Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gleeful Part Four: Mob Mentality

The conclusion of my Gleeful series comes with the big final category: group numbers. If you've watched just one episode of Glee, even just the back half of one, you know how each episode ends: with a big song to tell us all what we've learned. If that sounds biting, it's not meant to be: group numbers are commonly known as the best the show has to offer. We all love the solos, the duets, even some of the guest performances, but the group numbers are Glee's life's blood.

Not to say each one is good (God, "One" really was awful, wasn't it?), but when they're good, they're phenomenal. But beyond each group performance is a truly standout performer, and as an added bonus, I'll select my standout performer on each of the following ten tracks. (Sometimes they're more obvious than others.)

Honorable Mentions

"Gives You Hell" - Originally by the All-American Rejects
Rachel's kiss-off to Finn using the first syllable of the week's theme, "Hello," starts off at too high a pitch, but when the group comes in, it becomes a rollicking, fun number that calls to mind the original without sounding too familiar. It's a realistic number for a high school glee club to perform on the spot. Points for that. Standout performer: Lea Michele (though those first few notes are a little painful).

"Run Joey Run" - Originally by David Geddes
Who didn't have the echoing chorus of "Run, Joey, run, Joey, run" rattling around their heads for hours after this performance? It's one of the worst songs ever, and Rachel rehabs its reputation, showing us that anything once thought bad can be made good again. Also: that video is priceless. Standout performer: Mark Salling, for setting up the story and hilariously overacting in the video.

"Like A Virgin" - Originally by Madonna
The Madonna episode does not sit well with me upon further reflection. But nothing could kill my love for the clever spin on this risqué Madonna standard. It's sung in three parts by three different couples, and the staging was amazing. Though it was all a dream sequence, it still remains memorable. Standout performer: Naya Rivera, who gets her first solo lines and uses her siren-esque tone to entrance listeners.

"My Life Would Suck Without You" - Originally by Kelly Clarkson
Okay, it can skew a little Kidz Boppy. But don't tell me you don't remember that mash-up of dance sequences. Don't tell me it wasn't in your head for the next few days as you lamented the coming months without Glee. And don't tell me it wasn't a perfect final performance. I just wish they'd done it in competition over that horrifyingly cliché Rolling Stones number. Standout performer: Michele, though she couldn't outsing Clarkson (but who can?).

"It's My Life / Confessions, Pt. II" - Originally by Bon Jovi / Usher
The original mash-up, the boys' Bon Jovi / Usher mix was considered a tie to the girls' Katrina and the Waves / Beyoncé combination, but truly, the boys ran away with it. A perfect blend of "live in the moment" and "the consequences of living," it was a perfect song for the boys' vocal strengths, and remains memorable for starting the mash-up trend. Standout performer: Kevin McHale, showing how his voice can be great.

The Top Five

5. "Imagine" - Originally by John Lennon
Okay, the song alone would have made it to the top three. It was the horrendous "let's improve the deaf kids' song" attitude that the performance had that really ruined this. The song itself was beautifully performed, a standout from what is still Glee's weakest episode to date. Standout performer: Amber Riley, restraining herself wonderfully.

4. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - Originally by Bonnie Tyler
Tyler's one and only big hit has an amazing redemptive quality. Be it through performances on American Idol or literal videos surfacing on YouTube (haven't seen it yet? GO), the song, once considered a bit of a joke power ballad, finds a way of always being contemporary. This version is no different. What a fresh take on a somewhat musty song. Standout performer: Michele, because we truly believe that every now and then she falls apart.

3. "Bad Romance" - Originally by, duh, Lady Gaga
SO. MUCH. FUN. Elaborately costumed and staged, with the solos spread well between the women (and, er, Kurt), it was also welcome that Rachel didn't get a solo: more room for the superb Riley, Agron, and especially my standout performer: Rivera! She nails the French lyrics, and she sings the last portion of the song better than even Gaga does.

2. "Don't Stop Believin'" - Originally by Journey
Blasphemy! Sure, this is where Glee got its start, and it is truly an amazing performance. It's fun, joyous, and, well, Gleeful. But it's still not their best. They came so close to perfection so early, but there was one performance that topped it... (Standout performer: Michele, already!)

1. "Somebody to Love" - Originally by Queen
The solos were spread. The bombast was fully present. The harmonies were glorious. And the show hit its stride. I still wish we could have seen their reprise at Sectionals, because this song has never been done better, not even by the original band. This song is what Glee is all about, and for her powerhouse ending, the standout performer is Riley.

If I had to rank the No. 1 performances against each other, it would probably fall:

4. "Poker Face"
3. "Endless Love"
2. "Don't Rain On My Parade"
1. "Somebody to Love"

But they're all phenomenal. (And they all have Michele in them. Just throwing that out there, Rachel haters.)

Hope you guys enjoyed the Gleeful series. Next up is two new series of posts: one on 30 Rock and one on favorite songs. After that, we'll be in Emmy season, along with which I'll continue posting about Top Chef and Mad Men as they return.

Any questions about this post? Thoughts? Take them to the comments!


joe burns said...

I wouldn't have Endless Love and Don't Rain On My Parade that high, but I do like them though.

Kevin said...

It's not necessarily my Top Four overall (Don't Stop Believin' and One Less Bell to Answer / A House Is Not a Home would definitely rank in the top as well).

Robert said...

I'm so glad you mentioned Rivera! She really is a wonderful performer, it's too bad she's so often pushed aside. Her and Heather Morris are both quite fantastic.