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Glee: New (Music) Directions?

What a momentous couple of weeks this has been, huh, my fellow Gleeks? We’ve seen the official canning of the Warblers (complete with the recent release of and all-Warblers album available wherever music is sold), the final and surprisingly well-handled acknowledgement that Emma probably has a real mental illness, and, unexpectedly, the return of Kristen Chenoweth as April Rhodes (I’m still holding to my two-episodes-per-guest-star rule, because, although I love that little woman something fierce, her storyline was boring and unnecessary). Santana’s a real lesbian now, Kurt’s back at McKinley, and it turns out Quinn used to fat. Who knew? In any case, here are my thoughts on the last couple episodes, because I know you want to hear them:

Born This Way, the episode, was an almost perfect way to manifest "Born This Way", the song. While Lady Gaga has been making Sam (me, not the character) a little smarmy as of late, even if you are a little iffy on Gaga being the new gay icon, "Born This Way" is a pretty honest shout out to her gay supporters. Coming on the crux of Gaga’s struggle with Target to reverse the whole supporting-anti-gay-candidates thing, "Born This Way" is a token of appreciation to her gay fans and an acknowledgement of the struggle of some of her younger ones, and the Glee episode took that song and used it in exactly the right way. Faced with the task of finding something they dislike about themselves and advertising it on a t-shirt, the members of New Directions accepted themselves for reasons from the admittedly insipid (Zizes has a bad attitude) to the profound (Tina dislikes her brown eyes because she doesn’t think Asians can be sexy), singing ballads throughout, to culminate in a triumphant performance of "Born This Way". Even Emma found the strength to address her foremost flaw, her OCD, in a scene with a therapist that was actually profoundly well-written. The whole episode was sappy and enjoyable, featuring a rather amazing mash-up of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story and “Unpretty” by TLC, and watching the kids in the club proudly accept their flaws and perform Gaga’s first non-Postmodern hit made me giddy. Of course, there was no need for the episode to be 90 minutes long—Kurt’s version of “As If We Never Said Good-Bye” and the lackluster final Warblers song (which featured them all hugging Kurt while hilariously showing none of their faces) could easily have been cut—but all in all it was a pretty enjoyable episode.

Rumours, on the other hand, was almost a complete failure. Evil Teri was pointlessly back, bringing with her the equally unnecessary April Rhodes (Kirsten Chenoweth), who performed a pretty rocking rendition of “Dreams” but was in only five scenes, including one where she sat next to Schu and watched the team sing. Sue was impressively unfunny, April was annoyingly non-present, and I can’t stand looking at any screen that holds the face of Teri Schuster, so it was up to the kids to push the story forward. And it just didn’t happen. Santana won’t come out of the closet and Sam is poor now and there was drama and there were rumors and blah blah blah, so, plotwise, the whole episode was a bust. But the music—oh, man, the music was amazing. Every song was a cover of a song off Fleetwood Mac’s iconic album Rumours, full of hits well-known enough to be recognizable but not so prevalent as to be annoying. While the storyline was manipulated to fit the songs—Finn and Quinn had to be fighting so they could sing “I Don’t Want to Know”—the quality of the music more than made up for it, and it redeemed the whole episode. Just make sure to fast forward the boring stuff.

But overall, the music on Glee has taken an interesting turn lately; the past few episodes have had songs that are a little more off the beaten path. Yes, we’ve had Pink and Maroon 5, but we’ve also had Adele, we’ve had show tunes, and we’ve had Fleetwood Mac (which, really, someone the age of the demographic this show is geared towards has probably never heard of). It’s fun to not immediately recognize a song on this show, and being reminded of old hits and being offered reinterpretations of songs from musicals makes watching each episode less…mindless. I’m excited to see the show has moved away (however timidly) from the Top 40 and into something a little less ubiquitous and totally right-now; it was a return to Journey, after all, that got the show started.

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  1. Blogger LKc | 9:56 PM |  

    **spoiler alert.

    dang. I'm behind.

  2. Blogger chris | 12:57 PM |  

    Believe it or not, my few students who are big modern country listeners also know and love Fleetwood Mac. I didn't get it either, but apparently there's some mandatory Rumours education for kids who grow up listening to K102.

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