Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.
In “Mash Off,” New Directions and rival glee club The Troubletones square off in a friendly competition to see who can produce the best mash-up in preparation for the upcoming sectionals competition. But what starts as jovial quickly turns sour, especially for Santana (Naya Rivera), who’s sitting on a pretty big secret that’s about to come out.
It’s about time for Glee‘s annual mash-up episode. I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy it when Glee travels down that particular road, so I’ll just give a quick recap here: mash-ups give Glee a chance to do something it rarely does otherwise, which is get creative with song arrangements. That’s because the show has no choice; these mash-ups have no precedent and are invented specifically for these episodes, which means they have to be at least somewhat creative, even if that creativity’s misdirected.
Fortunately, when it comes to mash-ups, Glee hits a lot more often than it misses, and “Mash Off” is no exception. In fact, in both music and story I loved this episode. Not every mash-up totally worked (more on that below), but enough did to put this one in the “win” column. Not only that, but after five weeks of musicals Glee‘s back to doing what I think it does best: acting as a televised cover band. There probably aren’t many bar bands that would pull out songs from West Side Story, but every tune in tonight’s episode (with perhaps one exception) contributes to a great pop/party atmosphere. It helps that the episode is especially ’80s-heavy, featuring no less than six popular songs from the decade, as well as one modern throwback. In other words, pop music lovers can rejoice again as they enjoy the fantastic and fun selections below.
Hot for Teacher (Van Halen cover)
Things kick off right with one of the show’s few jaunts into hair metal. The gang treated us to Van Halen‘s “Jump” back in season one’s “Mattress,” but since then ’80s glam has pretty much taken a break (except for half a Bon Jovi tune in last year’s mash-up ep). I think there’s something about the wild abandon of the genre – especially a puerile number like “Hot for Teacher” – that lends itself exceptionally well to the wild, hormonally charged atmosphere of McKinley High…or any high school, really. I suppose I’m inclined to like this number anyway, but I thought it rocked. For one, Puck (Mark Salling) gets another welcome shot at lead vocal. I also appreciate the show’s attempts to recreate the song’s ridiculous spoken-word parts and music video. “Teacher” also deserves special accolades for being the only Glee track to employ double-kick drumming. Nice job, studio musicians!
BONUS: “Hot for Teacher” is one of the few Van Halen songs to have been embraced by the punk community. Watch mathcore icons Dillinger Escape Plan rock the track at Warped Tour in 2008.
Yoü and I/You and I (Lady Gaga/ Eddie Rabbit & Crystal Gale cover)
The song that Will (Matthew Morrison) and Shelby (Idina Menzel) use to introduce this year’s round of mash-ups is probably the weakest of the bunch. Glee jams the second-newest Lady Gaga single together with a 1982 pop-country ballad that probably struck many viewers as foreign, or at least more foreign than the Gaga number. In a case of the show knowing where its audience’s interests lay, Gaga’s “Yoü and I” dominates the mash-up both in the arrangement and in the attention it demands; the Rabbit/Gale song seems pretty much tacked-on as an afterthought. Of note, this is the second time Menzel’s performed Lady Gaga on the show, the first being in season one’s Gaga-themed “Theatricality.” She can mimic the pop star pretty well when she needs to, although no doubt she’s received quite a bit of training beyond Ms. Gaga.
BONUS: “Yoü and I” has been a Gaga single for six months, and already the all-female vocal group Cimorelli has a cover on YouTube with almost two million views! Six ladies, one Gaga. Check it out.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way or Another (Pat Benatar/Blondie cover)
For its second mash-up (set against a vicious game of dodgeball), Glee finds another odd pairing, though this time it keeps things in the same genre, combining two monster female pop hits of the ’80s into one surprisingly cool mix. To make these tunes fit together, Glee has to slow down the Blondie number a bit, which makes it sound potentially even more sinister than the original track. That effect’s doubled by giving Debbie Harry’s part to the sultry Santana, who’s been getting the spotlight a lot this season, much to my delight. Finn (Cory Monteith) is also well-cast here; the Pat Benatar song lets the character get back to his classic-rock roots established way back in the first episode.
BONUS: Muppets are all the rage these days, right?
You Make My Dreams Come True/I Can’t Go for That (Hall & Oates cover)
Despite the show giving a strange justification for this cover (“the band’s still together, so they have the positive energy we need!” or something), it’s pretty cool. There’s not really any substance to it, but then there’s not much to be found in the original songs by the R&B-lite Philadelphia duo anyway. And when it comes to the staging, Glee totally goes for the gold, awful mustaches and all. The show also finds a nice way to merge the songs together, using “I Can’t Go for That” first as punctuation to the “Dream” chorus and later letting it air out in the song’s outro. This isn’t my favorite performance of the episode, but as far as Hall & Oates covers go I’ll take it.
BONUS: LA synthpop duo The Bird and the Bee recorded an excellent version of “I Can’t Go for That” for a 2010 tribute to Hall & Oates.
Rumor Has It/Someone Like You (Adele cover)
Wow, this is Glee‘s 300th song! (we began this series at 139, if you were wondering). The show picks a good number to mark this milestone. Call me crazy, but I think the “Someone Like You” half of this mash-up is the best Naya Rivera vocal ever featured on this show. Over in the “Rumor Has It” department, Mercedes (Amber Riley) doesn’t slouch either. Moreover, Glee believably merges these two powerful but tonally distinct numbers from powerhouse Adele; in fact, they almost make “Someone Like You” more poppy and marketable by setting it against the deliberate beat by which “Rumor Has It” thrives. This was a stellar performance, definitely one of the best of the season.
BONUS: I know I always listen to this song when I miss out on discount chicken wings.
Tune in in two weeks for a brand-new set of Glee covers!