Alright, I’m just going to say it: tonight’s episode of Glee was less than astounding. The songs blew, and the characters and their actions were baffling (I’m looking at you, Finn and Will, but more on that later).
Let’s start with the music. I so wish that the songs sounded more authentic. There is no reason that Rachel and Jesse’s version of “Hello” had to be auto-tuned, and yet it was. I have a copy of the “Spring Awakening” cast recording, I know that Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff sound awesome together and separately, and without any gadgets that make them sound like T-Pain. So… WHY?! I can accept people bursting into song whenever they feel the need, but I can’t buy that they have a Lazy Susan full of musicians at their constant disposal, and that every song sounds tinny and robotic and too glossy. The awesome thing about musicals is that the singing is raw and emotional, but the strategy on Glee is to suck all the life and feeling from every performance.
So, Dr. Blog here is prescribing her first treatment for the show: Raw musical performances. Let’s hear it all. Have some faith in the performers you’ve chosen. If I wanted to hear some over-produced, regurgitated pop music, I’d turn on the radio. Cover songs are fine on a show like this, but at least give something new to the songs, give them the pizzazz and passion that musical theatre and other live performances can have.
Also, let’s pick some new music. ”Gives You Hell” was an abomination, as was “Hello, I Love You.” And “Highway to Hell,” well, that wasn’t even Jonathan Groff singing. They weren’t fooling me, and I’m guessing that anyone who watched the scene where he and Rachel sang “Hello” (which would be everyone) would know that he wasn’t singing that group number. So, my second treatment that I’m prescribing is: Pick songs that suit your singers and make use of their talents. If there’s a certain song you MUST have in an episode, make sure you give it to the cast member who can pull it off best.
Here’s how to administer this treatment. First off, you have to stop giving Rachel these pop songs. Lea Michele can belt, but it’s not where her voice sounds best. It’s great when she pulls it out at the climax of a song, but in songs like “Gives You Hell” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” she ends up sounding a bit shrill. Lord knows she sounds better than I ever could, and her belt is awesome, but she sounds best in her low to mid-range. So, let’s give someone like Tina a chance at these pop songs. She probably would’ve sounded great on “Gives You Hell.”
Which brings me to the next stage of this treatment: Let other people sing. Finn doesn’t have to sing ever again as much as he does. Neither does Rachel. Give Artie, Mercedes, Kurt, Tina, Quinn, Puck, the football players and the Cheerios something to sing. Even if it’s not an entire solo song, I just want to know what those four background characters sound like, period. Puck and Artie can outsing Finn any day, and Kurt has an interesting voice that is just asking for a good song to showcase it (“Defying Gravity” was great, but we need to hear some more). Quinn doesn’t sound bad, with the right song. Tina and Mercedes are great. Give us some variety!
This leads us to our final stage of the “music improvement” treatment: Shake it up. Let’s hear fewer covers of songs I can hear any time I turn on the radio. Maybe they could be slightly more adventurous. I like when the song selections dip back into the past – I find that many songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are just begging to be retooled for a more modern sound. I want to hear some more of that. Also, perhaps some slightly well-known alt/indie music – the kind of stuff you hear on college radio stations – would be nice. Be adventurous! No one wants a pale imitation of the original. We want to hear a new and exciting spin on something we already know. This comes into play with the song choice AND the arrangement. It’s one of the reasons I like “Papa Don’t Preach,” from the last batch of episodes. It was a new take on an old classic.
To further fix this problem, I offer up a list of songs that could be well implemented on the show.
- “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia. It would be sung by Quinn or Tina, or someone even less heard from. It’s got a simple melody, and it could easily fit into any of the tumultuous love storylines on the show.
- “Take Your Mama” by Scissor Sisters. This would be sung by Kurt, with the club backing. It’s got a great high part, it’s flamboyant, and very Elton John-esque. I don’t see it fitting into any possible storyline (it’s a pretty mindless, though awesome, song), but it’d be a great song to hear Kurt tackle.
