Dec 012010

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

In “Special Education,” the McKinley High School glee club travels to the sectional competition, where they face off against octogenarian show choir the Hipsters as well as the Warblers from Dalton Academy, where ex-club member Kurt Hummel now makes his home. Personal tensions threaten to tear the group apart when they need to secure a win that will take them on to regionals and then nationals in New York City.

Last season, Glee‘s two “competition” episodes gave its cast a chance to really show what it could do by placing them on a stage. Critics and fans alike tend to rank those two episodes (“Sectionals” and “Journey”) highly, based in no small part on the strength of their musical performances. “Special Education” follows suit and expands both the amount and diversity of its music from the past few episodes. In fact, this episode marks Glee‘s first foray into indie music – it features a track from U.K. sensation Florence and the Machine. That’s a pretty significant barrier for Glee to cross, and it opens a lot of doors for the show. Can you imagine what those kids might do with the New Pornographers or Arcade Fire?

Anyway, we can dream tomorrow. Here’s all the songs covered in Glee‘s “Special Education”:

1. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (from Evita)
This song comes from the mega-popular 1978 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical and got a pretty famous makeover in 1996 when Madonna sang it for the Evita film adaptation. Glee actually gives us two versions of the song, one from Rachel (Lea Michele) and the other from Kurt (Chris Colfer). Though in the show they’re cut together, people who purchase the songs on iTunes can buy both versions and then splice them together on their own, or something. Watch the Glee version.

2. Hey, Soul Sister (Train)
In 2010, “Hey, Soul Sister” could not be escaped. Not only has it been the best selling song in the US so far this year, but nary a television commercial break goes by without some company or other shoving that cheery mandolin intro in our faces. Here, the Dalton Academy Warblers, fronted by Kurt’s new boyfriend Blaine (Darren Criss), continue their love for ubiquitous pop hits (first introduced in “Teenage Dream”) with an a cappella rendition of “Sister” that’s sure to make the ladies swoon.

3. The Living Years (Mike and the Mechanics)

Did anyone else forget this song existed? Old folks choir The Hipsters (get it?!) perform this 1989 hit in a too-brief scene. The show doesn’t really explain why a group of senior citizens can perform in what’s ostensibly a high school choir event, but since when does Glee need to make sense? Anyway, the full-length version of this song (again available on iTunes) is really pretty good. Watch the Glee version.

4. Valerie (Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson)
Glee credits “Valerie” to Amy Winehouse, but that’s only part of the story. Her version of “Valerie” comes in the form of a team-up with English rocker Mark Ronson, and that version is itself a cover of a 2006 song by Liverpool indie band The Zutons. In that sense, one might imagine that Glee had done two indie songs in one show, but really the Winehouse/Ronson rendition of the song found more of an audience than The Zutons’ ever did. New Directions here performs it as part of their sectionals routine and thankfully features the lead vocals of Santana (Naya Rivera) who never, ever does a bad job when the show puts her in the spotlight.

5. Dog Days are Over (Florence and the Machine)

Not only does Glee feature an indie song for the first time (R.E.M. doesn’t count), but it actually uses it as the closing number of one of its tentpole competition episodes. It also gives lead vocals to the under-utilized Mercedes (Amber Reilly) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Surprises abound! Watch the Glee version.

6. (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life (from Dirty Dancing)
This could be Glee’s “Don’t’ Stop Believin'” for the season. A really corny but loveable ’80s song performed with gusto by a group of teenagers? Yeah, that’s a winner. In a rare treat, Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) get a chance to rock the lead vocals and have a blast with some dirty dancing of their own. All in all this episode changed up not only Glee‘s typical musical selection but also which of its incredibly talented cast it featured, and that’s always a welcome occurrence.

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

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  4 Responses to “Glee Covers Round-Up 11/30/10: Special Education”

Comments (4)
  1. “The show doesn’t really explain why a group of senior citizens can perform in what’s ostensibly a high school choir event”

    A couple of episodes back, when Will told the kids who their competition would be, they were described as students at a special high school for seniors who’d never gotten their diploma, or some such thing. Seemed an awfully silly idea for something that they were going to throw away with a mere 30 or 40 seconds of singing; might have been worth the bother if we’d gotten to see the Hipsters’ entire routine.

  2. Keith, you’re right! Thank you! I knew I was forgetting something like that.

    You’re right tho, it does seem pretty silly, even for Glee. Their brief screen time makes it seem like they were just the butt of a bad joke about choir names but their performance certainly doesn’t indicate that at all. More development/screen time would’ve been fantastic.

  3. I think the “old-people getting a GED” thing was supposed to be their parallel to last season, where the two gimmicky easy competition schools were supposed to be easily written off (that is, until they weren’t).

    It seems weird in context of this season though, given how they keep bringing up the highest tier of Nationals when they placed last in sectionals/regionals? And in that instance they lost to a team that didn’t get any screen time at all.

    About how they’ve never gone indie though– as iffy a genre description that is, I always thought that their Billy Idol cover sort of counted given how they used/took the Nouvelle Vague arrangement? And I’m not sure if Lily Allen is too pop to count even if it was one of the tracks from her MySpace days. Or if Beck’s vaguely-folk-ish-alternarock would.

  4. Mcdannie, good points! There were a few artists that gave me pause when I looked through Glee’s past songs for any indie tunes, but in the end I kind of just went with my gut. I feel like Lily Allen and Beck are too popular, even tho they do possess certain indie sensibilities. On the other hand, I had no idea that Glee’s version of “Dancin'” was based on another act’s (here I thought they were being creative!), and Nouvelle Vague DEFINITELY counts as indie, so thanks for that!

    Maybe I’m starting to lose touch with what’s popular in my post-college days, but I feel that Florence and the Machine is a total left-field choice for the show. I’d only ever heard their name on blogs before their SNL appearance a couple weeks ago, and I never thought of them as being popular enough for Glee to pay homage to.

    I agree with your point about Nationals, too. Also, did you think the tie between the Warblers and New Directions was really weak? Cuz I sure did.

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