Boy, am I glad I waited until tonight to write this one, because it contains an entry from one character I would never have thought to consider. Let's just say that I am officially pumped for Quinn's version of "To Sir, With Love" next week, because tonight, on "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," girlfriend brought it.
Quickly, to define a "solo" in the context of Glee: Amber Riley and Jenna Ushkowicz audibly back Lea Michele on Rihanna's "Take A Bow," yet it's considered a solo. However, "I Say A Little Prayer" is considered an ensemble performance despite the fact that Dianna Agron is clearly the lead vocal. Why? In the first, Michele is undoubtedly the anchor, while in the second, Agron is not nearly as central, and in fact, the performance is pretty equally split among Agron and her supporting vocalists (Naya Rivera and Heather Morris). Get the difference? Hope so, because here we go!
"Bust Your Windows" - Amber Riley
Riley cast Mercedes as a scorned woman who, quite appropriately, busts the windows of Kurt's car. It could've easily come off as a joke and shown the Achilles' Heel of Glee, but it was done in a powerful styling that beats Jazmine Sullivan's original.
"Dancing With Myself" - Kevin McHale
Okay, time to voice an unpopular opinion. Honestly, a lot of people would put this in their top three favorite solos, not just an honorable mention. I'll admit that I sing along to this Billy Joel cover, but it's nothing that special. Honestly, it's just amazing a male could turn in a solid solo. Finn's only had a few and they've all been beyond mediocre. Puck lacks vocal strength. Kurt's a little too fond of his castrato. Artie at least had this, but McHale's voice is too nasal and can even be grating. (I won't even get into how infuriating his characterization is.) Still, it's a cool interpretation of an older song, and it fits amazingly well with the plotline, so it gets a mention.
"On My Own" - Lea Michele
No one does a ballad like Rachel. Just moments into the pilot, we get a too-small slice of this Les Miserables number, and, as always, Michele brings the house down. Her voice really is the best on this show, despite others' insistence to the contrary. She may not have the same passion (we'll debate that point in, oh, five songs down), but technically, it's on another plane.
"Rose's Turn" - Chris Colfer
If only this was a minute longer, I would rank it top two easy. The power and passion behind it is amazing. Colfer has never performed with more ferocity. The lyrical changes are a little cutesy, and as mentioned, it's way too short, but nonetheless, it is one of the best male vocals of the season in any category.
The Top Five
Not only are these my top five performances from the solo category, a lot of them are my favorites of the entire season. Glee is often best when showcasing one performer's talent.
5. "Don't Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl" - Matthew Morrison
The performance that so infamously caused Rachel to completely miss the point, it's a genius mash-up, making both songs so much better. I love when Morrison stretches beyond white boy rap (hello, "Ice Ice Baby" and "Bust A Move") to real vocal riches (this, "One Less Bell To Answer / A House Is Not A Home"). Both fun and meaningful to the plot, this is the best main cast adult vocal of the season.
4. "Home" - Kristin Chenoweth
I say "main cast" on the last performance because very little has a chance of holding a candle to this incredibly theatrical, powerhouse rendition of The Wiz's "Home," in and of itself a bit of a fun callback to Chenoweth's involvement in another Wizard of Oz-brand production, Wicked. Capping off a musically devastating episode ("One Less Bell / A House," "A House Is Not A Home," "Beautiful"), this vocal brought it all home. What power from such a tiny package.
3. "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" - Dianna Agron
Hey, champions of Mercedes and Kurt who argue that no one else has passion behind their vocals: you wanna see real passion? Check out this performance by a very pregnant and very angry Quinn. It may not be pitch-perfect: the screams are a little off, for example. But it's a raw, emotional, believable performance from a character and an actress whom I had no faith in before. I was beyond impressed.
2. "And I Am Telling You" - Amber Riley
"Do I even have to tell you what song?" was how Mercedes started this performance, acknowledging the cliché of having the big black girl do the song Jennifers Holliday and Hudson made so famous in Dreamgirls. Wanna know what's not cliché? How Riley takes both former Effie Whites to town and puts them both on notice that this is how this song is sung. It's pure power in both vocal and delivery, and as emotional as any performance I've ever heard, Glee or not. Worthy of a standing ovation every time.
1. "Don't Rain On My Parade" - Lea Michele
Rachel idolizes Barbra Streisand. Rachel has been working on this performance since she was three. Before Rachel even descended the aisle at Sectionals to the tune of the big band, we should have known exactly how bombastic this performance was going to be. And yet we were stunned. So much passion, so much love for the theater, so much absolute power is packed into this performance it sends chills up the spine each time. Michele is truly our great star for this generation, and this performance proves it. Rachel is the star of glee club, and Michele is the star of Glee.
Comments? You know where to put them.
...No, not there. That's inappropriate. I meant the comments section. Obviously. Sheesh, mind outta the gutter...