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.
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).
03. Grilled Cheesus
05. The Rocky Horror Glee Show
06. Never Been Kissed
07. The Substitute
09. Special Education
10. A Very Glee Christmas
11. The Sue Sylvester Shuffle
12. Silly Love Songs
14. Blame it on the Alcohol
16. Original Song
17. A Night of Neglect
18. Born This Way
20. Prom Queen
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!