’t suck on Glee . . . many Rocky Horror Picture Show fans were initially up in arms, upon hearing that Glee writers chose a FEMALE to play the iconic Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a role made famous by actor, Tim Curry, in the original film, thirty-five years earlier) in their incarnation of the cult-classic musical. And yet, while the bizarre way the show’s writers chose to censor this song boggles my mind (She couldn’t say “transsexual?” But “transvestite” was OK?), as Mercedes, Amber Riley put a clever twist on the well-loved song, giving it a spunky feminine naughtiness that was entirely her own . . .
(4) “Teenage Dream” – Blaine and the Warblers (originally sung by Katy Perry)
Going along with my “if you want to change the entire meaning of a song, simply change the sex of the singer” theme, I was super impressed by Darren Criss’ Blaine and his Dalton Academy Warbler’s rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” in Glee‘s sixth episode, entitled “Never Been Kissed.” While the original song is poppy, syrupy sweet, and generally “girlicious,” this Glee version is old-school snappy (something you could picture Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr. singing), thought-provoking, and, yes, VERY, VERY GAY.
(Then again, that last characteristic may have more to do with the Warblers – in their Harry Potter Gryffindor robes, singing about “skintight jeans,” and dancing like Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air – than with the song itself.)
(5) “Just the Way You Are” – Finn Hudson (originally sung by Bruno Mars)
In the eighth episode of Glee‘s second season, entitled “Furt,” Kurt’s dad, Burt, and Finn’s mom, Carol, got married amongst
the entire cast of Glee and some underpaid extras family and friends. During the reception, in a sweet and highly emotional moment, Finn, who, up to this point had always been kind of a homophobe, embraced (both literally and metaphorically) his new homosexual stepbrother, Kurt, by dedicating the above-referenced Bruno Mars song to him. The result was a poignant and uplifting musical extravaganza that you can witness in its entirety here.
(6) “Me Against the Music” – Brittany S. Pearce and Santana Lopez (originally sung by Britney Spears and Madonna)
In contrast to the previously listed songs on this countdown – most of which were selected for their unique interpretations of popular music – this musical number was selected due to the obvious appreciation that its creators have for the original version. When it originally aired, the Britney Spears’ themed “Brittany/Britney” episode of Glee was much maligned for its almost complete lack of a cohesive storyline, and its synthetic (and at times just plain weird) Extended Music Video on Acid (or, perhaps more appropriately, Laughing Gas) quality.
And yet, it was this episode that was responsible for finally displaying to Glee fans the long hidden talents of Heather Morris. Who knew the daffy and childlike Brittany had such hot moves, or such a sweet, pop song-friendly voice? The performance (which was part of a dream sequence, shared by both Brittany, herself, and Naya Rivera’s Santana) is an almost frame-by -rame recreation of the original “Me Against the Music” video, performed by Britney Spears and Madonna. In this incarnation, Brittany gives a surprising amount of grace and class to the role of pop tart, Spears, while Santana expertly embodies the older, more sophisticated, Madonna.
(7) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Kurt Hummel and Blaine (originally sung by Everybody and Their Mother)
I’m not usually a fan of Christmas music. But even I have to admit that Chris Colfer’s Kurt and Darren Criss’ Blaine did a bang-up job of breathing fresh new life into a VERY OVERPLAYED holiday anthem. Not only does the song look and sound different, because it is being sung by two men (as opposed to a male and a female), it also features an oddly ironic and humorous tone, thanks to Colfer’s and Criss’ playful intonations and liberal use of self-aware facial mugging.
Kurt and Blaine are sweet with one another, and have an obvious romantic chemistry. And yet, they aren’t taking themselves or the song too seriously, which I, as a Holiday Song Cynic, found extremely refreshing. Filmed in the living room-like confines of Dalton Academy’ s study lounge (complete with working fireplace and Yulelog), the mood of the performance is as casual and comforting as its two likeable leads.
(8 ) “Stop in the Name of Love / Free Your Mind” Mashup – The Glee Boys (originally sung by The Supremes – “Stop in the Name of Love” and En Vogue “Free Your Mind”)
Glee‘s mashups tend to be either hit or miss with me. And, lately, I think the show has started to go a bit overboard with its seemingly compulsive need to throw ANY two completely unrelated songs together just because the producers think it might “sound cool.” But, for me, this particular mashup REALLY WORKED.
