Glee is a brilliant, deeply flawed show.
Where else can you find such an ardent celebration of music on television? It isn’t incredibly manufactured (a la American Idol, etc), but is, instead, painfully earnest. The remarkable honesty of the show is its greatest strength and its greatest flaw. While the music benefits from a heaping spoonful of the titular “glee,” the narrative of the show suffers for it.
Glee likes to develop episodes around various messages that the creators feel the audience needs to see. These messages have ranged from teenage pregnancy to suicide to school shootings, and almost all of them have been awkwardly melodramatic (though I felt that the school shooting episode was done pretty well).
All of that said, though, I will admit myself to be a big fan of the show. Good music is good music! So — let your cynicism drop aside and enjoy the following song adaptations. (Note: The following are in no particular order of importance. They’re just a general top five.)
- “Poker Face”
It’s no secret that Lea Michele is the best singer on the show. She’s one of the few on Glee to have had a successful musical career before she was ever cast, for example. What I like about this particular cover is its complete dressing-down of the original Gaga version. The slower, more deliberate nature of the cover makes the lyrics more relevant than in the original version, in my opinion. It is the combination of her voice with the likes of Idina Menzel, however, that gives “Poker Face” a spot on this list.
- “Teenage Dream”
Darren Criss as Blaine is quite the popular fellow online. If you were to frequent Tumblr, for example, you would find countless posts about Criss extolling virtues of looks and charm. It’s true — he’s an attractive fellow. What should never be forgotten, though, is the level of this guy’s talent. Dude can sing.
I like this cover for a similar reason that I liked “Poker Face” … it’s a deconstructed version of a pop hit that uses the speed to accentuate what the song is actually about, allowing the meaning to come to light past the usual pop-infused distraction.
- “On My Own”
Unless I am mistaken, this was the first full song ever shown on Glee. Way back from Season 1, Episode 1, “On My Own” features the innocent Lea Michelle singing her soul in order to get accepted to the glee club. The song represents what the show would end up representing: a fearless display of honest singing.
And, for the record, I would have much preferred Lea Michelle singing this in the recent rendition of Les Miserables over the casting choice that they made. Pah.
- “The Scientist”
Fully embracing a common TV trope, the members of the glee club sing a slow, emotional song at the end of an episode over melancholy visuals. Who hasn’t seen an episode of a TV drama that featured a sad song over slow-motion visuals? They’ve all done it. Glee, of course, is different because it is the members of the show’s cast who are singing the song.
“The Scientist” is featured during on the series’ strongest episodes, featuring a destruction of almost every romantic relationship in the show. Sure — it is dramatic and cheesy. It is also sung to perfection.
Glee became famous because of Journey. Although “Don’t Stop Believing” was very well done in the pilot episode, “Faithfully” is my personal favorite Journey cover.
It features the two leads of the show. It is over produced. It has a bombastic choir singing during the end. It is done in front of a live crowd. It is the perfect Glee song.