Top Ten Glee Tunes

Everyone has an opinion about the songs those lovable New Directions kids sing every week, and it’s not always positive. Glee’s audience has graduated from wonderment at an actual musical drama on TV, to dissing the showtunes that seem to be stealthily taking over, hating on the classic rock hits Creepy Schue loves so much (don’t even get me started on the days when he rapped), and getting ready to barf every time  Finn sings in that sickly whisper-voice (it can’t just be me).

So I wanted to take a brief break from moping about how Mercedes never sings and Rachel’s character couldn’t be more two-faced to present the Top Ten Glee Covers!! Wooo! Let’s all bask in the glow of some of the great music the show’s done (and hope for more, as the last few episodes have been surprisingly strong, bucking those pesky shark-jumping rumors).

These are in no particular order, I’ve linked to YouTube videos where I can find them, and I cop to the fact that songs connected to subplots I loved got extra points.

1. Safety Dance

I love this for two reasons: Kevin McHale’s voice makes me melt, and it’s one of those rare instances where Glee throws an almost maniacal amount of energy behind a song and it works. Sometimes, it feels like they’re trying a little too hard, but this isn’t one of those times. I don’t think Glee always handles Artie’s disability well, but this episode acknowledged his desire to walk again without sugar-coating facts or pulling any miraculous stunts (Christmas episode, I’m looking at you).

2. I Dreamed a Dream

I’ll admit, I had never heard this song until Susan Boyle sang it, but I remember instantly falling in love with it , and listening to the Ruthie Henshall version (best ever) on loop while I did my 2008 taxes. Idina Menzel and Lea Michele really did it justice, IMO, and I probably cried during this episode, because their mother/daughter story arc seriously tore it up.

3. Like a Virgin

I’m pretty sure this is the first time we really got to hear Naya Rivera’s smoking voice, not to mention one of Creepy Shue’s most creeptastic moments (you’re gonna just waltz in and devirginize Ms. Pillsbury like you’re some sex god from the year 2929? Really?), and I’ll never forget Rachel’s adorable/awkward lilac capelet. Re-watching this video made me a) need to take a cold shower and b) really, really miss Jonathan Groff.

4. You Keep Me Hangin’ On

I love Quinn’s voice, even though it’s not necessarily the strongest/loudest of the bunch. I debated between this song and “Papa Don’t Preach” (which I thought was hilarious simply because Quinn and Puck were singing a weirdly adult song to three nonplussed little boys), but PDP is barely a minute long and I love the energy in “Hangin’ On.” The song was accompanied by a Cheerios dance routine, which I can’t find online, but I linked to a hilarious video compilation of cute Puck/Quinn moments (clearly the work of a dedicated P/Q shipper).

5. Young Girl/Don’t Stand So Close to Me Mash-up

Generally, I hate mash-ups as much as the next Glee fan, not to mention these two songs only go together thematically, not musically. Still, here we have Schue doing the opposite of creeping–actually trying to discourage women from falling all over him. Bet he’s regretting that now… Anyway, this reminds me of ye olden Glee days, when Schue’s personal arc still had room to grow and didn’t feel as stifled and insignificant as it does now.

5. Sweet Caroline

Remember when Puck had a personality other than “fresh out of juvie badass who can’t fight, so don’t even ask him”? And he was just beginning to play his guitar all the time and make quips about Jewish musicians, so it wasn’t stale yet? Ahh, I miss that guy. And perhaps the above shipper video influenced me, but I do think he and Quinn should get back together–I have no idea what the writers were thinking introducing Sam, because really, does he add anything to the Glee club but gums (ok, ok, that was bodysnarking)??

6. Maybe This Time

I know most people (myself included) quickly tired of Glee’s guest-star-bonanza, but I thought Kristin Chenoweth’s bizarre, fragile turn as April Rhodes fit well with early season 1’s darker vibe–she’s a washed-up, high school dropout, who, if I remember correctly, has an affair with an octogenarian and buys a roller rink?? Whatever, I love her and this song is dynamite. Also, she’s supposed to be guest-starring again later in this season!

