Showstoppers: Ranking our favorite ‘Glee’ musical numbers

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Gosh, so much has changed since the last time I sat and thought about my favorite performances on ‘Glee.’ The live tour was probably just some crazy dream, there was no power of Madonna, Puck had just reluctantly joined the gang and we had no idea that three of Broadway’s most respected voices would soon enroll at McKinley.

Now that the show has completed its first season, I thought it would be fun to rank my 10 favorite performances from the entire season -- yikes. Tough call, given there is, what, 100 something tracks that have gotten the “Glee” treatment?

I know my list won’t satisfy all the Gleeks out there -- we can have a sing-off later – but here are my 10 favorite numbers. See what made the list, what got snubbed, where previous favorites rank now and what song takes up two slots, after the jump.

10. “Express Yourself” (“The Power of Madonna”)

If Madonna exudes anything, it’s fierce independence, and nothing sums this up better than “Express Yourself.” The girls are at a constant battle with the boys and this little number silenced them. My jaw still drops when I watch the scene. The finger waves, the corsets, the dancing! Never have the girls looked and sounded so good.


9. “I Wanna Sex You Up” (“Acafellas”)

From the glows of the groovy shadow boxes behind the Acafellas, Schuester’s (Matthew Morrison’s) seductive blue-eyed soul and Puck’s more-than-suggestive dancing to this version of Color Me Badd’s signature tune was enough to make Sue hot and bothered. The song gets bonus points for the kid in me that used to sing this in front of my parents not knowing what in the heck sexing someone up meant.

8. “Defying Gravity” (“Wheels”)

No other episode had two songs that made the cut, but Kurt and Rachel’s take on the “Wicked” staple is simply sublime. Rachel is always known for a good diva showdown, and even if Kurt threw this one for the sake of his father (that story line was never revisited, the mysterious phone calls just mysteriously stopped), he more than makes up for it for those lucky enough to hear him sing it live on tour.
7. “Jump” (“Mattress”)

For me, “Jump” was the moment when I realized the musical numbers were on the verge of getting B-I-G. With an over-the-top production value (quality mattresses are not cheap) and a little bit of stunt action, the kids made an otherwise drab mattress commercial into every big kid’s fantasy. (OK, maybe just mine.)
6. “Dancing With Myself” (“Wheels”)

“Wheels” still ranks as one of my favorite episodes of the season. The episode was a power punch of emotion as they explored some very touchy subjects including Artie’s (Kevin McHale) disability. McHale shined in this solo and left me wanting to hear more of Artie.

5. “Somebody to Love” (“The Rhodes Not Taken”)

Call me a nerd, but this take on Queen’s “Somebody to Love” still sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Any theater geek, or for that matter functional human being, can confirm that this performance is sheer perfection. From Rachel’s powerhouse vocals to Artie’s harmonies, this is one performance that stands on its own. The ‘Glee’ cover even found itself covered on ‘American Idol,’ though as Randy would say, ‘It was mad pitchy, dawg.’

4. “Push It” (“Showmance”)

I love it whenever the gang takes a risk with song choices, and it doesn’t get much riskier than Salt-N-Pepa’s classic bump-and-grind romp. The song, with its wildly suggestive lyrics, was a perfect defining moment for the kids to show the entire school that says, “We’re here, we’re gleeked out, now deal with it.”

3. Journey medley: “Faithfully,” “Any Way You Want It” / ”Lovin,’ Touchin,’ Squeezin,’” “Don’t Stop Believin’’ (‘Journey’)

The Journey medley that the kids took on at regionals was epic. Full of emotion, the medley demonstrated how cohesive and polished the kids have become. It wasn’t about any over-the-top acrobatics that rival Vocal Adrenaline could pull off; it was about showcasing those superb voices.

2. “One Less Bell to Answer” / ”A House if Not a Home” (“Home”)

Here’s the thing about guest stars on this show. When they get to shine, they sparkle brighter than a diamond. Jonathan Groff was amazing in “Hello,” Idina Menzel was out of this world with “I Dreamed A Dream” and Neil Patrick Harris impressed me during “Dream On,” but only one guest star made the cut: Kristin Chenoweth. Her duet with Matthew Morrison on “One Less Bell to Answer” / ”A House if Not a Home” is well, perfect.

1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” (“Pilot”)
There was something magical about the first offering from the kids. While Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” has the unfortunate life of being demolished every Friday and Saturday night by college students waiting for their turn to play beer pong, this was the moment that sold us on the show -- enough to wait months for the official premiere. Three minutes, and a face full of tears later, mission accomplished.

Bringing the list of my favorites down to 10 was so much more difficult than I ever imagined. As a bonus, here are five honorable mentions that hold a special place in my heart, but couldn’t make the cut:

Honorable mentions:

“Don’t Rain On My Parade” (“Sectionals”) – Rachel had so many classic moments; her bursting through the doors and storming through the audience is was pure diva.

“Rose’s Turn” (“Laryngitis”) – Kurt’s heartbreaking opus for his father was magnificent. Still, it doesn’t outweigh the beauty of “Defying Gravity.”

“The Boy Is Mine” (“Laryngitis”) – Given the fact this is one of my favorite songs, I was incredibly floored to see it get the “Glee” treatment. The shocker of the number is Santana (Naya Rivera) has a fabulous set of pipes.

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (“Acafellas”) – I know by now we’re all tired of the remakes of this groovy anthem -- Liza Minnelli’s version makes my stomach churn – but Kurt took on the song (that, if you didn’t know, Brittany’s Heather Morris performed with Beyonce) and cemented the show into pop-culture textbooks at a time when people were still asking, “So what is ‘Glee’ about?”

“Bad Romance” (“Theatricality”) – I’m sure some of you are shocked this didn’t make my Top 10. In fact, it was a contender only because I saw it live and that was a sight to see. Like Sue’s “Vogue” (which also didn’t make the list), seeing it early didn’t excite me for seeing it on my television screen.

Did you favorite rank (apologies to reader Gleek82, I hated ‘To Sir With Love’)? Any song surprise you? If you were me, what would have been your Top 10? Feel free to rank away in the comments and compare with other Gleeks. I want to see what some of your favorites are!
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy


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