Our resident Gleek Eric Garneau looks back at a season of covers. If you didn’t watch the show, see what you missed; if you did, relive the high points.

If you’re like me (and I know some of you are), you might have thought Glee floundered for most of its second season. As one of my friends put it, most of the episodes were like “the first season on steroids” in that all of the characters and plots were taken to their ridiculous extremes. In perhaps the most egregious example, the season opener “Audition” had Rachel act on her jealousy by tricking her rival into going to a crack house, presumably so she’d get roughed up by junkies. That’s a pretty embarrassing event on which to hinge a plot.

For me, though, starting with “Rumours” something really clicked. The last four episodes of the season managed to cohere in a way the rest of the shows hadn’t. Despite viewers being painfully subjected to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in “Prom Queen,” the season closed quite strongly. Those episodes took me from “why am I watching this?” to “I’m looking forward to next season.”

Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with the fact that “Rumours” was stuffed with six of the best songs the show’s ever tackled. It’s rare for an episode to have even a couple gems, let alone a bunch of instant classics. That said, most episodes in the second season had at least a song or two worth remembering. What were my favorites? Well, let’s see.

TOP 10 SONGS FROM GLEE SEASON 2:

10. Singin’ in the Rain/Umbrella (Gene Kelly/Rihanna cover)
Glee loves their mash-ups, and usually I do too. Though earlier this year I ranked “Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind” above this one, I’ve come to appreciate this pairing a little more, thanks in no small part to the gigantic musical disparity between these two songs originally. That Glee can make them coexist at all means it’s worth noting.

9. Hot Patootie (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Plot-wise, the Rocky Horror episode was a mess. Musically, there were some items of interest to be discovered. By far my favorite was this Meatloaf cover with lead vocals from John Stamos, who will forever be Uncle Jesse to me. For anyone who grew up watching Full House (I’m sorry), it surely was great fun to see the Rippers frontman cut loose here.

8. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Gwyneth Paltrow provided Glee with its marquee guest star this season. I found a few of her performances outright terrible (see below) but I really enjoyed this one, which brought some sensitivity to the Santana/Brittany story and proved that Gwyneth really can sing like a human being.

7. Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Speaking of guest stars and Fleetwood Mac, how great was this duet between Will (Matthew Morrison) and April (Kristin Chenoweth)? Their voices just work so well together.

6. Hey Soul Sister (Train cover)
The Dalton Academy Warblers, McKinley’s a cappella rivals, had to be presented somewhere on this list. I waffled between “Soul Sister” and their rendition of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” but in the end I think the cleverness of this arrangement (courtesy of real-life a cappella group Tufts Beelzebubs) wins out.

5. Sing! (from A Chorus Line)
Originally my favorite song from the first half of the season, “Sing!” for me captures the thematic essence of Glee – it doesn’t matter how bad you sound, just rock out! Of course the entire cast is made up of accomplished singers touched up with Auto-Tune…except for Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.). “Sing!” is the only thing approaching a lead vocal Shum, Jr.’s ever gotten, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

4. Don’t You Want Me (The Human League cover)
Glee does something pretty remarkable with this cover of a derided (unjustly, I think) ’80s song — they make it sound new. Between the club-style synthesizers and the sharp voices of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss), you’d swear this song was written this year.

3. I Want to Hold Your Hand (The Beatles cover)
When Glee needs to sell a sensitive number they turn to Kurt (Chris Colfer), and brother, it didn’t get much more sentimental than this sparse Beatles cover. “Grilled Cheesus” struck me as one of the most genuinely emotional episodes of the season, and it all hinges on this performance.

2. Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Why do I love this song so much? I don’t know, but man, Artie (Kevin McHale) kills it. I literally cannot think of a way this song could be better; it’s lovingly crafted and exquisitely delivered, not to mention that it’s featured in a fantastic segment.

1. Rolling in the Deep (Adele cover)
Though I’ve seen some pretty serious hate for it, I think Glee struck gold with this cover. The formula’s simple. Take a mega-popular song. Let your show’s biggest talent (Lea Michele) go nuts on it and bring in a fan-favorite guest star (Jonathan Groff) to compliment her abilities. That would’ve been enough to make viewers flip out, but then the show turned it a cappella seemingly for no real reason. I love that they’re willing to experiment like this, and I think the results speak for themselves. An instant classic, if Glee produces such things.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Empire State of Mind (Jay-Z/Alicia Keys cover): Though I didn’t think Glee‘s cover of this song was great, it kind of provides the theme for the whole season.
Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show): Here’s a rare chance for Emma (Jayma Mays) to take lead vocals.
Forget You (Cee-Lo Green cover): I hated this performance, but it drew a lot of attention to Glee, so it must be mentioned.
The Dog Days Are Over (Florence and the Machine cover): Here’s Glee‘s first real foray into indie music.
Thriller/Heads Will Roll (Michael Jackson/Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover): This was the show’s giant post-Super Bowl number. It was a pretty bold choice for a mash-up and provided a showstopper for Glee‘s biggest audience yet.

