A cappella group performing on stage
The A Cappella Blog



In this edition, we’re taking a look at The 5s of Glee.

Last fall, Glee arrived on the primetime television scene as a quirky, funny, and musically intensive powerhouse of show, earning a large and dedicated following of fans, in addition to a Golden Globe for best musical or comedy television series. After a four month hiatus, the show is set to return tomorrow night. And so, what better time to break things down?

Five Reasons to Love Glee
1. The Music. Every episode of Glee is something like an a cappella show in the regard that you’re going to see a new spin on a popular song. Sometimes it’s contemporary, like Lea Michele and Cory Monteith on Jordin Sparks’ “No Air;” sometimes it will be a forgotten favorite like Matthew Morrison on “Bust a Move;” still yet, other times you’ll get the full cast performing something obvious, but winning, like “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Whatever the case may be, the show reenergizes and at times reinvents favorites in a wonderfully entertaining way.
2. The Optimism. When I was trying to put my finger on why I’d gotten hung up on Glee it occurred to me that one of the show’s most intoxicating qualities is its unabashed optimism. The kids who play nice will win their sectional competition. The gay kid’s roughneck father will accept him. The teacher will leave his vapid dolt of a wife and get with the endearing co-worker he should have been with all along. It’s not necessarily brilliant stuff, but it is the same brand of good times, simple solutions and escapism that guilty pleasure shows like Saved By The Bell used to deliver.
3. The Concept. As a cappella continues to emerge in the public consciousness, it makes sense that show choirs too would be recognized for their appeal. Glee club may not be cool, but it is fun, entertaining and captivating. Sure, the show glamorizes, but for all the dramas we’ve seen about football teams and generic social misfits, why not give the music nerds their due?
4. The Upshot. As much as Glee arrived at a time when the American public was ready to embrace, you can’t deny that the show has also done it’s part to further public interest in show choirs and the a cappella world. No, glee clubs aren’t, objectively, cool right now—but they just might be as close to it as they’ve ever been.
5. The Pay Off. I can recall few season finales more fulfilling than Glee’s fall closer. We finally got to sectionals. Finn finally realized he wasn’t Quinn’s baby daddy. Mr. Schuester finally sucked a little face with Ms. Pillsbury. It was deeply fulfilling stuff, and better yet, we still have the next round of competition, the Quinn-Rachel courtship and the continuation of the Schuester-Sylvester feud to look forward to. It was a finale that was both designed to satisfy the viewers, and to leave them wanting more, which is exactly what it should have done.

Five Reasons to Hate Glee
1. The Idiot’s Plot. In literary circles, you can identify the idiot’s plot by the fact that story simply would not function were the characters not idiots. Sorry kids, but Finn actually thinking he impregnated Quinn by being in the same hot tub is just absurd, and I struggle with good ol’ Mr. Schuester really thinking his wife is pregnant over a period of that many months. These bits of absurdity have resolved themselves going into the spring season, but still make me question the writing.
2. Auto-Tuning and Effects. I can accept the fact that the show’s sound is going to be produced, but I do struggle when two characters start singing from sheet music, and have reverb on their voices before the instruments even kick in (for one example, “No Air”). The auto-tuning just has a tendency to sound too mechanical for my tastes. I suppose it’s the a cappella fan in me, but all the effects more often than not just seem excessive.
3. Lack of Realism. It’s TV, I get that. But still—Finn’s really going to show up moments before sectionals with sheet music no one has seen before, and they’re going to take onto the stage? I particularly appreciated his suggestion that they not plan the choreography because “We’re at our best when we’re loose.”
4. Pacing. There are points when the attention span of this show is just absurd. I like that they make us wait for big moments like Schuester breaking up with his wife, or Finn splitting from Quinn. But you have to figure out something to go in between big moments, and an ideally to help build your way there. I think what has bothered me most is Rachel’s flights of fancy—she loves Finn—no, she loves Puck; no, she loves Mr. Schuester —but really she loves Finn. I know girls are like that, but giving her crush/relationship-of-the-week tangents, I become less invested in the character and in her ever actually getting with Finn. If we slowed things down and let not just the big storylines but the subplots too grow from week to week, some good things could happen.
5. Out of Synch Lip-Synching. The songs are going to get recorded separately from the video we see on TV, and that’s fine. What irks me is that a show this popular on a national network still has so many points when there’s no question that the cast is not singing what we’re hearing. The wheelchair kid is especially guilty of this.

The Five Best Songs of Glee So Far (in no particular order)
1. ”Don’t Stop Believin’.” This was the song on which Glee first established its identity and did a great job of exhibiting what a Glee song can do—recreate an old favorite and make it relevant again.
2. ”You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The Glee kids performed this at competition and I think part of why I dug it was the relatively light production and the lack of montage. It was back to basics stage performance, and got back to the heart of the show.
3. ”Somebody to Love.” It’s a good song for a cappella groups and show choirs alike, and the emotion of Rachel’s return to the group to sing female lead on this helped cement it as one of the most memorable songs of the show.
4. ”I’ll Stand By You.” This is a bit of a personal choice, but I love this song, and I love when a show reminds me of a song like this that I may have forgotten up to that point. The sound is also relatively simple on this one--mostly just Monteith singing with a piano and drums behind him (albeit the fact that it’s played over images of him looking at ultrasounds and whatnot).
5. ”My Life Would Suck Without You.” The season closing performance was completely relevant to the plot of the show, and was memorable in the way in which it called back upon the visuals of almost every musical number performed on the show up to that point. What’s more, it’s current and fun—a song I can actually believe The Gleeks wanting to arrange on their own.

Glee returns Tuesday, April 13, at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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