Progress report: Ranking 'Glee's' Top 10 Performances
Seven episodes down -- time for a "Glee" club progress report. In reverse order, the show's Top 10 performances so far:
10. Keep Holding On
Didn't Quinn just break your heart last week? The closing performance of Avril Lavigne’s “Keep Holding On" was fueled by the despair of the head cheerleader -- and her rallying friends -- after she was informed that her secret pregnancy was not-so-secret anymore. Her sometimes friend and nemesis Rachel and boyfriend Finn are stuck too, trapped by their growing affection for each other and wanting to support Quinn. Lies! Jealousy! Love triangles! To be in high school again. Plus, the group numbers are just the best, aren't they?
9. I Wanna Sex You Up
When it comes to choir director Will Schuester's repertoire, it's a tossup between “Golddigger” and “I Wanna Sex You Up.” (And actually, I would have picked “Leaving on a Jet Plane” from the original pilot – just actor Matthew Morrison on an empty stage, a lone spotlight, and an acoustic, melancholic song of longing. Alas, that was cut from the version that aired.) So with a heart full of nostalgia, it was simply too difficult to resist Acafellas’ middle-aged (yet also boy band-happy) version of Color Me Badd’s 1991 slow jam of an invitation to get busy. Bonus points for the surprise cameo by Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young (“Jersey Boys”) as the thumbless, cough-syrup-slurping Henri St. Pierre.
8. It’s My Life/Confessions
Sorry ladies. The boys won Mr. Schu’s mash-up throwdown by a landslide. Finn's "dancing" is always a gut-busting treat, Artie finally got a solo of substance – more please! – and every shot of Kurt’s piercing glare sent me howling. (Even in the background, he's so consistent!) Sure, the boys were hopped up on "vitamin D," but unlike the girls, the performance wasn’t manic so much as it was just on.
7. Push It
Yeah, “Glee” came on pretty strong at first. But I didn't mind. Those pigtails and "Ooh baby, baby's." Artie delivering those immortal opening lines (“Now wait a minute, y’all. This dance ain’t for everybody. Only the sexy people. So all you fly mothers, get on out there and dance. Dance, I said!”) Kurt slapping Finn’s backside in front of the football team. Principal Figgins swaying slowly in ecstasy. It certainly was not the first time the show had me in tears, but it was the first time my stomach hurt from laughing.
“High School Musical," "Glee" is not. That was the loud and clear refrain when in the pilot our underdog glee clubbers met their arch rivals, Vocal Adrenaline, a crew that came busting out to Amy Winehouse's unapologetic Motown-style account of her drinking habits and refusal to go to rehab. ("There's nothing you can teach me / That I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway.") And the choreography? Extra snazzy.
5. Somebody to Love
Not since the first episode's show-stopping “Don’t Stop Believin' ” has a number given me goose bumps like the Episode 5 closer. Queen’s “Somebody to Love” is one of those take-it-or-leave-it rock ballads -- at times cheesy, at others overwrought. But when Finn and Rachel begin circling one another (repetitive, but it's their signature move, people) and when the 12 kids throw their arms in the air, eyes heavenward, it just kills me. What New Directions lack in technique and choreography, they make up for in sincerity. (Side note: Is it just me, or is that Kevin McHale's Artie singing second verse -- sung by Finn in the episode -- in the studio recording of the song? Strange.)
4. Hate On Me
Another tough call, this one for Mercedes fans: “Hate On Me” or “Bust Ya Windows”? In the end, “Hate on Me” gets a boost from everything preceding it, specifically all the words out of Coach Sue's mouth (e.g. Calling up Sue's Kids: “Santana, Wheels, Gay Kid, Asian, Other Asian, Aretha and Shaft.” Sigh. I love you, Jane Lynch.) I could barely breathe by the time they got to Mercedes' solo -- and then Amber Riley went and blew me away. I love me the Broadway-trained pipes of Lea Michele's Rachel, but every now and then I need a jolt of diva with a capital D. Jill Scott’s kiss-off R&B ode to aggression? Just the ticket.
3. Single Ladies
By the September MTV VMAs performance, Beyonce’s club anthem “Single Ladies” had worn out its welcome. Yes, the music video, as Kanye West would agree, was stunning, but having seen many fabulous homemade editions (not to mention the Justin Timberlake "SNL" spoof) there was little reason to milk that cow again. Certainly not so soon. And yet, watching Kurt, and later the school's pitiful football team, ask the crowd to “put a ring on it” while sending their hips swiveling felt new and inspired.
2. Maybe This Time
So it's not a group number -- call me a sucker for songs of the down and out. Here, Rachel's so hung up on using sheer will power to be accepted, she's become miserable on her lonely journey getting there. And as April Rhodes, the boozing McKinley High has-been Mr. Schu recruits to give New Directions a leg up, Kristin Chenoweth is both hilarious and pitiful. Throw in "Maybe This Time" from "Cabaret" and it'll rip your heart out. In a good way.
1. Don't Stop Believin'
No surprise here. The first glimpse of our hapless high school outcasts, united to form a singing group that matters, brought instant tears. The funny thing is, Journey’s now-iconic “Don’t Stop Believin' ” isn’t all that uplifting when you listen to the lyrics – more like stifled emotion and desperate hope, no? – but when sung by our earnest and gawky group? As Coach Sue might put it: Outstanding.
Think I'm nuts for leaving out "No Air"? (I'm not!) Would have liked to see the impromptu singing of Nelly's "Ride Wit Me"? Can't believe Heart's "Alone" didn't make the cut? Tell me I'm a moron below.
-- Denise Martin (follow me on Twitter @denisemartin)
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Photo credit: "Rehab" screen capture from the pilot