OTHER CATEGORIES OF NOTE:

Best Episode: No surprise here, but I’m going to go with “Rumours.” I really hope Glee decides to take on some more classic albums next year.

Best Performer: I’ll probably catch some flack for this, but honestly I’m going with Artie (Kevin McHale). It occured to me while looking back through the season that almost every song on which he took lead vocals was fantastic (see: “Isn’t She Lovely?”, “PYT,” and even “Stronger”). Additionally, McHale has to work a little harder than the rest of the cast since his character’s wheelchair-bound — he can only emote with his upper body, making it all the more impressive that he totally sells every song he throws himself into.

Best Guest Star: There were some whoppers this season — Gwyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett, even Katie Couric. I’ve got to give the prize to John Stamos, though. What a great use of stunt casting.

And finally, so you can relive the season – here’s links to all my write-ups (or links to Wikipedia for the two episodes I wasn’t on staff for).
01. Audition
02. Britney/Brittany
03. Grilled Cheesus
04. Duets
05. The Rocky Horror Glee Show
06. Never Been Kissed
07. The Substitute
08. Furt
09. Special Education
10. A Very Glee Christmas
11. The Sue Sylvester Shuffle
12. Silly Love Songs
13. Comeback
14. Blame it on the Alcohol
15. Sexy
16. Original Song
17. A Night of Neglect
18. Born This Way
19. Rumours
20. Prom Queen
21. Funeral
22. New York

What were your favorites from this season? Share them in the comments! And thanks for following along, everyone — see you next year!

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7 Responses to “The Ten Best Covers from Glee Season 2”

Comments (6) Pingbacks (1)
  1. Margaret says:

    Gotta agree that ‘Rolling In The Deep’ was my favourite pick as welll. I know you disliked the abundance of broadway covers somewhat but anytime that Lea Michele and Chris Colfer duet there’s no compare – all their duets were amazing. Loved all the Warblers songs too – esp. ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘Silly Love Songs’ and ‘Hey Soul Sister’. And as you say Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison are also perfect duet partners. Hopefully more Cheno and more Jonathan Groff next season – less Paltrow!

  2. Eric Garneau says:

    Margaret, first, thanks for following along with me this season! I’m glad we agree on Rolling in the Deep. :) And yeah, I did tend to come down on the use of Michele/Colfer in a Broadway capacity but their song from Wicked in the finale was TERRIFIC. It probably would come in at #11 on my list. Also agreed on the Warblers point – I felt like I needed to pick just one, so Soul Sister it was.

    Finally, definitely agree on the guests for next season. Tho Jesse’s kind of weird from a character standpoint he’s an excellent singer, and Chenoweth is ALWAYS welcome! Maybe they’ll find a new celebrity guest to work into the show, leaving Gwyneth behind…

  3. GleePicks says:

    :
    I Have put together a bracket for FANS to decide what the best SEASON 2 song (out of ALL 120 of them!) I need a group of LOYAL GLEE FANS to Vote periodically! If you are interested in Participating, email me at GleePicks@yahoo.com and say your 1)Age, 2)Location, and 3)Favorite 3 Characters. I am trying to get a couple voters per favorite character (So I dont have All Rachel fans, etc.)
    I Look forward to hearing from you ASAP! Thankkkssss!

  4. mclicious says:

    To be fair, it wasn’t Glee producers who thought about making “Rolling in the Deep” a cappella. Technically, it’s a cover of a cover–they were using John Legend’s a cappella arrangement of the song.

  5. Grace says:

    I loved Glee’s performance of “rolling in the deep”, I thought it was beautiful, powerful and brilliant, Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele have the best voices on the show, they were both originally on Broadway in Spring Awakening, and I was just totally blown away but that number. I like it better than the Adele version!

  6. Lily says:

    I really loved Lucky, performed by Quinn and Sam, tends to get stuck in your head. Obsessed with Quinn’s voice!!

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