Serious fans of the TV series Glee will certainly want to own this collection. It collects some of the most memorable musical moments from a show that is centered on the music. Whether or not it is a valuable purchase to mainstream pop fans in general or those who own the original versions is an open question. Ultimately, the Glee soundtrack is much like a Broadway cast album. If you have seen the show and love it, you will want this to prompt those happy memories. However, if not, simply listening to the music may leave you feeling something is missing.
Musical Statement or Simply a Souvenir?
Listening to the soundtrack to Glee it is difficult to sort out the intent of the record label. Is this simply a souvenir, or was there an effort to make it a musical statement on its own? Some of the lesser known songs here like "Bust Your Windows" originally recorded by Jazmine Sullivan and "Taking Chances," one of Celine Dion's most recent singles, sound solid partly because they aren't burdened with attempting to match the original in memory. Other tracks here like the version of Heart's "Alone" feature parades of singers from the show in a fashion that feels a bit like an American Idol group number. In other places it's hard to avoid thinking this all feels a bit like a grown-up version of Kidz Bop.
'Glee' Arrangements Bridge Mainstream Pop, American Idol, and Musical Theater
The quality of song selection here is undeniable. All of the tracks here are deserved classics in their original recorded forms. That fact honors the quality and diversity of mainstream pop. However, the singalong and faceless instrumental nature of the arrangements lend a strong American Idol style feel to the entire album. Finally, when you consider the visual element, there is a strong hint of Broadway here as well. Mamma Mia has demonstrated how some of the best pop recordings can transfer directly to the Broadway stage. Listening to the Glee version of "Somebody to Love" reminds you that if the stars align properly, a Queen show could be the perfect follow up to Mamma Mia. The Glee singers do take on Broadway here in their version of Wicked's "Defying Gravity."
Top Tracks on the 'Glee' Soundtrack
- "Don't Stop Believin'"
- "Bust Your Windows"
- "Taking Chances"
- "Somebody to Love"
Wearing Out Its Welcome?
Ultimately when finished listening to the Glee soundtrack, it is a lesson in the fact that the best pop music is not simply about a good singer and a good song. Emotion, unique musical arrangements, and personality are all key elements that are frequently lacking here. The version of Rihanna's "Take a Bow" is a case in point. Listen to how Rihanna delivers the word "please" in her original, and then hear how it's simply tossed off as another part of the lyric on the Glee soundtrack. The sarcasm of the stunning original recording of "Gold Digger" is completely lost in this performance that follows the form of the radio censored recording of the song. However, some will find charm in the stylized "amateur" feel of everything here. Like American Idol it leaves the listener feeling closer to those performing the songs than the mysterious delivery of new music from corporate conglomerates to a waiting public. Will it all wear out its welcome? Or will we be seeing Glee Volume 10 five years from now?