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Top 20 Tracks from Glee Seasons 1 & 2

September 20, 2011

With the Season 3 Premiere of Glee happening TONIGHT, what better time to look back on the two years that have past and track through some of the most memorable performances to date.  Highlighting all of The New Directions and not just a certain Miss Rachel Berry, here are the twenty best tracks (give or take) from the last two years.

20 – Get It Right

By the end of season two, the original song conceit was getting a little on the unbelievable side, particularly when they would ‘write’ power pop smashes like Loser Like Me or Light Up The World in five minutes.  Basically, the tunes were great but it was supremely unconvincing that this bunch of high schoolers could right Max Martin chart toppers.  But this, a lovely Rachel Berry ‘penned’ solo number, hits all the right notes of the character and the narrative, as well as being a beautiful tune.

19 – Songbird

And here we have Santana Lopez doing an absolutely lovely rendition of the Fleetwood Mac classic Songbird.  Glee copped a lot of flack for their tribute episodes all through season two but, on occasion, the selections served to actually forward the storylines, instead of just provided random iTunes success stories.  This beautiful number was definitely one of the former, progressing the Brittany/Santana unrequited love storyline better than most hack writers ever could.  It helped, obviously, be highlighting just how affecting Naya Rivera’s vocals could truly be and arranging them in a lovely, stripped back take.

18 – Toxic

On the flipside, the Britney/Brittany tribute episodes was everything that was WRONG with Glee in season two.  But, lazy narratives and disjointed nonsensical storytelling aside, there were still some genuinely exciting musical moments, none more so than this – the stripped back, sensual retelling of the one time teen wonders biggest hit.  Once you get past the potential awkwardness of Mister Schue gyrating along with his students, the vocals and the arrangement itself are fantastic and the performance was a highlight of the episode itself.

17 – Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me

The Rocky Horror episode proved to be a surprisingly good fit creatively for Glee, allowing many of the cast to break out and explore different sides to their characters.  The often ignored Miss Pillsbury in particular got to shine in this sexy, ecstatic performance of the Susan Sarandon classic.  Bonus points for the shirtless Mister Schue and the spot on touch visual tributes, like Santana and Brittany spying at the window.

16 – River Deep, Mountain High

Glee is almost spoilt by having so many charismatic performers filling up the cast.  None is more wasted than Amber Riley, who plays mini diva in training Mercedes.  Thankfully, we still have numbers like this to tide us over – an uplifting, joyous duet of the Motown classic, where Riley and Rivera get to let loose and raise the roof on the Glee Club.

15 – Maybe This Time

Glee has had some amazing guest stars the last two seasons, but none better than Broadway dynamo Chenoweth, whose alcoholic flibbertigibbet April Rhodes stole each and every scene she was in.  Right from the start, April struck the right note of desperation and show-stopping amazingness, especially in this powerhouse duet with Rachel Berry that can’t help but send shivers down your spine.

14 – Safety Dance

Artie is often sidelined in Glee, mostly because he can’t, you know, move his feet.  But in this fantasy sequence take on the Men Without Hates novelty hit from the 80’s, Kevin McHale really gets to cut loose with both his vocals and his tight dance moves, knocking out one of the most memorable performances of the series to date.

13 – Go Your Own Way

Everybody knows that Lea Michele has one of the biggest, most acrobatic musical theatre voices working in pop culture today, but she tends to struggle with the rockier or sexier numbers.  So this, a gender reversed take on the Fleetwood Mac classic, was a pleasant surprise.  Rarely has Michele sounded sexier or more relaxed, free of the vocal acrobatics that are her trademark, she lets loose with a rocky, earthy performance that hits all the right notes, vocally and performance wise.  Bonus points for the amazing dirty looks that Quinn shoots at her throughout.

12 – I Feel Pretty / Unpretty

Another genius mash up, this time a beautiful countrified take on the TLC hit and the My Fair Lady classic.  Dianna Agron rarely gets a moment to shine on the show musically, but this suits her down to a tee.  Who would have thought that a country-lite reimagining of an R’n’B smash and a showtune would be the perfect home musically for both?

11 – Poker Face

And this is just beautiful.  If the top ten wasn’t already a Lea Michele-apalooza, you could make an arguement for this stunning piano arrangement of the Lady Gaga electro pop modern classic to sit atop of the chart.  Sure, a heartfelt Mother/Daughter reconnection may have felt out of place with lines like “I’m bluffing, with my muffin”, but it’s a credit to the sincerity and joyousness of Michel and Idina Menzel’s performance, both vocally and theatrically, that it just tugs at your heart strings for three and a half glorious minutes.

10 – Thriller / Heads Will Roll

Two mash ups might have charted higher but this is probably the most exhilarating number in the whole countdown.  No expense was spared in the Superbowl episodes extravaganza, but at least creatively it yielded one of Glee’s best reworkings to date.  The costuming and styling of the Michael Jackson megahit was spot on and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs alternate rock classic fit seamlessly into the chorus musically and thematically.  If a law was passed that every song for the rest of time was required to have Naya Rivera belting out the chorus of Heads Will Roll over the top of it, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  Amazing.

