At their big Regional competition the New Directions introduced their first original songs. It was with great fear and trepidation we watched, because they were sure to be a disaster. We were all proven right—and wrong.
My initial reaction about original songs on Glee was that it would be just like the moment when you go see your favorite band in concert and in the middle of the set they say, "Here's a new one," and everyone goes to the bathroom or to get another beer or something. We don't watch Glee for new songs. We watch for new versions of songs that we love. After all, hearing a new song for the first time is a complicated endeavor. There are so many moving parts—lyrics, tune, melody, harmony, singing style—to pay attention to at once, that you can't process the whole thing on a deep level at first pass. When Rachel Barry bursts through the auditorium doors and sings, "Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter," we immediately know it's Barbra and we explode with excitement. Because many in the audience know where the song is from, what the message is, and possibly all the lyrics, it makes it that much easier to put the whole thing in context and therefore more successful as a narrative device.
But, with original songs, that's much more difficult. And, naturally, the Glee songs promised to be the most bland, middle-of-the-road iTunes bait sure to be churned out by the mass-market music factory. I was both right and a little bit wrong in all these assumptions.
Last year's episode at Regionals is possibly my favorite of the series so far, so this one had a lot to live up to, between heightened exceptions and original songs and whatnot. The episode was basically a prolonged music video with lots and lots of singing and just a little bit of plot development for dramatic tension. That's a pretty ideal situation, since this show's weakness this season has been in the storytelling, but it was jam-packed with musical goodness. So, let's get right to the songs.
The very top of the episode showed Blaine and the Warblers doing their version of Maroon 5's "Misery." That's an apt title for the song, because Maroon 5 pretty much gives me misery. They are like a big heaping bowl of vanilla ice cream. And not even really good vanilla ice cream—the cheap kind you get at the convenience store that has been sitting in the freezer forever and has that layer of icicles all over it. Ugh, Stupid Maroon 5.
During the whole number Babygay Kurt looks like he's in pain or has to fart or something. It's probably because he also knows Maroon 5 sucks and that the only good thing lead singer Adam Levine ever did was take those naked pictures for cancer awareness. No, Kurt is really mad because he realized that all the Warblers ever do is play the Pips to Blaine's Gladys Knight. Tell the truth, Babygay Kurt! In fact, during this opening number, I said, "Does Blaine now get a solo every episode? He's had even more than Rachel Barry!"
This is one of the fundamental problems with Glee. Once they identify a problem—like giving Blaine too many solos—they think that by acknowledging that it's a problem that it's OK to continue the problem. Like "Yeah, guys, we know this is annoying, but since we know it's annoying that makes us funny and meta." How about, you know, fixing the fucking problem!
"Only Child" is Rachel's second attempt at an original song. It's certainly not nearly as awesome as her first "My Headband" which happens to be both mine and Brittany's favorite song of all time. It would also be a YouTube hit these days. It's funny though. Finn tells Rachel that if she wants to write a good song, she really needs to feel the pain deep down inside, not the obvious pain.
Then we get a big heaping of every sloppy storyteller's favorite device: the voiceover. This used to be a hilarious staple of the show, but now it comes and goes at the writers' whims, just like everything else. We get Quinn—looking like a suspect in an Agatha Christie special on PBS' Mystery—talking about how badly she wants to be prom queen and how she's going to use Rachel Barry to get it.
The Warbler's bird Pavarotti died of embarrassment after Babygay Kurt put his home under a Burberry birdcage cover. He arrived to school in a Karl Lagerfeld Halloween costume rather than his uniform to sing a dirge for the dead bird. He walked into the Stalinist ruling Board of the Great Warbler's Collective of the People with a tape (A tape?! How quaint!) and sang The Beatles classic "Blackbird." Babygay Kurt knocks it out of the park whenever he does The Beatles. Remember "I Wanna Hold Your Hand?" Tears! This didn't make me cry, but Kurt's clear, high tenor sure gave me the chills.
