Saturday, June 5, 2010
GLEE: THE MUSIC, VOLUME 3: SHOWSTOPPERS: High School High
GLEE: THE MUSIC, VOLUME 3: SHOWSTOPPERS
High School High
The 20 songs on the Deluxe Edition (The Standard Edition has 14 songs.) of the newest "Glee: The Music" compilation is nothing if not diverse. Each track of this motley crew of tunes seem to have been plucked from a different wall of the record shop. (Oh my, am I dating myself? Does anyone shop for music at record shops anymore?!) The question that anyone buying "Glee: The Music, Volume 3: Showstoppers" will have is: Without the benefit of the show's choreography or seeing the kids' freshly scrubbed faces on TV, can the tunes stand on their own? For the most part, the answer is yes. There are a few misses but many more hits, and even non-Gleeks will appreciate many of the CD's standouts. The opening track is "Hello Goodbye", a rousing musical gang bang of the Beatles' 1967 original. It's an all-out expression of high school chorus joy that gets more, uhm... "Glee-ful" as it goes along. Kristin Chenoweth's power ballad "Home" is guaranteed to please her growing legions of fans (Believe the hype!), and there's also the guilty pleasure of Olivia Newton-John and Jane Lynch teaming up for a new version of "Physical". This one, complete with '80's-style low-tech electronic effects and background vocals, plays like something of an homage to the era that brought us the 1981 original hit.
The kids of William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, clearly have a lot of burgeoning passion brewing inside them, waiting to bust out via their unblemished vocal cords. It works very well with pretty little love songs like KISS' "Beth" or that anthem of angst "Loser" by Beck. Other times, its hard to hear the young'uns convincingly sing deeper, more adult lyrics like like "Did you come here to play Jesus with the lepers in your head?" (on U2's "One") or "Once upon a time there was light in my life, now there's only love in the dark." (on Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"). In contrast to the raucous original "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects, the cover by breathy-voiced Lea Michele ("Rachel") sounds more like a little girl who's just uttered her first dirty word and is waiting for a reaction. Admittedly, however, "Gives You Hell" becomes a progressively campy delight when the rest of the cast joins in. I'm still not sure what to think of Chris Colfer as "Curt" belting out the classic showtune "Rose's Turn" (with slightly reworked lyrics, of course...), and I can't help but wonder why the producers chose the badly dated "The Lady Is a Tramp" for this collection. Lastly, this funkless white boy has to say that the Gleesters' "Give Up the Funk" is the most funkless, white bread version of the song you'll ever hear (unless The Jonas Brothers decide to do a cover of it). Picture these high schoolers declaring, "We gonna turn this mother out!", and you'll know what I mean. But rest assured, Lionel Ritchie fans: You'll be glad to know that "Hello" (sung by Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele) sounds every bit as sappy as the original.
Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful", sung by Amber Riley ("Mercedes") is a major highlight. Given the tyranny of beauty that we impose upon many segments of our culture, the song-- especially being sung with so much conviction by a rubenesque young black woman-- is a revelation. I want to make sure I keep a copy of this track in a safe place to cheer me up when I finally turn into the bitter, arthritic old queen I will eventually become. As for the finale, with two Lady Gaga songs: You'll either love or hate Idina Menzel's and Lea Michele's balladized version of "Poker Face". But I promise that you will absolutely go nuts for the sendoff: an all-out, no-holes barred "Bad Romance" that would make Ms. Gaga proud. Here's my suggestion for the inevitable fifth "Glee" CD: Showtunes and classic pop tunes are great, but the producers really need to unearth some "unsung hero" tracks from the past decades-- some underappreciated tunes from the 70's, 80's, and '90's that are just aching to be heard again. Why not mess with gender roles and maybe rework Samantha Fox's 1987 hit as "Naughty BOYS (Need Love Too)"?! And finally, have Betty White make a guest appearance. It's a little known fact that Ms. White CAN sing!