Glee’s 18th episode of Season 1 featured many songs, five of which are available as part of a digital bundle tied in with the episode: “Jessie’s Girl”, “The Lady Is a Tramp”, “The Boy Is Mine”, “Rose’s Turn” and “One”. These songs all have to do with the assignment Will gives the Glee club members for the week: to find a song that reflects who each of them is.
Finn’s choice of “Jessie’s Girl” was the most natural choice, as he has been pining over the unavailable Rachel for a couple of episodes now. Cory Monteith performance was pretty good, despite the fact that I don’t think his voice is not quite suited for this song and the fact that I didn’t think the silhouette of Rachel undressing behind a hospital curtain while he was singing it was appropriate, lending the song a trashy side. The fact that he accompanies himself on the drums is always a great touch, and, well, the face that the song is quite catchy makes up for the rather unsuited voice.
Speaking of unsuited voices, Kurt’s struggle with his father’s increasing closeness with Finn makes him pick a rather unusual song, i.e. John Mellamcamp’s “Pink Houses”. Just like the song doesn’t suit Kurt’s personality, the key doesn’t suit his voice at all. Of course, this is the whole point of him choosing this song: it underlines the point Will makes, that Kurt should not “lose track of who [he is] because it might be easier to be someone else.” I especially loved this particular subplot as it underlines the fact that just telling teenagers to “be who they really are and everything will be fine” is a ridiculously simplistic way of dealing with their extremely complex problems.
Unsurprisingly, this song didn’t make it on the digital bundle, but I still thought it deserved a nod, as Chris Colfer credit managed to pull it off very well despite it not suiting his vocal range. Thankfully, his character (Kurt) pours his anger and resentment into a song that really does represent how he feels with an amazing solo rendition of “Rose’s Turn”. To be honest, I first didn’t even get why he was singing it, I was so blown away by the performance. Chris Colfer continues to amaze me every single time he sings, and it took a second rewatch for me to realize just how well this song was suited for this particular subplot.
Someone who thinks he knows who he is but who is slowly being deconstructed is Puck. Poor Puck; first he gets a bad reputation (or a good one?) because he joins Glee, and now he lost his mohawk at the insistence of his mother, who sent him to a dermatologist to check on what she thought was a cancerous mole. Without that mohawk, Puck is no credible bully anymore. He decides to date the now-popular Mercedes (thanks for her recently joining the cheerleading squad) and now only has to convince her. So he decides to woo her by singing a duet of “This Lady is a Tramp” with her (which he refers to as Sammy Davis Jr’s biggest hit).
Mark Salling & Amber Riley’s rendition of “This Lady is a Tramp” is quite simply amazing. Mark Salling’s voice is extremely smooth and perfect for this song; he was also perfectly cast to play the role of smooth-talking Puck, which makes him all the more perfect to perform this song. And I won’t go again into how awesome Amber Riley’s voice is. On top of all of this, Mark Salling & Amber Riley’s voices meld very well together – no wonder Santana was furious at Mercedes!
Which leads the two girls into a sing-off, with the two of them performing “This Boy is Mine”. While Naya Rivera’s voice isn’t as powerful as Amber Riley’s, she sings beautifully, and this song is well suited to her voice (as well as Amber’s). Of course, the fact that both are great actresses and really get into it adds greatly to the performance.
The major plotline in this episode is of course Rachel’s tonsillitis. The threat of having her tonsils removed – which she worries could affect her singing – makes her fret throughout the episode about her identity: “Who am I without my voice?” she asks at one point. “I am my voice”, she insists a little later on. Finn takes her to see his friend Sean, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a football accident. Rachel comes to realize that, just like he isn’t solely defined by his mobility, she isn’t solely defined by her voice, and that both can move on without this important part of their personality. Of course Rachel’s voice comes back, and the episode finishes with the cast performing U2’s song “One”. I don’t think it needs to be said, that a strong song performed by a strong group of singers gives for an equally strong performance. Despite many less than stellar reviews of this episode, I find that it leaves viewers feeling light hearted and inspired, just like Glee is meant to.
First published here on Blogcritics.