- “Grace Kelly” by Mika. See above. Kurt would sing with the club as backup. This song is known for that high part, and Kurt could totally pull it off. Unlike “Take Your Mama,” it could plausibly fit into a storyline, perhaps when Kurt’s boyfriend comes along in the second season.
- “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. Though she gets more than her share of songs, Rachel would sing this. It would showcase her lower range perfectly, and it’s a very emotional, slightly dark song that she would do a good job with.
- “1234″ by Feist. This is such a fun song! And it’d be a great group number for the club. They could even take some cues from the music video. I want to see this on the show so badly.
- “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. I’m torn on who would sing this. Quinn has that unique, airy kind of voice that would sound good on it, so that’s my initial suggestion, but who knows? This song is catchy as all get-out, and it would be another opportunity for the show to revive a song and make it their own.
- “Chasing Pavements” by Adele. I think an Adele song would suit Mercedes, and perhaps Rachel, fairly well. Its viewpoint on love is one that the show often focuses in – breaking up and getting back together, and so on and so forth, and when do you finally just have to call it quits? There’d be no issue fitting it in, and for someone with a lower register, it’s a dream vocal playground.
- “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt. I just love this song. Brittany and Santana should sing it (or just one of them). The whole “friends… or are they more?” thing basically sums them up pat.
- “Toxic” by Britney Spears. This would be a group number, and definitely over-the-top. ”Toxic” has proven itself as a sturdy pop song that takes well to other artists covering it. I could see them having a lot of fun with it (and anyway, isn’t it about time they covered some Britney?).
- “Close to You” by The Carpenters. For some reason, I can see and hear Artie doing a great take on Karen Carpenter. He’s good at putting a little bit of longing into his songs (“Dancin’ with Myself”) and he seems to have the emotional depth necessary to sing something like this. I could see him singing it about Tina, of course, or even Quinn, who I think he harbors a bit of a crush on.
- “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp. Ryan Murphy, being a Hoosier, has got to get around to Mellencamp sometime, and I think Puck would be the perfect candidate to sing it. If not this song, then perhaps “I Need a Lover.” ”Jack and Diane” would be the more obvious choice, but it’s more of a story song, and I can’t see it really fitting in on the show.
As for the other, more character-based issues the show has, well, I’m beginning to suspect that these writers don’t know how to write straight male characters. Finn and Will are so impulsive and wishy washy. And then the women are supposed to be crazy and selfish?! I’m not buying it. I hope that those two get what’s coming to them for their stupid, finicky, selfish actions. In a way, Finn has, because Rachel wasn’t there for him and ready to take him back after he bailed on her for the millionth time. I know that Finn is basically like all teenage boys. I get that being impetuous and wishy washy and horny is pretty much what being a teen boy is all about (for the most part). But can he at least be consistent with it? One minute he’s all gung-ho about the glee club, and “totes in lurve” with Rachel, and the next he doesn’t like Rachel as much, and he wants to date everything in a Cheerio uniform, and he’s dumping glee for his popularity (that was in earlier episodes, but I honestly wouldn’t put it past him even now).
I’m trying to think of a characteristic of Finn that I like, that makes me root for him, and the only thing I can think of is the earnestness he shows when he’s actually being loyal to the club and to Rachel. So, for Dr. Blog to really buy that Finn is one of our heroes on Glee, the show is going to have to create some consistency with his character, and give him some concrete, positive characteristics. I have no problem with him not being a likable character (I actually like Puck, for example) but not when he’s constantly portrayed as “the good guy.” Puck is a douche, and he knows it. But the heads of this show want me to accept Finn as the hero, and Finn sort of seems to think that of himself, and I just can’t see him that way. He and Will are both redeemable, but they better change the characters and the way they’re handled quickly before I develop a grudge.
And, if you read this, give me some more songs you’d love to hear on the show!