7. Rose’s Turn

Chris Colfer’s emotional and vocal range is astounding. I love songs that tie in with the plot, and this was the perfect venue for Kurt to express how abandoned he felt after trying to win his father’s affection by essentially changing his own identity. I also think the bulbs spelling out “KURT” in the auditorium marked the beginning of Glee’s abandonment of pretending New Directions has a limited budget (or embrace of musical-sanctioned inner-monologue-type daydreams, depending on how you look at it).

8. The Boy Is Mine / River Deep, Mountain High

I couldn’t decide between these two. “The Boy is Mine” was a staple of my middle school days, but “River Deep, Mountain High” is a Tina Turner classic. Mercedes and Santana sound amazing together, though I still find it really weird that Mercedes never gets plot lines that aren’t about jealousy (over Puck, or over Kurt when she smashed in his car window before finding out he’s gay) or eating (she develops anorexia-for-a-day and later goes on to start a tots revolution?). Also, does anyone else think it might be mildly racist that the only two African-American Glee girls always wind up singing together?

9. Like a Prayer

Why this was good: Kurt, Mercedes, and Rachel all kill their solos (Finn, on the other hand, sounds so wheezy it’s like his solo strangled him, so we’ll just pretend it never happened). It was a good example of Glee using the different kids’ voices in complementary ways, plus there’s a backing gospel choir, which takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Not that Madonna is necessarily known for her singing prowess, but I was surprised by how completely the Glee kids made this song their own, and how good they sounded doing it.

10. Teenage Dream

I’ve been trying to stay away from recent episodes, but damn, this was just so, so, so good. And I have a theory about why I loved this and wasn’t too impressed with The Warblers’ rendition of Hey, Soul Sister namely that HSS is already a fairly stripped-down acoustic song, sung by a dude, so it just wasn’t as dramatic to hear a bunch of dudes singing it (even the harmonies are really cool). Taking a Katy Perry song and de-Autotuning it and subverting it to represent one male character’s longing? Amazing.

9 replies on “Top Ten Glee Tunes”

I’ve loved “I Dreamed a Dream” for such a long time… Les Miz is one of the soundtracks I put on when I need a good cry (more for “Come to Me”… *sob*). And yes, I think Glee’s is a very good version, but it doesn’t make me weepy like the Original London Production, or even Susan Boyle’s for that matter.

Great compilation!

Also, I wholeheartedly agree with this list. It’s amazing how many of these are on my favorites as well!

Looking at some of these, I just started to think – damn, Glee used to be such a GOOD show. I was genuinely moved by it. Now, I’m just happy if it isn’t completely obnoxious and there’s one song I can stand. Pretty much the only reason I keep watching is for the Kurt storyline. I used to watch for Quinn and for Brittana, but they broke up the latter and made the former uninteresting by pairing her with a human dish-towel (seriously, does anyone like Sam?)

I had the same nostalgic experience writing this list. I still think Glee nails it sometimes, but they need to hire more consistent writers or find some other way to continue story arcs without growing tedious.

And thanks for the heads-up on Naya! I just Googled her and she said in an interview that she is 1/2 Puerto Rican, 1/4 German, and 1/4 African-American, which is an interesting combination.

When Meghan pitched this to me last Friday, I had to sit on my hands not to email over all my own suggestions. I love almost all of this list, I never felt Schue’s pervy teacher mashup, and I’m almost ashamed to say I couldn’t get over my distaste for Ms. Perry’s Teenage Dream enough to like the Warblers’ take. I freaking love Maybe This Time, and Chenowith made Lea look a bit like a newbie. I love her, and I love her as April Rhodes. Home may have been a pretty lame episode, especially next to The Rhodes Less Taken, but she was still fantastic.

I have to admit, I might just love Schue’s mashup because I love both of the songs in it. Plus the absurdity of him thinking he can persuade Rachel and Emma to back off by…..singing a song about it? Ermmm. I love Glee when its gets really absurd (NOT when it just gets nonsensical).


I am definitely hooked on TD too; it’s the only Glee song I’ve actually downloaded (and I buy new music, like, once a month, maybe). The more I see of Darren Criss, the more attractice I find him.

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