The third season of Glee was an interesting one. After a Top-40-heavy season two, the creators of the show wanted to concentrate more on showtunes again as a way of bringing the show back to its roots. Unfortunately that didn’t go over too well with viewers, so after the first half of the show they began to add in more Top-40 hits. That being said, season three has probably the most variety of songs than any other season. But is it a coincidence that the majority of my picks for the best songs from Season Three come from the second half?
Look, I love Broadway, and I love showtunes. But none of the ones they did this past season – which included pretty much the entire West Side Story songbook – stood out to me. I’m more of a pop music fan, especially pop music from decades past, and we got a handful of some great ones in season three.
13. “What Makes You Beautiful” – Joe Hart, Rory Flanagan, Artie Abrams, Sam Evans and Mike Chang
The episode “Prom-A-Saurus” had a spattering of good songs, but it was the remake of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” that was the most fun. Now I’m not a fan of One Direction – this is the only song of theirs that I know – but for some reason when a group of guys sing together and sound good, I can’t help but love it. And what made this song so fun was that the Glee’s usual male stars – Finn, Blaine, and Kurt – weren’t in it, so we got to see the background players have a shot at the spotlight. And ya’ll know I’m a little biased towards Sam. I’ll like pretty much anything he does.
12. “Summer Nights” – Sam Evans and Mercedes Jones (with whole cast)
Speaking of Sam Evans, I was thrilled when the writers decided to delve more into his storyline with Mercedes and giving them the perfect song to sing in one of my favorite episodes of the season, “Yes/No”. Since the two of them had a summer fling, it only made sense for them to break out into “Summer Nights” from the movie Grease, and the filmmakers brilliantly staged it shot-for-shot with the original scene from the 1978 movie. It’s so much fun to watch, and Sam and Mercedes fit those Danny and Sandy roles perfectly. It’s too bad they couldn’t have remade the whole movie, too.
11. “Red Solo Cup” – Sam Evans
Okay, I promise this is the last time I’ll being up Sam in this post. I, like others, was really sad to find out that Sam wasn’t coming back for season three. So you can imagine how happy I was when the creators decided that was a crappy idea and brought him back, starting with the episode “Hold on to Sixteen”, which aired right before Christmas. The song he sings is ridiculous, but for season it fits his character – mainly because Chord Overstreet has a strong country voice that we rarely get to hear. I’m not a country fan, but it was a nice change from him and an awesome welcome-back to the show that took way too long to happen.
10. “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” – Rachel Berry, Tina Cohen-Chang, Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones
Despite the fact that every American Idol hopeful tries to sing this song as Dionne Warwick, it rarely happens. But the Glee girls definitely came close to it in “Yes/No” when they chose this song as their assignment for Mr. Schuster in his attempt to find the perfect love song for Emma. The words to this song already make me weepy. Every time I hear it. So when I saw these girls sing those words with every drop of emotion they have their bodies like they truly meant it, I was blown away. Anyone who gets through that song without at least a lip quiver is not human.
9. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – Rachel Berry
If we’re talking about difficult songs to sing, no one should attempt this particular song unless your name is Celine Dion. Or, in this case, Lea Michele. In the episode “Nationals”, after Rachel completely screwed up her NYADA audition, she figures she has nowhere else to go but up. So when she sees the NYADA admissions judge (played wonderfully by Whoopi Goldberg), she sings one of the hardest songs out there – not as if her life depended on it, but completely free, with nothing in her way. She’s not singing for anyone during those four minutes but her herself. And it pays off in the end.
8. “Cough Syrup” – Blaine Anderson
Come on, you didn’t think I was going to make it through the list without a Blaine song, did you? Of course not (this is his first of three songs on my list). The episode “On My Way” was a tough episode to watch. Not because it was bad, but because my heart ached the entire time. We find out what’s been going on with bully-turned-tortured-closet-gay Dave Karofsky, only to see him attempt to kill himself. It’s a difficult scene to watch, and when paired up with Blaine singing Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” it makes it even more haunting. I hadn’t heard the song before this, but I quickly loved it – not just because of the painful lyrics, but because Darren Criss sounds freaking amazing on the vocals. But that’s no surprise.
