The top 10 musical performances of Glee’s fourth season

You know what really surprised me the most when I went back over this season’s songs to put together my top 10? The sheer volume of fantastic numbers that there were. It doesn’t really feel like it in retrospect, perhaps because of how weakly the season ended and how slow it was to start, but this was a musically very strong season. While it had pretty low lows, it had higher highs than I think we’ve seen since season one, and there were plenty of them. So the below is just a sampling of how great the music was on Glee in its forth year: all songs that give me hope for the future of this show, something that wasn’t always easy to hold onto.
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Five songs that Glee should do, but probably won’t

You can say whatever you want about the story and characters on Glee, but, in the end, it’s the music that sells this thing. Without the music, this would be a pretty mundane high school comedy/drama, and I probably wouldn’t give a shit about it. So amidst all the speculation about where season four is going to take us and how the graduates are going to be worked into the show, what I’m really thinking about it what songs I’d like to see them do. So, in that vein, I’ve come up with a list of five songs that I’d like to see done in Glee but, for various reasons, probably will not be. So here we go.

1.

Song: “You Don’t Know Me” by Ben Folds and Regina Spektor

Give it to: Rachel and Finn

It’s weird how Rachel and Finn haven’t gotten a lot of good male/female duets. “Don’t Go Breaking my Heart” from “Duets” (heavy autotune aside) was terrific, and of course “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” from “Nationals” was beyond fantastic. They also had great thematic resonance, with both of them celebrating the intensity of their current relationship while subtly foreshadowing its end. “You Don’t Know Me” would continue that tradition, being a song that could suggest the very real reasons for the end of their relationship, something that Finn has accepted by the end of “Goodbye,” but which Rachel has not. As their high school years draw to a close, they’ve become different people, and they just don’t know each other anymore. The lighthearted tone would also allow for a suggestion that their relationship could continue in some capacity, and would suggest a beginning to a new relationship based on friendship and mutual understanding rather than blind love.

Why they’ll never use it: Not only is it a bit outside Glee‘s wheelhouse in terms of artist and style, but I think we all know that Rachel and Finn are going to get back together somehow.

2.

Song: “The Thrill is Gone” by BB King

Give it to: Mercedes

The blues as a genre has been sadly overlooked on Glee, despite having singers who could handle it. I could see both Naya Rivera and Amber Riley pulling off a terrific blues number, as they have wonderful soulful voices and the ability to put a ton of feeling into a song. I’d like to see this particular number given to Mercedes for a couple of reasons. First, I like the idea of gender-swapping it. Second, I think it would be a fantastic way to communicate an end to her relationship with Sam (such as it is) while suggesting a reason. I think you could reasonably argue that “the thrill” has been gone from their relationship for the entirety of season three. We never saw any smoldering passion out of them, just the motions of it. One could argue that that was because of poor writing, but it could also be that they were simply fooling themselves. Maybe after that one summer fling, it was just all gone. Maybe there isn’t anything else there, and they need to admit that to themselves. I could easily see “The Thrill is Gone” being used for that purpose.

Why they’ll never use it: Aside from, once again, being outside of Glee‘s wheelhouse, it’s probably too heavy on instrumentation relative to vocals for Glee. Plus, to really do it right, you have to let it have a slow burn. That would eat up a lot of screen time, which is probably going to be at a premium in season four with so many plot threads running loose.

3.

Song: “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meat Loaf

Give it to: Puck

Yeah they already did Meat Loaf in “Nationals,” and it was amazing, but there is so much more Loaf to do. This particular one is my favorite Meat Loaf song, for its sad wistful message on top of a bit of silliness in the title and refrain. This kind of marriage of the serious and silly is something that Meat Loaf does tremendously well, and it’s something that Glee should both embrace and look to for inspiration, because they try to do it a lot too and they’re so bad at it (though to be fair Glee leans more towards the silly side while Meat Loaf leans more towards the serious side). Puck hasn’t gotten a lot of big solos, which is a shame because Mark Salling has a fine voice and good screen presence. “Sweet Caroline” was one of the smaller highlights of season one. I’d really like to see what he can do with a powerful song like “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and I could easily see it being used as Puck’s way of ending some relationship he’s gotten himself into. He’s such an incurable hound dog that the situation almost writes itself.