And I'm not the only one. Blaine got this look on his face. Not a "Oh, shit, I have to listen to Maroon 5 and/or have to fart" look. It was more like a "I just looked at those naked pictures of Adam Levine and how I have to walk out of math class with my text book in my lap" kind of look. Yup, he was in love with Babygay Kurt.
When BG Kurt tells Blaine for the second time that he's a solo hog, Blaine agrees and goes to the ruling Board of the Great Warbler's Collective of the People to tell them that he needs to sing a solo with Kurt. They agree, like a good Stalinist ruling board should. When the two gays get in a room together, Blaine confesses his undying love for Kurt and they have the biggest, gayest, wettest kiss we have ever seen on primetime television.
While watching it, my very homosexual roommate let out this uncontrollable throbbing "SQUEEEEEEEEE" noise and he was overcome with so much gay joy that he pulled all his limbs into his body and they got tighter and tighter and tighter until all the gayness literally transformed him into a sequin. Well, he's kind of big, so it was more like a paillette. Considering "THEY KISSED" was a trending topic on Twitter last night, suffice it to say that my roommate isn't the only newly-minted sequin out there. Seriously, it was cute and gay and I loved it.
The other Glee-related trending topic last night was "Trouty Mouth," the name of the song Santana sang to her big-lipped boyfriend Sam. Since our girl Santana confessed her love for Brittany last episode, we're all surprised she's still with Sam, and this ditty just barely contains her contempt. But, hey, a girl has needs, especially Santana. This was a great song, sultry and mean in that way that only Santana can muster. I'm glad that the writers are continuing this story line, because this love quadrangle is sure to pay off dividends. But the way everyone in Glee has gotten with everyone else is getting a little Gossip Girl.
Then it was Puck's turn to sing an original song. So far, these comedic original songs are quite a gas. They should have let everyone sing a snippet of a song written just for them (who doesn't want to hear Mike Chang's torch song, "Abs"?). Puck got up and sang his latest love song for Lauren, "Big Ass...Heart." It was cute, funny, original, and simple. See, these short, one-gag songs aren't that hard to process on first listen. Maybe I was wrong about original songs.
Alright, motherfuckers, get ready for "Hell to the No." Again, this song is a one-gag trick about a big black diva saying "Hell to the NO" to just about everything. We get the concept right away, there is ample repetition, you can immediately sing along, and it's catchy as hell. This is the perfect original song for this show. Simple, easy to process, and wonderful to behold. If I were a writer on Glee, Mercedes would record this song on YouTube, become an internet smash, get a record deal, and then have to balance her new-found fame with life in the Glee Club. Give this girl something to do already. PS—I fell into the trap and downloaded this on iTunes this morning because I woke up singing, "Whoa oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh, No No No No No No No No!"
And now we come to Regionals. Sue Motherfucking Sylvester found out who the judges were for the competition—tea party candidate Tammy Jen Albertson (Gawker's hilarious intern Kathy Griffin), reformed stripper Sister Mary Constance (Loretta Devine), and Sue's old lover Rod Rivington—so she tailored
Oral Aural Intensity's song to the judges. It is called "Jesus Is a Friend of Mine." The sad thing is, any tea party member would actually vote for this song to win in the real world. That's not even like a made up thing for television. That is real truth in action.
Since I haven't been to the Warped Tour since Jnco jeans were in style, I had never heard of this "Candles" song or the band Hey Monday until last night. It's not a bad song, and it was sweet to see two gay boys have a duet together, but this song made absolutely no sense. "Blow the candles out, looks like a solo tonight." Yup, the word "solo" is right there in this duet. It seems to be about a girl who is alright with being on her own. So why the hell are two boys singing this song to each other like it's about falling in love. It makes no sense!
P!NK's (remember when she used to have an exclamation in her name?) "Raise Your Glass," makes a lot more sense. Finally everyone got to dance a bit and it is a nice celebratory song about a bunch of freaks and losers celebrating their difference and partying all night long (probably in an abandoned airplane hanger with a foam machine and the students from St. Dymphna's School of Wayward Girls). There isn't much to say about this—a standard rendition of a good song with some great dancing. Can't go wrong with that, but it didn't really wow me in a significant way.