7. “Survivor / I Will Survive” – The Troubletones
This is my first of three mash-ups on the list. I love when Glee does mash-ups because they seem to find two seemingly different songs and making them sound like they were meant to go together. In season three we’re introduced to the newly formed, all-girl group The Troubletones, headed by Santana and Mercedes. And in the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” during their first competition together they perform a mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” – two already amazing songs by themselves but made even better as one. How do they do it???
6. “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” – Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson (with the Whole Cast)
Sometimes all it takes is one song to remind why I love the show so much. Even when the plot tends to drift off into oblivion, I’m dragged back by one awesome performance. And this season one of those performances was “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” which New Directions performed at Nationals. It’s such a fun song that makes you want to get up and dance, and you’re just reminded why Rachel and Finn are the stars of the show. It also makes you wonder what’s going to happen in season four when they’re not around anymore…
5. “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” – Blaine Anderson
The Glee kids performed a lot of Michael Jackson songs this season (there was a whole episode devoted to the King of Pop), but my favorite one of the bunch came from Blaine, of course, when he opened the episode with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. We all know that the man can sing his butt off and sound better than everyone else on the show, but it’s during this performance where we get to see the man dance his butt off. Seriously, that guy is far too talented for nature.
4. “Hungry Like the Wolf” – Blaine and Cooper Anderson
Glee took a six-week hiatus this season between Christmas and February, so by the time it finally came back on the air, we were ready for something amazing. That came in the form of the episode “Big Brother”, in which we get to meet Blaine’s older brother Cooper. Glee has seen a lot of amazing guest stars in the past, but Matt Bomer as Cooper is one of my favorite. He plays the vain, wanna-be actor so well that you actually believe that he’s that stupid. But it’s when he and Blaine do their duet mash-up of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” that makes the episode really worth watching. For one thing, it’s hilarious. And both sound great. I seriously think the two of them should record a Duran Duran tribute album.
3. “Without You” – Rachel Berry
This really has more to do with the song itself than the actual performance on the show, though Lea Michele’s performance of David Guetta and Usher’s hit song made me actually like it better. 2011 saw a lot of great music released, but this song is one of my favorites of the year. And I didn’t realize that until Rachel performs it for Finn in the episode “Yes/No”. She usually shines while singing showtunes, but she sounds great here, and we really understand exactly how she feels about Finn no matter how self-centered and crazy she may be. It’s one of the few dance songs that’s actually filled with heart and meaning, and I absolutely love it.
2. “Rumour Has It / Someone Like You” – The Troubletones
Well, you can’t go wrong with Adele, and certainly not when Naya Rivera and Amber Riley are involved. Santana, Mercedes, and the rest of The Troubletones perform this song in the episode “Mash-Off”, proving to be one of the best mash-ups the show has ever done. The girls sound great, and the two Adele songs blend so seamlessly into each other that when I hear the individual songs now I think something is missing. And because we so rarely get to see Santana show actual emotion, it’s a treat to witness her break down in front of everyone because of her love for Brittany. Apparently only Adele has the power to do that to someone.
1. “We Are Young” – The Whole Cast
Halfway through the season, a lot of us thought that Glee had lost its way. The songs they had been performing hadn’t been that memorable save a few. The plot was all over the place. And we wondered whether we would ever get back that feeling we got when the group first opened their mouths to sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” way back in the pilot episode. Well, I got that feeling back at the end of the episode “Hold on to Sixteen” when the group performed a fairly unknown song at the time but soon became an anthem for a generation, Fun’s “We Are Young”. Yes, the song was probably a little overplayed on the radio (but that’s why we don’t listen to the radio, people!). But that doesn’t take away how great of a song it really is. In the course of four minutes the show seems to suddenly come back together, like all the scattered pieces of a puzzle are now one complete picture. It was the first step in the show getting back on track to a more cohesive second half, and the first step in winning back the hearts of us all.