Monday, 13 June 2011

Sing For The Moment

I don't consider glee the kind of show that is affected by spoilers, but if you are one of those, than this post probably contains them. Also strangely it is quite difficult to find any visuals for glee only audio. So I could only get fan made videos. 

Trying to explain what is good about Glee is not easy without sounding apologetic.  I may not be as passionate about Glee as I am about some of the other shows I follow, but it brings me a lot of joy, and sometimes it’s even kind of wonderful.     

Obviously Glee does not rub shoulders with television royalty, such as the HBO and AMC glamorous productions. It embraces Lovingly musicals, which are still considered by many the lowest form of theatre and music, and the high school soap, an only slightly higher television form than reality. Therefore it will never be considered as significant or important television, but more likely mindless entertainment.

The twelve kids of New Directions, the McKinley High glee club, almost all of them big characters with big stories, are Glee’s biggest problem as well as its greatest merit. Add the adults and you get probably the most populated ensemble an ensemble show could have.

Given this overload of characters and stories it is no surprise that there are flaws. The script is at times infuriatingly problematic, some of the song performances are painfully bad and some of the characters are awkward. Surprisingly I find that I love those flaws almost as much as I love all the great things in Glee, and there are enough great things about it.

One of the advantages of having so many characters is that it helps distract me from hating Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and her annoyingly vanilla on/off love interest Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and instead allows me to invest in wonderful characters like Brittany S Pierce, played by the lovely Heather Morris, who was such a revelation in the first season that her part was radically increased in the second. Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman (Mark Sailling) the Jewish bad boy who watches Schindler’s List and eats Mushu Pork for Simchat Tora, and his coolest badass girlfriend, Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink). Artie Abrahams (Kevin McHale) is the kid in the wheelchair who wants to dance, and as we discover towards the end of season one, would have been one of the more talented dancers of the group. Super- bitch Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) as it turns out can sing almost as well if not better than some of the lead singers. Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) is not the typical head cheerleader. I can go on but perhaps watch the show and choose your own favourites.   

I do, however, have to mention Glee’s biggest star, in my eyes. The brilliant “porcelain face”, Kurt Hummel played by the fantastic Chris Colfer. Not only is he the best singer of the group, and if at all possible he gets even better as the show progresses, but, as my lovely friend Liza said, he can cry on cue. What more can you ask from a man? His fight for a solo, traditionally sung by female, was one of my favourite storylines and was based on Cofler’s real life experienced of being refused female solos in his own school. When his father Burt (Mike O’Malley) gave the “I have a gay son and I’m proud” speech I cried like an orphan kitten in the rain, and when Kurt sang his versions of I Want To Hold Your Hand he had my heart forever.

Sunset Boulevard is not my favourite musical, but I love this song from it, 
and thinks Colfer's version of it is one of the most beautiful I have heard.   

I wasn't going to put more than one, but I couldn't resist. I love this duet of
Chris Colfer and brilliant guest star Darren Criss.

Perhaps the main reason I love the flaws as well as the qualities, is because Glee seems to be aware of them and address them with humour and good spirit, even if not always successfully.

Like many shows in the US Glee films its episodes as it is being aired, and often very close to the transmission time. Consequently echoes of the fandom sphere debates and comments are woven into the episodes. This can create wonderful moments like the opening episode of season two, where Jacob Ben Israel (Josh Sussman) interviews all the Glee cast for his blog and points out all the things that were pointed out by fans on the internet. Or Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) telling Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) that they should apologise to America for their Hair and Crazy In Love mash up, with which I agree, and Run Joey Run. Apologetically I whisper that Run Joey Run is one of the few Lea Michele performances I actually liked.

The other side of this coin is that sometimes it seems the creators are losing their own voice while trying to please everyone. This was quite strongly noticeable in the second half of season two. One of the things that bothered me, for example, were characters who were potentially quite evil like Quinn, Sue and Terri Schuester (Jessalyn Gilsig) suddenly becoming quite soft and fluffy, which apart from disappointing me, also went against the way they were built up to begin with. Only Santana was left to maintain satisfactory levels of evilness.

Like the kids, who are learning to sing, it feels as if Glee is learning how to make television, which for me it is a delight to watch.

Unlike their competator Vocal Adrenaline from Carmel High School, not all the kids in New Directions want to be performers. Only five of the twelve kids joined the club because they actually want to perform and only three out of those five actually want it more than anything. The rest were forced to join, followed a loved one, were sent by coach Sylvester to spy on them, or simply had nothing better to do. The only two things that they all have in common is that they either were losers to begin with or became ones by joining the club, and they all love to sing.

At the risk of sounding like a singing cliché, which is the best cliché to sound like by the way, love is what makes Glee such fun to watch.  It is a common mistake to say Glee is a musical; it’s not, it simply loves musicals passionately and shamelessly, and it loves singing and a little bit of dancing, even if it’s not always perfect at it.

It is the singing that I love most about Glee. Not all the performances are good and some of the song choices are not to my taste, but the singing and the performances constantly improve. Listening to the differences between Don’t Stop Believing from the first episode to its performance at the end of season one it is amazing to see just how much they all improved. It's hard to describe the kind of thrill a great Glee performance can give, especially if you followed the improvement. It fills me up and make me wish I could sing. 

One of the most beautiful manifestations of this growth and singing development is the difference between Lea Michele and Chris Colfer’s first and last duets. The first, in season one, was Defying Gravity, from one of my favourite musicals Wicked. Once again I apologetically whisper to my all knowing friends that I didn’t hate it as much as I probably should have. It was a “diva off” between Rachel and Kurt for a solo. Kurt lost the battle on purpose. For him it was more than just a solo, it was a struggle for acceptance within himself as well as from his surroundings. When they both sing For Good from the same musical, at the last episode of season two, it’s a different story. They had sung together several times by then, Rachel had slightly calmed down, and Kurt had gained a lot more confidence, they both been through a lot together and separately. This time they didn’t sing against each other, but rather supporting and complimenting one another. As much as I love to hate Lea Michele I have to bow in defeat. She and Colfer nailed that song and had me wrapped around their fingers. Despite the shortening of the original song, this performance was, for me, a little bit perfect. 

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