Alright, here is Rachel Barry's original song "Get It Right." It was a long road to get there. After seeing Quinn and Finn holding hands in the hall, Rachel—like an actual mature human being instead of the monster she usually is—confronts Quinn and asks if she and Finn are together. Quinn says yes, and then launches into a cruel tirade against Rachel. Quinn really knows how to turn the dagger when she wants to. But it was also kind of sad, since Quinn says she's destined to marry Finn, become a real estate agent, and stay in Lima and raise kids. Rachel, she says, needs to get out of town, and to do that, she can't be with Finn. It's probably true, but couching your cruelty in altruism doesn't make you any less cruel. And also, Quinn, if you set your sights low, you're always going to hit your target. Why not try to get yourself out of there as well? That's why you gave up your baby in the first place, isn't it?
Quinn tells Rachel that she will always fuck up her relationships which is pretty accurate as long as Rachel is plagued by her crushing insecurities masked by false bravado. She tells Rachel to "get it right." She'll always lose Finn. This is her retaliation.
This is the original song I dreaded. It's every cliche about sinking ships and shouldered burdens and tumbling down and "getting it right," all in one song. I guess you could say it's the song that an over emotional 15-year-old would write, but that's the imitative fallacy in action. The song is slow and boring and like every slow song sung by every female vocalist ever on American Idol. You know that next year this is going to be the female solo of choice for every girl trying out for every show choir in America who thinks that she is just like Rachel Barry. It's some sort of faux profundity wrapped up in a few killer high notes.
And it's just too much to process all of this. You can't keep your attention through the whole thing. That the audience would spontaneously stand three quarters of the way through and remain on their feet until the last note is just asinine.
The group's second original song, "Loser Like Me," is a bit better. At least the concept was easy to grasp and the song catchy, but, again, in that very middle-of-the-road bland pop way. Naturally this and "Get It Right" are the top two singles on iTunes this morning. I hate America.
The message was good—that the crew is a bunch of misfits and they're better for it—but it just doesn't ring true in season two. The show telegraphs to us that they're losers and still get slushied, but they just don't seem as much like underdogs. Maybe it's because they're sure to win or because they've become so famous off screen. Or maybe it's because the show constantly peddles in cheap gimmicks rather than giving us some real emotional and character-driven storylines.
But how did these two songs win New Directions the competition? The first number was just Rachel singing and this number is them singing and just leaping around the stage with no direction. There seems to be absolutely no choreography at all, at least not in the style of Aural Intensity and the second half of the Warbler's number. Maybe if Mr. Schue spent a few minutes teaching his kids how to dance rather than about drugs, alcohol, and all the other teenage dangers they might know how to do a step ball change and a jazz square.
Anyway, the judges go off and deliberate and Kathy Griffin gets in some killer one-liners and wants to give the competition to Jesus. (Can we please get Tammy Jen Albertson back as the new Vice Principal of McKinley High? If not, can she at least have a girl fight with April Rhodes?) The stripper nun and Rod Rivington want to give it to McKinley, which they inevitably do. What, no mention at all of Rod and Sue's history? For shame!
So, New Directions wins, and Rachel gets the MVP award and makes a very sweet speech about how she did it with the help of the team. Yeah, thanks to Finn breaking up with her and Quinn being a mean old bitch, she finally wrote a good song. Way to go, team! But it's nice to see Rachel growing as a person. The sweetest moment of the whole episode, for me, was seeing Rachel cheering for Babygay Kurt's duet. She isn't a selfish uncaring monster after all. At least not all the time.
Yes, New Directions win, and all the original songs are selling like hot cakes on iTunes. A victory for everyone, especially the producers and the good people at Fox who, for a change, don't have to split any of the precious proceeds with musicians who wrote the songs their covering. That's what this was always about, capitalism. It will probably fall on deaf ears, but we can't keep having original songs every week. While we can handle a "new song" from our favorite band every now and again, we don't go to the concert to hear the next album that we don't recognize. Trying to make yourselves even more money is sure to be a bad decision in the long run. But when has Glee ever cared what its fans think.