As my second-favorite new show comes to an end in the next two weeks (sorry, but The Good Wife occupies the top rung), I thought paying tribute to the first season of the cultural phenomenon Glee. Through a series of four posts, I'll discuss my favorite performances from the cast in four categories: favorite guest performances, favorite solos, favorite group performances, and today's entry, best duets.
Glee amazes me with its ability to elevate songs to a different level simply because of how it's staged and performed. The greatest example of this, for me, is "Dream On" from two weeks ago, performed by Matthew Morrison and Neil Patrick Harris. Done as a showdown song, with the two Broadway veterans attempting to out scream each other on that legendary final Steven Tyler note, it hit a new level of awesome that seems to only be reachable in Glee World.
But you won't find that performance on this list. (I wouldn't be reaching to say you'll see it on the guest performances list, though...) What follows are my favorite duets from this season.
(NOTE: While I won't count Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel, or Olivia Newton-John's duets in this category, I will count Kristin Chenoweth and Jonathan Groff simply because their characters are much more intertwined into the storyline of the show. Also: Chenoweth accounts for three of the best duets. Sue me.)
"Defying Gravity" - Lea Michele & Chris Colfer
While not truly a duet, it was recorded as one, and a damn good one too. There's always been a lot of debate about whether Michele's technically perfect portion was better or worse than Colfer's impassioned performance, but I'm just fine enjoying both on this track, thanks.
"4 Minutes" - Chris Colfer & Amber Riley
Madonna's most recent hit is, let's be honest, an awful song. It sounded like a desperate woman trying to get her youth back. So you'd figure this duet would be similarly desperate. Hardly, actually: it's Colfer's best performance on the show, and Riley absolutely tears it up!
"Maybe This Time" - Kristin Chenoweth & Lea Michele
There aren't words in the human language to describe Chenoweth's performance here. Michele holds her own, sure, but Chenoweth rips this song to shreds. If it were a solo, it would be in my top three. Unfortunately, the mixing between the two singers isn't great, so it falls short of my top three duets. It's still a powerhouse vocal, though.
"Hello" - Lea Michele & Jonathan Groff
I at first thought this nothing but a pale imitation of another duet on the show (that just happens to be my No. 1 duet...), but when I bought the most recent soundtrack, I learned to love this Lionel Richie duet. It works great, and the second chorus in particular is ridiculously good. It literally just missed the top three.
The Top Three
3. "The Boy is Mine" - Amber Riley & Naya Rivera
Brandy and Monica couldn't have done it better. Rivera is quickly becoming one of the strongest vocalists on the show, and I'm sure next season when she and Heather Morris (dimwitted Brittany) get promoted to series regulars, she'll get even more moments to shine. This duet was brilliantly done, with Riley showing off exactly why everyone loves her: her powerhouse voice just can't be denied.
2. "One Less Bell to Answer / A House is Not a Home" - Kristin Chenoweth & Matthew Morrison
One of the show's signature mashups, these Burt Bacharach tunes first put together by Barbra Streisand are the perfect match for Chenoweth and Morrison. So much of it is beautifully sung, but for me, it's the interlude of "House" that Chenoweth nails and the final slow burn note that hits an amazingly high pitch that really make the song one of Glee's best.
1. "Endless Love" - Lea Michele & Matthew Morrison
Yeah, the whole thing has unfortunate implications. And it's a cheesy song, sure. But damn if Michele and Morrison don't absolutely tear it apart. It's better than any other version of this song ever, and it's a testament to this show and the singers that it holds up incredibly well on repeat listenings. Truly a masterpiece.