Friday, January 8, 2010

Are you a Gleek?

Because I am.

When Glee burst onto the scene in 2009, it captured a wide and varied audience, from tweens and high school students addicted to the drama, to adults looking for some light hearted fun. When I watch Glee I’m less about the storylines and more about the fun, happy music. Shallow, I know.

So when the first soundtrack was released I was desperate to get my hands on it, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Glee: The Music, Volume 1 starts with a bang and the entire seventeen track CD is a fun and funky mix of songs from the episodes. The music is performed pretty much as it appears in the episodes, and songs that were not performed by the Glee cast as New Directions, but rather by a competing glee club, have simply been adapted and performed by New Directions with great results. The producers haven’t attempted anything too different from the original tracks with no complicated modernisation of the melodies (often the pitfall of cover albums), and each number just sounds like a Glee Club performing great songs.

Group performance favourites of mine include Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing with Lea Michele and Cory Monteith on lead vocals and Kanye West’s Gold Digger with Matthew Morrison singing. Gold Digger could have gone horribly wrong considering a broadway singer is taking the lead, but Morrison performs it well – he doesn’t attempt to much of a gangsta accent, but sings it with enough attitude that doesn’t make you think twice about the fact that a skinny white dude is performing it.

It’s the solo/duet songs that top my playlist, though. In particular, Amber Riley’s version of Bust Your Windows, originally by Jazmine Sullivan is full of attitude and has a really funky beat, and Maybe This Time with Lea Michele and Glee guest star Kristin Chenowith (the tiny lady with a huuuuge voice) is a kick-ass song for car singing. Mark Salling’s version of Sweet Caroline is fabulous but short, although I think putting the full length song on the album would have done them any harm . The final track on the album, Defying Gravity from stage musical Wicked is sung by both Lean Michele and Chris Colfer, and is a soft, sweet duet that closes the album off nicely.

An honourable mention goes to Diana Agron for her lovely version of You Keep Me Hanging On, originally by The Supremes. While she doesn’t have the strongest voice, Agron does suit the style of the 60s girl-group perfectly, and it’s great to see that this track made it onto the album.

This album has been on high rotation in my car for a few months now and I’m loving it!

Glee: The Music, Volume 2 is also a good album, but I was left a little cold at first. As with the first CD, there are 17 tracks, all songs performed in the series, but this album focuses mostly on the slower duets. I’ve found quite a few of the tracks a bit lacklustre in their enthusiasm (ie. there is none to be had), which is disappointing. Songs that could have been improved upon for me are I’ll Stand By You and (You’re) Having My Baby which are both sung by Cory Monteith, and Lea Michele’s version of the Jennifer Paige song Crush. Both performers seem a little bit flat, and while the songs are arranged in almost identical styles to the originals, the vocals just don’t convey much feeling. I actually would be happy to have not had them on there at all.

Similarly, there songs that are from the last couple of years made it onto the album that are also slightly off. Lily Allen’s Smile is covered by Lea Michele, and while Michele tries hard to mimic Allen’s accent and tone, the song falls short of engaging this listener. I also found this was the case with Michele’s cover of My Life Would Suck Without You, the massive Kelly Clarkson hit from 2009. Michele is a talented singer, of that there is no doubt (and one of my favourites on the show), but she just isn’t able to convey the attitude and feeling Clarkson has, which is disappointing. In the context of the episodes, these songs are great, but standing alone on a CD.

The other disappointment for me was not having Mark Salling performing most, if not all of the lead vocals on the Stones’ song You Can’t Always Get What You Want. He’s proven himself as having a great voice for rock on Volume 1, and I think this is one song that he definitely could have taken over.

But it’s not all bad! Amber Riley does outstanding versions of Dionne Warwick’s Don’t Make Me Over and Jennifer Holliday’s Dreamgirls hit And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going. Listening to these songs it’s easy to picture Riley as a chart-topping singer in the 1960s. It’s also great to hear True Colours performed by Jenna Ushkowitz, who, as Tina in the show, often takes a backseat to Michele and Riley. She has a perfectly capable voice that is sweet and strong and she is a really good choice for this Cyndi Lauper tune. The cast version of John Lennon’s Imagine is also lovely and without too many bells and whistles. The alternating lead vocalists in the song are engaging and don’t overpower each other.

Overall, I don’t love Volume 2 as much as I love Volume 1, but it’s still a decent album and worth a listen if you love the show. And it’s a good way to keep your Glee craving satisfied until April (!) when the show starts up again. Pin It

No comments: