The Awesome 13 – The Songs of Glee (Season One)
I really hate the term “Gleek”. Yes, I am a big Glee fan. Ever since I saw a commercial for the first episode back in the spring of 2009, I knew this was going to be a show that I liked.
But don’t call me a “Gleek”. I hate the word. Also isn’t that what you call it when you spit through your tongue?
Like many other fans of the show, I’m in it for the music. Yes, the characters are fun and the stories are interesting (even the plots that suddenly disappear from the storyline), but I probably wouldn’t watch the show if it wasn’t for the music.
The kids on Glee have performed over 300 songs over three seasons, and to have to pick 13 of those that I like the best would be like the worst Sophie’s Choice ever. Well, probably not the worst. I think the choice Sophie had to make was probably the worst Sophie’s Choice ever.
Anyway, I’ve decided to break it down by season. Still not the easiest thing to do, but at least this way gives some songs a little more of a chance. This week we begin with Season One.
13. “Maybe This Time” (April Rhodes and Rachel Berry)
Kristin Chenoweth is hilarious as the always drunk character April Rhodes, and we get a taste of what she’s like when she performs this song from the musical Cabaret in the episode titled “The Rhodes Less Taken”. She sings the song concurrently with Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry, and the song reveals a lot about the goals and regrets of each character. It’s a powerful moment for both – we’re left to wonder what April could have been and what Rachel will be.
12. “Hello” (Jessie St. James and Rachel Berry)
In the episode “Hell-O” we’re introduced to one of my favorite characters of season one, Jessie St. James (played by Jonathon Groff), the leader of rival school Carmel High’s Vocal Adrenaline glee club. We know he shouldn’t be trusted, and we know he’s absolutely ridiculous. But when he sits down at that piano and starts singing Lionel Richie’s classic love song, we fall in love with him just like Rachel does.
11.”Don’t Stand So Close to Me / Young Girl” (Will Schuster)
When glee club director Will Schuster did a mash-up of The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap in the episode “Ballad”, I was in awe. Not only does Matthew Morrison’s voice sound amazing, but the magical people behind the songs of Glee put two songs that shouldn’t go well together and made it work. Oh, and the scene is hilarious.
10. “Jessie’s Girl” (Finn Hudson)
Finn Hudson, played by Frankenteen Cory Monteith, is the unofficial boy leader of the glee club, and by 18th episode of the season, “Laryngitis”, we’ve seen him do lots of solos. But with the addition of character Jessie St. James and new threat to Finn, I think everyone was just waiting for him to perform this song. Normally I’m not the biggest fan of Cory Monteith’s voice, but I became a fan after this song. This type of music – as opposed to pop/r&b – definitely suits him, and the performance finally started to flesh out his character.
9. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (Rachel Berry)
I’ve always been a fan of this song, so I wasn’t surprised how much I enjoyed the Glee version. It appears in the episode “Bad Reputation”, which features songs that people love to hate. Songs that are so bad they’re good. Set against an impromptu ballet rehearsal, Rachel sings this song to the three guys in her life – Jessie, Finn, and Puck – and powers through it like a true ballad diva.
8. “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (Rachel Berry)
When the glee club sectionals arrive and the New Directions perform for the first time in the episode “Sectionals”, we know it’s a big moment for the glee club. So when disaster strikes and they realize they can’t perform their songs because the other schools stole their set list, we know they need something huge to get them through it. That something huge is Rachel Berry singing her ass off while performing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, in what was probably one of the biggest moments of her life, and her biggest moment in season one.
7. “My Life Would Suck Without You” (Whole Cast)
Even though I will always like the Kelly Clarkson version better, this is a pretty awesome moment of season one. It comes at the end of the first half of the season after sectionals in the episode “Sectionals”, and to show Mr. Schuster how much they appreciate all his help, they dedicate this song to him. Of course what’s even better about this performance is that we get to see Will finally realize how he feels about Emma Pillsbury after going through a horrible separation from his wife. The combination of the students performing the song and Will’s realization is perfect, and leads up to the cliffhanger we were all waiting for.
6. “To Sir, With Love” (Whole Cast)
The season finale of Glee’s first season “Journey to Regionals”, is still one of my favorite finales of any TV show I’ve seen. Lots of amazing things happen during this episode, including Quinn Fabray going into labor during regionals. But the part that caused me to well up and get all emotional was when the group sings “To Sir, With Love” to Mr. Schuster. At this point the group thinks it’s the last time they can sing together, since the deal was that if they don’t come in first at regionals, glee club is finished. This makes for a pretty emotional performance of an already emotional song.
5. “Dream On” (Will Schuster and Bryan Ryan)
Glee has had its share of guest stars, but the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris is hands-down my favorite, as is this episode “Dream On” directed by Joss Whedon. NPH stars as a glee club has-been who believes dreams are just another thing that will bring you down. But Will tries to get him to believe again by telling him to audition for Les Miserables, so he does – and so does Will. They end auditioning with the same song and performing it together, Aerosmith’s classic “Dream On”, and it’s one of my favorite moments in all three seasons of the show. Matthew Morrison proves he can sing more than showtunes and adult contemporary, and NHP continues to show us how ridiculously talented he is.
4. “The Safety Dance” (Artie Abrams)
In another song from the episode “Dream On”, we get to see what paraplegic character Artie dreams about, and that is to get up and dance. This is the first time we get to see Artie get out of his wheelchair and perform, and we also get to see what actor Kevin McHale can really do. The performance, which is Artie’s fantasy of a flash-mob at the local mall to “The Safety Dance”, is both awesome and heartbreaking, because we – and Artie – know that it will never happen, and is something that can only be dreamed of.
3. “I Dreamed a Dream” (Rachel Berry and Shelby Corcoran)
There’s a reason why the episode “Dream On” is so awesome. It was just filled with awesome songs. My third one from that episode comes from Rachel and her newly-found mother, Shelby Corcoran, also the director of the Vocal Adrenaline glee club of which boyfriend Jessis is a member. She hasn’t wanted to meet her mom, but when she hears a tape that Shelby makes for her, singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (and one of the best songs ever written period), it’s one of the most touching moments of the season. It turns into a fantasy duet in Rachel’s head, the two of them – looking very much like mother and daughter, I might add – singing the song and sounding they were born to sing it together.
2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Jessie St. James and Vocal Adrenaline)
I’m usually underwhelmed by performances of other glee clubs on the show. I love the members of New Directions, and I watch the show because I want to see them perform. But that’s not the case during the season finale “Journey to Regionals” when Vocal Adrenaline comes out and knocks my favorite Queen song out of the auditorium. This is mainly due to the power of Jonathon Groff’s voice – a close second to Freddie Mercury himself – and the simultaneous scene of Quinn going into labor. For some reason that song fits as the perfect soundtrack for that moment, and for six minutes we can’t look away.
1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Whole Cast)
I kind of have to put this song at number one since this is the one that started it all. It’s not until the end of the first episode where we see New Directions really singing together for the first time, and it happens at a time when Will is about to give up on everything – quit teaching, quit glee club – until he sees the potential his glee club has, and he hears the words they have to say. It’s one of those moments where you want to think it’s cheesy, but you can’t. Not when you don’t want to stop believing, either.