Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Uncle Jesse make their return and the Purple One has his musical debut on last night’s episode of Glee, tantalizingly titled “Sexy.” After Brittany has a pregnancy scare brought on by seeing a stork build a nest outside her window, Will realizes the kids in his glee club need some serious sexual education, to be delivered by everyone’s favorite substitute teacher, Holly Holiday (Paltrow). Of course anything that gets the kids talking about sex surely leads to drama, trysts, hilarity and awkwardness. What would Glee be without them?
Fellow Cover Me writer David Salter remarked to me after Paltrow’s debut in “The Substitute” that I was the only blogger he’d seen not be “Satanically wretched to Gwyneth,” which I find funny since I really hated her performance of Cee-Lo‘s “Forget You.” In a show fueled by autotune, I found its use to correct Paltrow especially egregious. She takes a lot of steps toward redeeming herself in “Sexy,” though. I’ve heard numerous people swear to me that she can really sing (evidenced, perhaps, by her turn in Country Strong) and she definitely held her own with the rest of the cast this week. That’s fortunate, since she took lead or co-lead duties on three of the five songs.
Selection-wise, Glee gave us another episode containing satisfying variety. Over the course of 44 minutes, we were treated to songs by Gary Glitter, Neon Trees, Prince, Fleetwood Mac and the Starland Vocal Band. No genres repeated last night, and all five artists came to Glee for the first time. Also of note: two of the five songs are performed in tribute to famous cover versions. Mostly, the songs were enjoyable — at least the ones we were supposed to enjoy.
Do You Wanna Touch Me (Gary Glitter cover)
Originally written in 1973 by UK glam rocker Gary Glitter (of “Rock and Roll parts 1 and 2” fame), Joan Jett imported the song for US audiences in 1982. Here, Holiday takes lead vocals for the first of three songs. Paltrow’s voice doesn’t possess an ounce of the grit that characterized Jett, but it’s a fine, fun performance all the same, and a rare trip into hair metal for Glee (yes, I realize Jett has been claimed by classic rock, but let’s be realistic here).
BONUS: Ever heard the original Gary Glitter version? Now you can!
Animal (Neon Trees cover)
One of the bigger alternative rock songs to come out of 2010, Utah band Neon Trees’ “Animal” provides Glee‘s resident a cappella group, the Dalton Academy Warblers, with another chance to showcase a modern hit via a Tufts University Beelzebubs arrangement. However, whereas usually the Warblers put on a pretty good show, this song and particularly this performance — an attempt to “sexify” themselves for the upcoming regionals competition — comes off as kind of creepy. When singers Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) start spraying girls with giant foam cannons, the show’s watchability takes a bit of a dive.
BONUS: Why do I find giant foam cannons at concerts so creepy?
Kiss (Prince cover)
Few can hope to match the quivering falsetto Prince employs on this 1986 hit from his album Parade. Will (Matthew Morrison) gives it a pretty good try, though. Additionally, I like the way Glee layers Paltrow’s vocals on top of Morrison’s, which creates a satisfying harmony somewhat lacking in the Prince original. No disrespect meant to The Artist; I’m just a fan of layers.
BONUS: Art of Noise does a strange ’80s remix with lead vocals by Tom Jones!
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band cover)
Not much to see here. In “Sexy,” McKinley High’s Celibacy Club obliviously performs Starland Vocal Band’s 1976 faux-dirty “Afternoon Delight” because it’s a “wholesome” number about “dessert.” The only thing of note: Rachel (Lea Michele), Quinn (Dianna Agron), Puck (Mark Salling) and Emma (Jayma Mays) are joined again by Emma’s now-husband Carl, aka John Stamos, though his talent here’s wasted, especially when compared to his “Hot Patootie” number from the Rocky Horror episode. All-in-all, a throwaway song, used only to illustrate the general cluelessness of abstinence-only sex education (if you think I’m getting too political, watch the show).
BONUS: How could I not link to the Anchorman performance?
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
The episode’s only real emotional number comes courtesy of Paltrow and Santana (Naya Rivera) with assistance from Brittany (Heather Morris). Though a cover of a 1975 song by Fleetwood Mac, Glee channels the countrified Dixie Chicks version from 2002. Bottom line, “Landslide” covers get me almost every time, and this one’s no exception. In fact, this episode’s Brittany/Santana storyline (which I won’t spoil) really took me by surprise with its brutal honesty, and this song, although a tad overdone, serves as a nice testament to that.
BONUS: In my opinion this song’s best delivered by the Smashing Pumpkins. Check out a rare live performance of it!
Up next: Regionals! Original songs! If I’m right that Glee is akin to a cover band, this is when the audience leaves to use the bathroom or take a smoke break.
Tune in next Wednesday for another set of all-new Glee covers.