Nov 172010

Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.

With all the buzz surrounding “The Substitute,” I’m sure everyone’s already aware of the episode’s two big numbers: Gwyneth Paltrow taking on Cee-Lo’s sanitized “Forget You” and an elaborate reading of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” As it happened, those were the only two numbers not from a Broadway musical on last night’s Glee. I like the show to diversify its musical offerings and having a 3/2 split between showtunes and modern pop songs doesn’t exactly cut it.

Despite that imbalance, musically I thought last night’s episode did a pretty good job. If the last two episodes are any indication, it seems as though Glee is scaling back the number of songs per episode but giving us full performances of all of them. I’m happy to make that trade; one of my biggest peeves in all of coverland is a performer not finishing what he or she starts. Ask any of my friends how I react when a cover band only plays half of a song. It’s not pretty.

Anyway, even though it only featured four songs, “The Substitute” packed a lot into its running time. When a nasty flu strikes McKinely High, Mr. Shue has to take some sick days, leading substitute teacher Holly Holiday (Paltrow) to take charge of the glee club. Her carefree attitude leads the students to experimenting with songs they might not otherwise touch; this teacher doesn’t care about finding another Journey song for the kids to cover!

1. Forget You (Cee-Lo Green)
Anyone who follows this blog (or pop culture) regularly knew this was coming. The cast looked like they had a lot of fun performing one of this year’s biggest songs, which gave Gwyneth Paltrow the lead vocal, but it didn’t work for me. In the comments for the “Rocky Horror” episode roundup a few weeks ago, one of our readers complained about John Stamos’ autotune in “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?” I couldn’t detect any hint of it in that song, but I can only imagine what that poster was feeling here. Although Glee doesn’t shy away from autotune, its use on Gwyneth seemed more liberal than usual. Although I loved the way she acted the part with abandon, her singing definitely left something to be desired. Still, I know “Forget You” drew a lot of attention to the show, so you’ll probably want to see it.

2. Make ‘Em Laugh (Singin’ in the Rain)

On the other hand, I totally loved this remake of a classic scene from the 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain. Staged as part of Will’s (Matthew Morrison) fever dream, he and Mike Chang (Harry Shum) perform this wacky number with infectious gusto. It’s not a big production, but I implore you to click the link and watch this scene. Your sense of humor demands it!   View the Glee version here!

3. Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag (Chicago)
Rachel (Lea Michele) decides to strut her stuff to this song from the 1975 musical Chicago after Holly frees her from Will’s chains of classic rock oppression. Holly also acts as Rachel’s partner. Again, the actual performance aspects excel, but Gwyneth’s autotune kills it for me.  View the Glee version here!

4. Singin’ in the Rain / Umbrella (Singin’ in the Rain / Rihanna)
Two weeks in a row with mash-ups? If you read last week’s roundup you’ll know I’m generally a fan of Glee‘s song-mashing. Although this whole-choir performance didn’t thrill me the way “Stop! In the Name of Love / Free Your Mind” did, I certainly give its props for its creativity and, again, its choreography.

Tune in next week  for another set of all-new Glee covers.

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  7 Responses to “Glee Covers Roundup 11/17/10: The Substitute”

Comments (6) Pingbacks (1)
  1. Well, good to know my comments permeated into your subsequent reviews. This episode was much improved over previous ones. If I had one over all “complaint” from this week it’d be the lack of the kids being featured as much as the star of the week and Mr. Shooooo.
    Yes Gwen was heavily auto-tuned… but more than the pitch correction, her/Glee’s version of “Forget You” forgot what makes the song amazing… SOUL. Cee-Lo is a modern day Al Green in a way, and here a pile of white bread soaks up what makes the song great. Listen to her faux-lament on “I still love you…” … It’s devoid of life, to me, at least. Yes, she was having a good time… But you know, I have a good time when I sing in the shower… doesn’t mean I need to film it.
    “Make ‘Em Laugh”… Watch Joseph Gordon Leavitt’s performance on SNL of the same song, He did it better.
    The Chicago cover? Meh. Great now I know somewhere, in another universe Lea Michelle and Paltrow could have been in a terrible rendition of the movie version of Chicago. Singing here was fine… but it didn’t add anything for me.
    “Umbrella / Singing In The Rain” really did stand out to me. I loved it honestly. While it was hard to separate all the Glee kids in their matching outfits.. and I kept thinking Sue would bust in to yell at them for drenching the auditorium.. but hey, the mash up was interesting, well performed, and Morrison and Paltrow played well off of each other.

    Oh, and in response to the aforementioned comment re: Rocky Horror… I do read the Internet as well Eric, and yes, I did know Uncle Jesse was a professional singer and drummer to boot. But guess what. I’ll eat my hat if EVERY song on Glee isn’t squeezed through the auto tuner. I don’t necessarily care about that per say… Glee is a slick show, that’s all about production value. In the case though of Stamos’ ‘Hot Patootie…’ having heard him sing previously, I really felt like they’d pitched him up a bit. Not to say he “needed it” as much as it personally bothered me. That all being said, I look forward to more glee, and hope to hear more of the warblers (AKA Tuft’s University’s Beezlebubs, of NBC sing-off fame… a show I will add has NO auto tuner, and AWESOME acappella).

    Kudos for another cool review Eric!

  2. Nice to see you checking in again, Marc! Thanks!

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you on the Cee-Lo cover. I didn’t like it at all. The cast’s joy makes it more watchable in the moment, I think, but it’s not a track I’m going to revisit for fun.

    I think for me the key point about Singin/Umbrella was, as you said, it WAS interesting. It’s nice to see the show try new arrangements. Even if they’re not great, I like seeing the experimentation.

    I also agree with you that I’m sure all the Glee songs are processed to some degree. I just can’t hear the automatic pitch correction on Stamos (tho I DO hear compression, which is annoying). I could of course be wrong; your ear may find that better than mine. But with Paltrow, well, I think any sentient robots in the audience would’ve confused her singing for one of their own.

    Finally, good call on the Sing-Off. I too love that show and I actually thought about pitching a column about that one as well, but I wonder if they’d be interesting to anybody. I mean, there’s not much to say beyond “such-and-such group did this song a capella,” right?

    Other readers out there, what do you think? Would you like a Sing-Off covers roundup as well?

  3. “Her carefree attitude leads the students to experimenting with songs they might not otherwise touch”

    That’s funny, because it seems like in 75% of the episodes I’ve seen revolve around the kids singing songs they might not otherwise touch.

  4. Well, my point is that usually every kid either A) individually or in a pair sings a song he or she wants to or B) in the group sings a song Will has chosen. So when Kurt does a number from Victor/Victoria, for instance, it’s by himself. But with Will sick, the whole choir’s freed up to do stuff like join in on “Forget You.”

    But, to be fair, that observation comes from this week’s episode, not me. I’m just trying to justify it.

  5. Marc hits what’s wrong with GwenP’s Cee-Lo… I mean, if you don’t know Cee-Lo intimately, compare:

    That having been said – she was kind of hot in this episode, and we all know hot white chicks can get away with anything.

  6. I’d like to add in I actually dug Paltrow’s sort of jazzy WWII USO-take on Conjunction Junction. (Even if Forget You really was incredibly weird to me since really by all logic a teacher trying too hard to be cool would probably have gone for the uncensored version. Also it bummed me out that they had the kids do the plaintive wails instead of her.)

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