Why they’ll never use it: For some reason, the show has never wanted to give any big numbers to Puck. Add that to the fact that he’s probably going to be a tertiary character or worse in season four, and I doubt it happens. There’s a chance they could use it with some other character, but it would just be so perfect for Puck.

4.

Song: “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” by Travis Tritt

Give it to: Sam

Glee has given the slightest amount of lip service to country as a genre, mainly from Sam and Shannon, but, with the partial exception of “Last Name” in season one, they’ve never really gone big with it. “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” is a fantastic number, and it fits well both with Sam’s general upbeat nature and all the shit he’s been through. I have to admit that I kinda like the idea of Shannon doing it as well, but on the whole I think that Sam would be a better choice. I think it would be a great way to say goodbye to his character, if such a thing is going to happen, by emphasizing his optimism and hope for the future in the face of anything.

Why they’ll never use it: Honestly, I don’t even know if Chord Overstreet is coming back. This song is also well outside of Glee‘s normal focus, especially in terms of the genre. They tend to go for contemporary country, “Jolene” being a notable exception.

5.

Song: “Kim” by Eminem

Give it to: Will

This was facetiously suggested by J., my co-host on our podcast, when I mentioned that I was going to be writing about songs that “would never be used on Glee.” I laughed at the outrageousness of the suggestion for a moment and then I realized… the character shown doing the most rapping has been Will, and he had a terrible marriage with his high school sweetheart that could have ended much more tragically if Will didn’t have a lot more self control. Watch the scene from “Mattress” in which Will finds out that Terri has been faking her pregnancy and try to tell me that, somewhere in the back of his mind, he doesn’t want to kill her. Yes, that’s how dark Glee used to get. Of course he never would have done it, but Eminem didn’t really kill Kim either, he just thought about it, and in that way “Kim” is a song that would actually have a lot of resonance with Will. Thematically, I could see this song being used by Will to express his darkest, most deeply buried feelings, if Terri comes back into the picture and does something particularly “Terri.” It would be a pretty amazing way to revisit the darkness of season one as a whole and of Will in particular.

Why they’ll never use it: Do I even have to say anything?

The top 10 musical performances of Glee’s third season

Overall, Season three was probably the weakest season yet in terms of music, especially in terms of music that was artfully inserted into the plot. There were a lot of songs this season that were there just because they apparently felt like they needed a song there, and I think that attitude is very much to the show’s detriment. That said, there were a fair number of fantastic songs this season, and I’ve come up with a list of my top ten favorites. The list will start from ten, with my favorite song of the season listed last at number one.

10. “Smooth Criminal,” sung by Santana and Sebastian (“Michael”)

This only scores so low because it didn’t really have any purpose in the context of the story or theme of the episode… but man, was it fun. The intensity of all the performers, the relentless cello music, and the gorgeous duet arrangement made this an extremely memorable number.

9. “Boogie Shoes,” sung by Wade, et al. (“Saturday Night Glee-ver”)

This song took the episode’s theme of finding your dreams and ran away with it. Despite how utterly ludicrous this performance is, it’s incredibly fun and somehow manages to capture the drama of Wade deciding to share her real self with the world. Jesse’s reaction helped a lot to keep the whole scene grounded in some kind of reality. This kind of juxtaposition of the ridiculous with the dramatic is the kind of this that Glee usually flops at, but when they succeed it can be very cool.

8. “Survivor/I Will Survive,” sung by Mercedes, Santana, et al. (“Hold on to Sixteen”)

This was a ton of fun, and it allowed Santana and Mercedes that moment of applause in the spotlight that they were craving, cementing the fact that they can be just as big stars as Rachel. The choreography of the performance is absolutely wonderful, and I love the moment, transitioning from “I Will Survive” to “Survivor” for the first time, that the girls pair off and start dancing. It’s also a wonderfully constructed mash-up.

7. “We Are Young,” sung by Rachel, Finn, et al. (“Hold on to Sixteen”)

This is a song that flew under my radar the first time I saw it, but it really is fantastic. It encapsulates the theme of the episode, that it’s okay to just stop and enjoy being young while you can. It also does enough to heal the rift in the glee club to satisfy me (though it still hurts that they never featured Mercedes and Rachel making up with each other).