Who would have thought that a 60′s squeaky clean pop tune like “Stop in the Name of Love” would complement En Vogues’ Angry Anthem for Racial and Sexual Tolerance so well? The fact that the song is performed as a tribute to one of my new favorite Glee characters, Coach Shannon Beiste . . .
. . . and features the typically ripped t-shirt and leater-clad Puck in a POWDER BLUE SUIT, only adds to its charm!
(9) “Telephone” – Rachel Berry and Sunshine Corazon (originally sung by Beyonce and Lady Gaga)
When Fox started promoting Glee’s Second Season, much press was given to the recent addition of Internet sensation and Filipino pop star Charice to the cast. The actress had her primetime debut in the first episode of the Second Season. She played Sunshine Corazon, a 9th grade foreign exchange student with an innocent charming demeanor and a powerful singing voice.
The Sunshine character was featured in not one, but TWO songs during that episode, which was entitled “Audition.” During those two performances, she quickly proved herself to be everything she was hyped up to be, and then some. Then, inexplicably, the character TRANSFERRED SCHOOLS! She hasn’t been seen or heard from since! Talk about a TEASE!
“You mean to tell me that I flew halfway across the world for under TWENTY MINUTES of screen time? WTF?”
Fox’s bait-and-switch tactics notwithstanding, Charice’s Sunshine Corazon, along with Lea Michele’s Rachel Berry, starred in what was, in my opinion, one of the most fun and creative musical performances of the first half of the second season. I strongly suspect that when Beyonce and Lady Gaga wrote and performed the music video for “Telephone” they never envisioned that one of the most popular covers of the song would be filmed in a high school bathroom!
“Whatchu talkin’ about, Glee?”
In terms of the song, Lea Michele’s voice complements Charice’s perfectly, as if the two were born to sing together. But the performance actually made this list for two definitively non-musical reasons: (1) the clever way in which Sunshine’s bubbly cuteness is used to highlight Rachel Berry’s b*tchface, and increasingly grating diva dramatics; and (2) the AWESOME ending of the video, where Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester tells the girls to “SHUT UP!” (You see, while I’m at home, watching Glee on my couch, I tell Rachel Berry to “SHUT UP” at least once, during just about every single episode of Glee! In that moment, I felt like Sue Sylvester read my mind.)
Either Rachel Berry is really angry at me right now, for making the above comment, or she is just extremely constipated.
In case you are interested in checking out Sunshine Corazon’s also fabulous performance of “Listen” (from the musical Dreamgirls ), which was also featured in this episode, you can find it here.
10) “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” – Kurt Hummel (originally sung by The Beatles)
In an episode entitled “Grilled Cheesus” — which was arguably the most controversial hour in the Glee’s short history – Kurt’s father Burt suffers a heart attack, and falls into a coma. Burt’s hospitalization calls to the forefront the Glee kids widely varying feelings about God and religion. Kurt himself just so happens to be an atheist, a fact that deeply troubles some of the more religious characters on the show, who wish to provide him comfort and solace in the only way they know how, through prayer.
In a Five-Hanky Speech, toward the end of the episode, Kurt explains to his classmates that, while he doesn’t believe in God, he does believe in his father, and the strength of their extremely close relationship. For him, this worldly relationship surpasses any sort of spiritual one. Kurt then breaks into a sorrowful rendition of The Beatles, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
As Kurt sings, the performance is intercut with fond memories Kurt has of his father and his childhood. During those scenes, Young Kurt is played by a 13-year old actor named Adam Kolkin. The two actors look so much alike, it’s truly shocking that they are not related. (Way to GO, Casting Directors! You get a cookie! :))
The cumulative impact of Kurt’s speech, his musical performance, and those heart-wrenching flashback scenes was something that stayed with me, long after the final credits rolled on this episode.
So, there you have it, my Top Ten Musical Moments from the first half of Glee‘s Second Season. Did I miss any of your favorites?