And that’s what you missed: ‘Glee’ covers that belong on your playlists
Let’s be honest — “Glee” fans have been through a lot. The 2009 show started out as a Fox Network underdog before their covers of classic — and not so classic — songs started topping the charts and catapulted the show and its actors to mob-worthy fame. But since then and throughout the show’s six seasons, the cast and the vehicle itself have been subject to rumors, controversies and a couple of tragic deaths of the show’s young cast. It has endured criticism of its plot (of which we wholly and fully acknowledge, with glee — ha!) and of its entire premise.
But recently, especially since the start of quarantine in March, “Glee” has seen a resurgence. From TikToks and hilarious tweets lovingly making fun of the plots to new unbearably sad headlines, “Glee” has unexpectedly returned to the public sphere. But even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed “Gleek,” we are here to tell you that many of the songs the cast has covered rightly belong on our playlists, as well as yours. Frequently songs are rearranged and revamped to create an entirely new feel, and sometimes even a better one. You’ve heard of “Glee’s” covers of “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Somebody to Love,” but these are the true objective heroes carrying the “Glee” fandom over a decade after its premiere. So add these songs to your playlists, and play them with pride! Let your inner Gleek shine through.
Lastly, before we get into it, dear readers, we have a favor to ask of you. Our Scene editor, Ryan Israel, has been staunchly opposed to giving into the Gleek fever and watching an episode, which would surely lead to a spiral of consuming all six seasons in a couple weeks. However, he has generously agreed to watch and live tweet an episode of the ground-breaking show if we received 50 likes on this tweet about the topic. So please, help us educate this poor soul, or at least throw us a like to make things interesting. God knows we need it Here.
“My Life Would Suck Without You” (honorable mention)
While maybe not the most well-known “Glee” song, the performance is one of the most iconic, summing up some of the best covers from the front half of “Glee’s” first season with an upbeat dance tribute — keep an eye out for some songs that made the cut for this list. Also, it’s just a fun song that rings true in our hearts. We would like to note that our life would suck without “Glee.”
- “Without You”
Now this one’s a hot take. People crap on Lea Michele and her character quite a bit — and perhaps rightfully so, but Michele makes almost every solo she dramatically belts her own. This one in particular completely twists the original on its head. Michele takes DJ David Guetta’s over-synthesized and over-produced 2011 club hit and turns it into a soulful and soaring love ballad more impactful than the first. Sure, Guetta and Usher’s version is pleasant to hear in a party or dance setting, but Michele’s take on it remixes it into a nearly brand new song worth putting all your emotion into scream-singing in 2020. This one’s for all of the Lea Michele ballads that didn’t make the cut but rest in our hearts — and playlists — forever.
- “Poker Face”
This one may be the most unique deviation from its original version. Everyone knows Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” from every waking moment in 2008, but this slowed down, yet powerful and lighthearted duet featuring Broadway legend Idina Menzel and Lea Michele deserves accolades in its own right. Who knew understanding the lyrics to “Poker Face” could sound so good?
- “Rumor Has It / Someone Like You”
One of the most insane — and wonderful — plots in Season 3 is the all-female rival glee club coined the “Trouble Tones” featuring Santana (Rivera), Brittany (Morrison) and Mercedes (Amber Patrice Riley), with Menzel as the club’s coach. Few mashups on the show feature both songs by the same artist, and for good reason. However, this Adele combination is an exception that highlights some of the best voices on “Glee.” Try to get Rivera’s belting of “Don’t forget me, I beg” out of your head after one listen. We dare you.
- “Smooth Criminal”
If you’re a Michael Jackson fan that has reservations about listening to his music, look no further than “Glee.” One of the most iconic performances in the show’s six seasons, this sing-off battle of Michael Jackson’s hit between Santana (Rivera) and Sebastian (played by “The Flash’s” Grant Gustin) is a cult favorite of fans and foes alike. The electric performance chemistry between the two characters is palpable even through headphones, and the accompanying music from duo 2Cellos encapsulates the frantic energy of this performance with ease, cementing it as one of the show’s best.
- “Singin’ in the Rain / Umbrella”
Have you seen Tom Holland’s “Lip Sync Battle” against Zendaya? Who are we kidding — of course you have. Well, you need to thank the “Glee” mashup gods for that “Singin‘ in the Rain” intro which led into “Umbrella,” because the show did it first in Season 1. Although the two songs are integrated far better to create a true mashup in “Glee,” the idea is still the same. While we normally despise any songs sung by Will the Creep (Matthew Morrison), we were forced to make an exception for this duet with Gwenyth Paltrow. For this one time, you can stand under our umbrella, Will.
Naya Rivera/Santana Lopez supremacy, there is no other. Her cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” takes the original slowed-down version and brings the tempo up to dance party levels to cinch sectionals for the New Directions in the show’s second season. While the in-studio song stands on its own, part of what makes this such an iconic and memorable number is the performance. Not only does Santana absolutely kill the vocals, Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morrison) and Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.)’s dance moves steal the show. We think it’s safe to say that Winehouse herself would have been proud of this performance.
- “It’s My Life/Confessions Pt II”
This one is a mashup sung by most of the male leads of Season 1, highlighting the late Cory Monteith and the TikTok-hilarious Kevin McHale as soloists. While their vocals aren’t particularly stunning, the unsuspecting McHale twist on Usher’s “Confessions” is an almost unsettlingly powerful and scream-along version of the R&B song. McHale sings the best parts of “Confessions” — the chorus, of course — and blends it with Monteith’s unabashedly anthem-like chants of “It’s my life.” This mashup makes it clear that some songs are simply better together. Coupled with the sober knowledge that Monteith did not “live forever,” beckoning to the listener to live life to the fullest, the mashup creates a karaoke-worthy hit.
- “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”
To all the Meatloaf fans out there, we apologize, but this is “Glee’s” song now. This cover of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is a Finn (Cory Monteith) special — his energy, charisma and vocal prowess truly steal the show and rightfully win the New Directions their national title after three seasons. This song is three minutes and 51 seconds of pure serotonin, and its shortened length — the original is nearly eight and a half minutes long — packs a punch in less than half the time. Combined with The Trouble Tones’ “Edge of Glory” and Rachel’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” it’s no wonder this episode was the peak of “Glee” music. Add all of these songs to your playlist!
- “Teenage Dream (Acoustic)”
This list could easily be solely Blaine (Darren Criss’) top “Glee” performances — future Scene article? Let us know! — but we had to choose one, and this was the winner. While Blaine performed “Teenage Dream” as his character’s introduction at the start of Season 2, the reprise and acoustic version in Season 4 is superior for its heart and growth. While Criss’ performances of “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Cough Syrup” have found new life on TikTok, the emotion felt as Criss soulfully belts out this stripped and slowed down cover of Perry’s classic 2010 bubblegum hits the refresh button on both the show in its fourth season and our hearts — even if you aren’t a viewer of the show.
- “I Feel Pretty/Unpretty”
A dynamic mashup of the classic “West Side Story” tune and the 1992 TLC hit, you don’t even need to know the context in which this song is sung by two “Glee” characters, Rachel and Quinn, to enjoy it — but if you’re daring to watch the show, this one’s worth it. The blend of Lea Michele’s powerful voice mixed with Dianna Agron’s soft and comforting vocals creates an impeccable new version of two great songs. The blend of the two voices with two distinct but compatible songs normally sung by one artist creates a song that can powerfully stand on its own. A cult favorite of “Glee” fans in 2020, this one deserves all the hype even outside the show’s kitschy walls.
Did we miss any of your favorite “Glee” tunes? Let us know, we’re always down to debate this list and talk about the show we all hate to love.