6. “Rumour Has It/Someone Like You,” sung by Mercedes, Santana, et al. (“Mash Off”)

This is a great mash-up, but what really works about the performance is how Santana is visibly struggling with her emotions. She’s dealing with the new knowledge that she is going to be forced out of the closet, whether she wants to or not, and she is just a total wreck. She somehow manages to sing angrily, sadly, wistfully, confused, and scared all at the same time, and lot of credit goes to the director and especially Naya Rivera for how well this works.

5. “Somebody That I Used to Know,” sung by Blaine and Cooper (“Big Brother”)

Blaine and Cooper’s relationship was not something that “Big Brother” did very well. Cooper was just too much of a cartoon character to build those early dramatic scenes on. This song, however, almost made up for the entire plotline. Blaine takes this song and makes it his own, explaining to his brother how he feels like they just don’t have any kind of relationship at all anymore. Darren Criss puts a lot of emotion into the song, and Matt Bomer, for the first and last time in the episode, finally creates a real human character as Cooper realizes he understands what Blaine is saying to him.

4. “Cough Syrup,” sung by Blaine (“On My Way”)

The climax of Dave’s plotline (though I hope it’s not the last we see of him), his attempted suicide is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series. This song sets the perfect tone for Dave’s devastating reaction to being outed. It also forces the viewer to compare the terribly-alone Dave with happy couple Blaine and Kurt, as Blaine performs the song for his boyfriend. When Glee does numbers with intercuts to another scene and it works, it’s often incredible (compare this with season one’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

3. “It’s All Over,” sung by Mercedes, Santana, et al. (“Asian F”)

This should serve as an example to future episode writers that “parody” or “tribute” numbers can really work and function in the story if they have a purpose. This bit was more or less straight out of Dreamgirls (as I understand), but it also works perfectly within the context of the episode. Mercedes feels unappreciated in the glee club, despite all the hard work she’s given them. She feels betrayed by Will because he threatened to kick her out of the club for her tantrum. She feels looked-down-upon by the other members of the club. And, lastly, she’s filled with sadness to think that her time in the club might really be over. This song captures all of that, and, despite being a parody and imaginary number, it propels the plot forward and gives insight into Mercedes’s character. And, of course, it’s a lot of fun.

2. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” sung by Finn, Rachel, et al. (“Nationals”)

This was a great song even when it first aired, but looking at it again after seeing Finn and Rachel’s breakup in “Goodbye,” it carries with it some great foreshadowing and some bitter irony. Rachel and Finn are having a ton of of fun playing the part of high school sweethearts who eventually come to feel trapped in their relationship… but who’s to say that that’s not really where they’re headed? Anyway, this number is terrific, with great vocals, choreography, and direction. It also really sells the feeling of being up on stage as part of an important high school competition, which can be one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world to a kid.

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1. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” sung by Finn, et al. (“I Kissed a Girl”)

Considering this and last season’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” I apparently have a thing for the use of different arrangements of pop songs with re-purposed themes. Anyway, their use of this song in this way is brilliant. Santana is facing an end to her life as she knew it before. She can no longer pretend to be what everyone expects her to be, just coasting along and enjoying herself. That’s all she really wants to do. She loved her life the way it was before, but now she has to face “adult” problems like living publicly with the fact that she’s a lesbian. Finn’s slow rendition of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” acts as a kind of lament, a wistful goodbye to the kind of carefree life that Santana no longer has the luxury of.

Honorable mentions: “Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do,” “Buenos Aires,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “How Will I Know,” “America,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” “Cry,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Roots Before Branches.”

How many characters are on Glee, anyway?

In the first episode of the TV podcast that my friend J. and I started (shameless plug), we spent some time talking about Glee. While discussing the pilot, we agreed that a major issue with it was “all the other characters,” and I got to thinking: how many characters does Glee have, anyway? There were a ton introduced in the pilot alone, and almost all of those are still with us, plus a lot more. An early first season episode made the mistake of establishing that to be competition-legal, a glee club has to have at least twelve members. Just consider that for a moment: there have to be twelve students in the cast. Imagine if there were twelve sweathogs in Welcome Back, Kotter, or twelve members of the study group on Community, or twelve doctors on House (well, there was the fourth season). Not all of them have to take the forefront obviously, but that is a lot of fucking characters. And that’s not even counting the adults or incidental characters. I think we accept this from Glee because it was sprung on us fairly slowly. After all, the show originally spent a lot more time on Will and his home life, and there were originally only six student members of the club who didn’t get a lot of focus. Then the show switched its focus to the kids just as the size of the club grew to a competition-legal size. And we were left with this multi-headed beast of a cast that can never be slain.

