Liner notes for my awesome Glee mix

November 28, 2011

(1) “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” This song was cut from the pilot episode that aired on TV, but is included in the “Director’s Cut.” The plot up to this point: Will Schuester, now a Spanish teacher at his old high school, takes over the school’s glee club, renames it New Directions, and hopes to return it to the glory it enjoyed when he was a student. However, his wife Terri has just announced that she’s pregnant, and he decides that he needs a better job with better benefits. He sings this John Denver song in an empty auditorium as a farewell to William McKinley High….

(2) “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Emma, a guidance counselor at McKinley and friend of Will, urges him to stay at McKinley. Then Will overhears New Directions rehearsing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the still-empty auditorium and decides to stay after all. This song kind of sets the tone for the series, which spotlights plucky underdogs who rise to musical greatness in part because they “don’t stop believing.”

(3) “Alone.” This Heart song is performed on the show as a karaoke duet in a bowling alley. It’s a good reminder of just how magical karaoke can be.

(4) “Sweet Caroline.” Neil Diamond never seemed so good!

(5) “Defying Gravity.” This song is taken from the musical Wicked by Stephen Schwartz. It was performed in Wicked by Idina Menzel (as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West) with Kristin Chenoweth (as Glinda); both women have since guest-starred on Glee, Menzel as the coach of a rival glee club and Chenoweth as a talented but alcoholic singer. The Glee version of the song features the unusually high male voice of Chris Colfer.

(6) “I’ll Stand By You.” Finn, the quarterback of the football team and male lead of many New Directions songs, sings this to his daughter. Actually, the girl is not yet born and not really his, but the scene in which he serenades her sonogram was very poignant nonetheless.

(7) “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” / “Young Girl.” Glee’s music has included several “mashups.” This Police/Gary Puckett combo comes from the “Ballad” episode in which Rachel falls in love with Will, her teacher, and he sings this to her in an attempt to let her down easily.

(8) “(You’re) Having My Baby.” This 1974 hit for Paul Anka is widely hated for its perceived sappiness and chauvinism, according to Dave Barry’s Bad Song Survey and many other sources. Finn sings this at a dinner with his girlfriend’s parents to convey that they are, yes, having a baby. Her dad, not being a Paul Anka fan, kicks her out of the house.

(9) “True Colors.” Sometimes Glee dusts off songs you’ve forgotten about — this Cyndi Lauper hit from 1986, for example — and reminds you of how good they are.

(10) “Smile.” Here’s another one I hadn’t heard before but really like. The music was written by Charlie Chaplin as an instrumental theme for his 1936 movie Modern Times; the lyrics were added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons 18 years later, according to Wikipedia.

(11) “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Finn’s girlfriend Quinn finally confesses that the baby she’s carrying isn’t his. Finn, understandably upset by the betrayal, later brings sheet music for this Rolling Stones song to the group as a last-minute addition to its Sectionals set list.

(12) “Borderline” / “Open Your Heart.” Another mashup, this one from the all-Madonna episode.

(13) “Dream On.” Will’s old singing nemesis, played by Neil Patrick Harris of Doogie Howser fame, auditions against Will for the role of Jean Valjean in a community theatre production of Les Miserables; moreover, they have both prepared the same audition song (Aerosmith’s “Dream On”) and, due to time constraints, are forced to sing it as a duet. This use of completely implausible coincidences to justify the inclusion of a killer musical number is typical of Glee, and can be funny or annoying, depending on one’s perspective.

(14) “Safety Dance.” One advantage of using an able-bodied actor to portray a wheelchair-bound character is that the character can jump up and dance in fantasy sequences while covering Men Without Hats.

(15) “Dream A Little Dream Of Me.” This song, first recorded in 1931, eventually became a hit for Mama Cass Elliot of The Mamas & the Papas.

(16) “Poker Face.” This duet by Rachel and her mother Shelby (the coach of a rival glee club) was from a Lady Gaga-themed episode. Although I associate Lady Gaga with over-the-top spectacles, this stripped-down version of her song (with a piano providing the sole accompaniment) works really well.

(17) “Stronger.” With this track, we move to some highlights from Season 2. “Stronger” is taken from the episode featuring Britney Spears songs. Some decent self-empowerment sentiments here.

(18) “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Here the Beatles song has been dramatically altered; Kurt sings it as a tribute to his father Burt, who has suffered a heart attack and is in a coma.

(19) “Teenage Dream.” One of New Directions’ opponents at Sectionals in Season 2 is the Dalton Academy Warblers. Unlike most groups on the show-choir circuit, who rely heavily on full bands for instrumental backup, the Warblers resemble a true a cappella group. The arrangement of this Katy Perry song was borrowed from the Tufts Beelzebubs.

(20) “Forget You.” Just when you thought life at McKinley High couldn’t get any wackier, Gwyneth Paltrow shows up as a substitute teacher who channels Cee Lo Green.

(21) “Landslide.” Gwyneth Paltrow, continuing her bid for the title of Best Substitute Teacher Ever, covers a Fleetwood Mac song that Stevie Nicks wrote about her challenging relationship with Lindsey Buckingham: “Well I’ve been afraid of changing because I’ve built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, children get older, and I’m getting older too.”

(22) “Loser Like Me.” A song written specifically for Glee, this rivals “Don’t Stop Believin’” as a pro-underdog anthem for the series. Even with an atrocious bridge (not heard during the telecast), it’s still irresistibly catchy.

(23) “Never Going Back Again.” From the episode devoted to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album (1977). The members of Fleetwood Mac overcame frequent and emotional conflicts to make a great record; similarly, Will urges the members of New Directions to channel their own problems into making compelling music.

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