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Spreading the ‘Glee’ offscreen

By Christina Edwards

November 11, 2009

“Glee” is taking over the entertainment world like “High School Musical” on steroids.

Fox’s breakout comedy of the fall season had massive promotion last spring, building up to impressively huge viewership numbers and critical acclaim practically across the board for the premiere of the pilot last May. The hype managed to last through a summer of no new material.

While the ratings continued to hold strong and steady and the battalion of new young stars conquered the rabid press at Comic Con, the little show that could braved a relatively new frontier for television: iTunes and the general music world at large.

Within a day of each new episode airing, at least one newly released cover track from the show has managed to break the top-10 singles on iTunes. On Nov. 3, “Glee – The Music, Volume 1” was released as a compilation of these songs. In addition, several tracks that have yet to premiere on the show made it on the album.

Generally, the tracks on the album manage to capture the same quirky, fun irreverence that has arguably made the show a giant success. “Glee” doesn’t take itself seriously with its earnestly over-the-top punch lines, and that same sensibility extends to the music, particularly in instances such as the cover of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” where wheelchair-bound, suspenders-wearing Artie (Kevin McHale) cheerfully declares, “This is a dance for all the sexy people.”

But while many of the tracks aren’t meant to be taken seriously, there is some serious talent and musical innovation displayed in these covers.
The show mainly focuses on glee club leads Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel (Lea Michele), giving them the majority of the solos. While Michele is more than a few steps up from Disney ingénue Vanessa Hudgens in the singing department, and Monteith’s version of “It’s My Life” has garnered multiple plays on this listener’s iPod, the album gives the rest of the mega-talented cast a chance to shine.

Amber Reilly, who plays Mercedes, shows off a boatload of fierce attitude and vocal chops as she belts out Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” and Jill Scott’s “Hate On Me.”  McHale’s vocals on Usher’s “Confessions Part II” is one of the biggest pleasant surprises in a show full of pleasant surprises. Both McHale and Reilly also get larger parts in the extended tracks of “Somebody to Love” and “Halo/Walking on Sunshine,” splitting the parts Monteith and Michele took on the show.

The mash-up tracks, “Halo/Walking on Sunshine” and “It’s My Life/Confessions,” are a strong showing of innovation and are actually mash-up pairings that lyrically make sense.  The show’s breakout hit cover of the Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believing” is a fun homage to show choirs everywhere.

There are a few misses, though. While it’s nice to finally get to hear more than a few bars out of the talented Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, the slowed-down rearrangement of “Wicked” showstopper “Defying Gravity,” shared in a duet with Michele, doesn’t provide much of a glory moment and lacks the epic impact of the original arrangement.

Overall, this album is incredibly reflective of the show — fun and silly, with a good quality that comes out of nowhere to surprise you. It’s a recommended addition to the guilty pleasure playlists of iPods everywhere.

Originally written for Elon University’s The Pendulum

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Categories: A&E: Editorial/Review
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