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Another Spin
A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.
Sunday, December 12, 2010

I’m Not a “Gleek,” But…
It’s hard not to enjoy the show’s infectious covers

Filed under: Artist Overviews, Recent Releases

You can't help but know something about "Glee," the dramadey about the losers of an Ohio high school who, figuring life can't get much worse, join the school's glee club in hopes they'll get the chance to show their real talents. Much like it's characters, the TV show started as a low-life summer replacement, with little chance of succeeding, and is now one of the most popular series on the Fox Network.

What makes the show really work, and what drives its success is the music; the Glee cast records and performs an average of five or six songs an episode. Most of the cast has had a prior history of performing for theater, some even Broadway. But it is still amazing how well they interpret the covers they do, sometimes drastically different from the original artists.

I don't watch the show regularly, but my wife is a big fan, and through her enthusiasm I have become familiar with the story and can't help but be impressed by the music. The Glee Cast has already put out four albums, and releases a slew of singles on iTunes after each episode airs. The cast dominates the download charts each week, with millions of Glee fans or self-proclaimed "Gleeks" eagerly awaiting more new music.

In some ways, "Glee" is like the Monkees on steroids, a with a huge TV fanbase already in place, and thousands more who are either curious, or, like me just like the music. And because the Glee Cast is covering mostly already popular songs, the "hit factor" is pretty much built in. Of course the original artist benefit too, as many have found out, when Glee fans become curious about the original versions and download them as well.

And that is probably one of the best side effects of the Glee phenomenon. Because of "Glee" and my wife's interest in the program and it's music, I have been exposed to some artists and songs I might never have listened to before. As of this writing, the Glee Cast have released over 200 songs so far, including mash-ups (two songs combined into one), most of which I've heard. So for those of you still unfamiliar with "Glee" or its music, let me highlight some of my favorites so far.

"Highway to Hell" - Some of the humor of "Glee" comes from the bizarreness of the songs selections. No real high school glee club coach would ever allow his or her students perform an AC/DC song, which makes this one of the funnier moments in Glee. Guest singer Jonathan Groff, who has a reoccurring role as a rival glee club member does an amazing job imitating the very difficult vocal stylings of Bon Scott. AC/DC fans should applaud.

"No Air" - Jordana Sparks and Chris Brown are outdone (as the original artists often are) by the Glee Cast in this wonderful ballad. I had never heard original before "Glee", but it's a favorite of mine now.

"Beautiful" - Sometimes you need to know the Glee storyline to appreciate the song. Originated by Christina Aguilera, in Glee the song is sung by the character Mercedes, an overweight African-American girl struggling with self-esteem issues. Such a powerful message.

"Last Name" - Kristen Chenoweth also has a reoccurring role as an alcoholic ex-classmate of Glee teacher Mr. Schuster, who occasionally joins the current Glee students form time to time. Her character personifies this Carrie Underwood song perfectly.

"Smile" - Another artist I had never listened to prior to Glee, this is a quirky little number from Lilly Allen.

"It's My Life/Confessions, part II" - An example of one of Glee's mash-ups, combining the Bon Jovi hit with Usher. So seamless, it seems like this was the way both songs were supposed to be.

"Poker Face" - I actually thought this was some show tune, until my wife told me it was a Lady GaGa song. The Glee Cast took this techno-dance hit and made it sound like a Broadway show-stopper. Really amazing.

"Don't Stop Believin'" - If you've heard anything from the Glee Cast, it's probably their rendition of this Journey song, complete with an acapella version of the opening piano chords. "Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da,..."

Most of the songs I mentioned came from the first season, and I haven't enjoyed the music of the second season as much (they dedicated a whole episode to Britney Spears' music!) My wife says she hasn't enjoyed the plot lines as much either. Perhaps "Glee" is going through "sophomore slump" all artists go through, especially a show that figured it would be cancelled at any minute.

If you haven't checked out Glee's music yet, and are looking for something new, give it a try. You may even find yourself watching the show from time to time. And maybe you'll become a "Gleek" too.

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