Glee is celebrating its final season, which Fox is rolling out over the last half of the television season. While I'm not a big fan of the show (I gave up after a few episodes), it has yielded some great covers. Here are the show's three most important songs:
Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream"
The trouble with lesser Glee covers is that they are so heavily auto-tuned or filtered that they feel stilted. However, the show's two presentations of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" work well, though for very different reasons. The first capitalizes on the sweet sexiness of Perry's tune by layering a legion of harmonized male backing vocals. The production sounds like a wave of hormones and joy. Not to mention, who's knees wouldn't buckle if a group of cute guys sang this arrangment to him/her?
A totally different beast, the second version is a solo performance by Darren Criss, who delivers one of the more authentic and stripped down vocals in the series. Though reworked as a ballad, "Teenage Dream" is not slowed to a crawl. Instead, it maintains the tempo and amps up the darker tones, showing how passions can quickly flip from sweet to heartbroken. Criss has genuine chops for interpretation and phrasing--chops that make both versions soar.
"And I am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dream Girls
Jennifer Hudson's rendition of "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going" from the Dream Girls film is a staggering piece of brilliance and was key to her Oscar win. Still, Amber Riley is no slouch, and her spot-on interpretation feels reminiscent of Hudson's now classic delivery, but Riley reworks the tone. Where Hudson's performance focuses on desperation and anger, Riley's is more about strength. As you listen to her riff and put her foot down, you can't help but think that the American Idol producers who refused to cast Riley in their show's second season totally missed the point of a singing competition.
Journey's "Don't Stop Believing"
No Glee covers list would be complete without this tune. In fact, Glee's version of Journey's classic "Don't Stop Believing" introduced the song to a whole new generation of music fans. Arguably, the show would not have been such a hit without a flagship cover this excellent. Part of the reason the Glee version succeeds is that it recasts the power ballad as a romantic duet. Corey Monteith's cozy boy-next-door delivery coupled with Lea Michelle's Broadway flash creates a sweet opposites-attract tension. Their romantic chemistry permeates, and while listening to the song after Monteith's untimely death is sad, it is also important to recognize that he and Michelle will forever be a staple of pop culture history because of "Don't Stop." Glee's lasting impression on music and television will be set to this tune.