Apr 272011

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

In “Born This Way,” Coach Schuester tries to teach his glee club students to accept the things that make them self-conscious, and how better to impart that lesson than with Lady Gaga’s new single?

It seems every time Glee does Lady Gaga, Fox will promote the show as though she fills the whole episode when really we only get a song or two. Last season’s “Theatricality” brilliantly paired Gaga with KISS, arguing that the four-piece arena rock band was the male equivalent of pop music’s current mistress (Alice Cooper might actually provide a better analogy, but whatever). This episode was not as focused musically, offering Glee‘s usual genre-spanning mix and capping the episode with “Born This Way,” marking the first time Glee‘s ever featured a song before the album it’s on even comes out. Way to stay ahead of the curve, Glee.

Though on paper this episode’s music had a lot of the ingredients I usually look for, it didn’t wow me like it might have. I’m not sure if any of last night’s performances topped “pretty good” (maybe with one exception), though I also don’t think any were thoroughly awful. As season two has progressed Glee seems to be more content hanging out in the middle of the road, and that’s squarely where I’d put “Born This Way.”

I Feel Pretty / Unpretty (West Side Story / TLC cover)
Glee‘s mash-ups usually give the show a chance to do something more creative with its music. This isn’t the best one ever featured (that title still belongs to “It’s My Life/Confessions”), but it’s pretty clever. Glee lets TLC’s 1999 single “Unpretty” drive the song, while the familiar “I Feel Pretty” refrain adds some nice background textures.
BONUS: Check out this riotous “Unpretty” reading from punk band Anti-Hero.

I’ve Gotta Be Me (Sammy Davis Jr. cover)
Finn (Corey Monteith) decides to embrace his inability to dance by singing this cover of a 1968 tune by classic crooner Sammy Davis Jr. I’m not sure if Monteith quite holds his own against Davis Jr., but that’s a tough task for most singers. The track also isn’t helped by the fake-sounding brass section which drives it.
BONUS: Pop star Duffy sang a version of the song for a Diet Coke commercial a couple years ago. It was not great.

As If We Never Said Goodbye (Sunset Boulevard cover)
Something else that happens in “Born This Way”: Kurt (Chris Colfer) returns to McKinley High and rejoins the New Directions. His first order of business: singing a showtune! This one comes from a 1993 Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. All snark aside, Glee does something pretty interesting here by letting the song run its full length in the episode, a rare occurrence. Additionally, episode director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon makes some great choices in presenting this number, making “As If We Never Said Goodbye” a definite stand out in the episode.
BONUS: See the song covered by Rachel’s idol, Barbra Streisand.

Somewhere Only We Know (Keane cover)
I love when Glee digs up songs like this: past pop gems that time has kind of forgotten. Though “Somewhere Only We Know” is but seven years old, I’d wager it’s been out of the public consciousness for well over half that time. Here, Blaine (Darren Criss) and the Warblers sing it to Kurt as his goodbye. It’s not the Warblers’ strongest performance, and unlike all their other outings it makes use of a backing band to round out their a cappella sound. Perhaps that’s meant to show the bridging of Kurt’s two show choir worlds.
BONUS: Joseph Williams, former Toto singer, covers the song on his Smiles record. Strange.

Born This Way (Lady Gaga cover)
And finally we’ve reached the episode’s titular song. Critics have probably spat out gigabytes of text espousing disappointment in Gaga’s new tune, so I won’t go there, but that may be partially to blame for this rather lackluster closing number — there’s not that much to work with. As far as showstoppers, Glee‘s had better, but hey, at least it’s thematically on point, right?
BONUS: Too early for more covers of the song? Nonsense! Almost two months ago we reported on Katy Perry’s rendition of the tune.

Up next: Well… the episode’s called “Rumours” and we know it features “Go Your Own Way.” Could we have an episode based on a single album, or is this just another tease? Come back next week to find out!

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

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