09 – Vogue

Gleeks had to wait over half a season to see arch-villain Sue Sylvester finally belt out a number. And approximately zero of them could have anticipated that her debut number would end up being an insanely funny shot for shot recreation of the Madonna dance classic Vogue. Jane Lynch proved to be as adeptly game physical performer as she was verbally acerbic, gyrating in the iconic conical bra and slyly spitting out hilariously lyrical changes like ‘Will Schuester, I hate you!’

08 – Rolling In The Deep

Season 2 of Glee copped a lot of schtick for being less about the storytelling and more about attention seeking stunts.  But, when said stunts manifested themselves in such awe-inspiring things of beauty like this, an dark, ominous acapella rendition of the Adele chart topper, you have to wonder whether there is method in Ryan Murphy’s musical madness.  Because this is just incredible, subverting the already angry gospel rock modern classic and stripping it back to an ominous vocal and highlighting the simple ferocity of the lyrics.  The arrangement just sends shivers down your spine and Jonathan Groff has never sounded better.  You almost wish every single male Glee cast member got their pink slip and he was contracted to sing every male Glee lead in the future, ever.  Oh, the actual performance visually is a bit meh, hence a vocal only link, to get the true effect.  The Glee performance doesn’t do the darkness justice – poor Lea Michele, no matter how much she pouts, never gets more threatening than a peckish Labrador puppy, bless.

07 – Halo / Walking On Sunshine

The first of what would become many mash-ups that would become Glee’s musical signature. In the episode, the war between the boys and the girls may have been declared a draw but, in the real world, the girls were the clear winner. A psuedoephedrine-fuelled extravaganza that proved as to be hilarious as it was insanely catchy, it became that sometimes two really wrong songs could indeed make a right.

06 – Forget You

Gwyneth on Glee should have been an awful idea, benched somewhere between a piece of lazy stunt-casting and a desperate attempt for a career revival. But instead, Paltrow was nothing short of magical on her one episode stint late last year giving a funny and free-wheelingly charming performance as a substitute teacher. Never was this more evident than in her rousing, authorative take on Cee-Lo’s sweary smash hit. Her nicely soulful voice worked perfectly, but it was her fierce, energetic dance moves that suggested that, in another universe, she could be the second coming of Beyonce.

05 – One Less Bell To Answer / A House Is Not A Home

After somewhat squandering guest star Chenoweth’s famous singing pipes in favour of her delightfully ‘ditzy lush’ schtick when she first appeared early in season one, Ryan Murphy made up for it in spades with this epic mash-up, first made famous by Barbara Striesand. Stretching to almost five whole minutes of screen time, it remains one of the longest uninterrupted numbers Glee has attempted to date. Chenoweth’s April and Mister Schuester share heartbreaking harmonies as their painfully lonely characters slowly dance around an empty house.  Rarely in Glee have two powerhouse vocalists been matched so evenly by such superb acting.

04 – I Wanna Hold Your Hand

WOW.  Porcelain doesn’t get a chance for amazing numbers that don’t revolve around him following Teenage Dreamboat Blaine around like a lovesick puppy that much in Season 2, but Colfer’s award season sweep was sealed with this number from early in the season.   Allowing the arrangement to focus on his pure, heartfelt vocals, this touching take on The Beatles classic tugs at your heartstrings in all the right ways.  Simply beautiful.

03 – Don’t Rain On My Parade

On Glee, Lea Michele’s Rachel Berry gets a lot of grief for being a spotlight hog. Thankfully, she also gets to perform numbers like this, a determined and energetic take on the classic Striesand number. In three short spine-tingling minutes, it’s clear that a new musical powerhouse has well and truly been born.

02 – Don’t Stop Believing

The song that started it all. Who would have thought that a motley group of six teenage misfits in garish cheap red tee shirts would change the face of the modern music forever. Not only was this stirring take on the 1981 Journey hit a complete standout in the pilot episode, but it served as a calling card for the show from Day One. Suddenly, show choir weren’t dirty words anymore.

01 – Teenage Dream

It feels strange to have any Glee list without Don’t Stop Believing at Number One. But here we are and here it isn’t.  When the preview clip of Teenage Dream leaked at the end of last year, the sound of gay jaws simultaneously hitting the floor could be heard round the world. Bursting from obscurity, Darren Criss’s earnestly sexy performance forever redefined sheer charisma and thus a star was born. With his matinee idol good looks and aching sincerity, he sold the bejesus out of one of the most adventurous arrangements of a song that Glee had attempted to date. This gender-reversed take on the Katy Perry classic rode its stunning acapella arrangement all the way to the top of the download charts and became the most heart-winning Glee track.

GLEE is airing at 8:30 Wednesday 21st September on Channel 10.

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