Seriously, I want to list all these characters. It’s been a while since I’ve done a list, so cut me some slack. This will be done from memory, in no particular order, and it refers to the current cast as of “Choke.”

Students:
1. Rachel
2. Finn
3. Kurt
4. Puck
5. Mercedes
6. Blaine
7. Sam
8. Quinn
9. Joe
10. Rory
11. Sugar
12. Santana
13. Brittany
14. Tina
15. Mike
16. Artie

Adults:
17. Will
18. Emma
19. Sue
20. Roz
21. Shannon

I could have stretched the list to include people like Burt, Becky, and Figgins, but I’m only including characters that had significant screen time in season three and are at least semi-regular.

So, good God. That’s over 20 characters. No wonder people just look at me quizzically when I try to talk about specific characters or relationships on the show (well, that, and I’m trying to talk to them about Glee). None of them are what you would call background characters either. Almost all of them have had at least one story. How can a show possibly expect to do justice to this huge a character list? I don’t think it’s possible, and I think it’s a big part of the reason that multi-episode arcs are coming, going, disappearing, and reappearing so randomly this season. They’re doing things with so many characters that you can’t keep up with all of them, especially when they spend so much time on Rachel and Finn alone and when so much of every episode has to be taken up by musical numbers.

Funniest of all is that Tina, a character who has been with the show ever since the very beginning, still isn’t fully established! In 62 episodes, she hasn’t had a single storyline of her own! Sure, she’s played relatively significant roles in episodes like “Wheels,” “Theatricality,” and, most recently, “Asian F,” but all those stories were about someone or something else, with her as a supporting character. We already know more about Wade than we know about Tina, for God’s sake. This show just has no idea how to handle this many characters. I don’t think any show would.

And you know what’s even worse? If season four really creates a show split between New York and the kids back in Lima, the cast will grow even more.

What they really should do is write the graduating seniors out of the show for real, and pare down the season four cast into one that has a core group of main characters that we can concentrate on. Unfortunately, that won’t happen because Glee is a runaway train at this point, and it’s going to stay on this track until it crashes.

(I keep predicting the demise of this show, despite the fact that I love it. I have a strange relationship with Glee.)

Glee relationship event master list

Inspired by the impromptu relationship event list I created as part of my “Silly Love Songs” review, I decided to create a master list to be updated as the series continues. At the bottom of the list, I also give the current total number of relationship events, the current total number of episodes, and the current relationship event/episode ratio (i.e. the average number of relationship events per episode). Names are listed in alphabetical order. (I’m not sure that’s the best way to organize this, but I couldn’t think of a really “neat” way to do it.)

Relationship events are divided into “hookups” (defined as characters becoming officially a couple, going on at least one date, or entering into a physical relationship with real feelings behind it) and “breakups” (defined as one or both of the characters ending the relationship). The event has to have occurred during the time span of the series to make the list, though not necessarily on camera.

So, Will and Terri’s hookup is not on the list because it occurred before the series began. Finn’s fling with Santana is not on the list because they were never officially a couple, they never went on a date, and there were no feelings behind their physical relationship. Brittany and Santana’s breakup and hookup within the series are on the list because while they do not date and are not officially a couple, there are real feelings behind their physical relationship. I don’t count Santana and Karofsky because while they claimed they were dating, they really weren’t.

(Even on second viewing of season one, I couldn’t really get a handle on when Puck’s relationship with Quinn began and ended, or if it even was a real relationship as opposed to just being one of convenience after Finn broke up with Quinn. I left it off the list.)

Numbers in brackets indicate the length, in episodes, of the relationship, including the episode that saw the beginning and ending. Relationships that have ended will have their episode counts under breakups. Red numbers, listed under hookups, indicate a relationship that is still ongoing as of the most recent episode. (I made a few assumptions, including that Brittany and Santana’s original relationship existed since “Pilot,” since I don’t have any evidence to the contrary.)

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The top 10 musical performances of Glee’s second season

I’m not sure if anything held up to the best performances from the musically very strong season one, but season two had a lot of great music. It was hard to narrow it down to just ten. They will go in reverse order, with number being my favorite number of the season. Each of my top ten choices will have a video link to the performance from the episode, and I’ll talk briefly about why I like it.
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