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Naya Rivera lent her immense talent to ‘Glee.’ Here are her greatest musical numbers

Naya Rivera and Kevin McHale in "Glee"
Santana (Naya Rivera) and Artie (Kevin McHale) perform “Valerie” on “Glee.”
(Fox Image Collection via Getty Images)

It’s been 11 years since “Glee” introduced viewers to Santana Lopez, the fierce and passionate high school cheerleader played by Naya Rivera, who died last week at age 33 while on a boating trip on Lake Piru with her 4-year-old son. A body authorities believe to be that of Rivera was found Monday morning in the lake after a days-long search, said Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub.

Rivera appeared in all six seasons of “Glee,” elevating ensemble numbers with effortless harmonies and riffs while commanding a sweeping range as a soloist. As an actress, she delivered one of the show’s most compelling character arcs, transforming Santana from a textbook popular girl into a complex young woman figuring out her sexuality and coming into her own as a performer.

Here’s a sampling of Rivera’s greatest “Glee” performances, from Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” to Taylor Swift’s “Mine.”

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‘The Boy Is Mine’ (Season 1, Episode 18)

“Laryngitis” is one of the first “Glee” episodes to showcase Santana’s vocal talents, featuring one of multiple knock-out duets she shared with Amber Riley’s Mercedes. While competing for Puck’s (Mark Salling) affection, the pair harmonize on a cover of Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine.”

‘River Deep, Mountain High’ (Season 2, Episode 4)

In “Duets,” Santana makes the strategic decision to partner with Mercedes for the glee club’s duet competition — reuniting the dynamic duo for a powerful cover of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”

Though they don’t end up winning, the pair rock the rehearsal room with high energy and sharp harmonies.

Naya Rivera, Amber Riley
Santana (Naya Rivera) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) perform “River Deep, Mountain High” on “Glee.”
(Fox Image Collection via Getty Images)
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‘Valerie’ (Season 2, Episode 9)

“Special Education” sees Rachel (Lea Michele) take a backseat at the Western Ohio Sectional Championship show choir competition, giving other talented members of New Directions, including Santana, a chance to shine.

Onstage, Santana leads the group in an upbeat rendition of Winehouse’s “Valerie,” which secures them a spot at the upcoming regional competition.

‘Back to Black’ (Season 2, Episode 21)

In “Funeral,” Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) holds auditions for solo parts ahead of the national show choir competition, and Santana opts to sing Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Despite applauding Santana for her smooth, stylized performance, Schuester ultimately decides that no one will be featured as a soloist for nationals.

"Glee"
Santana (Naya Rivera), center, performs a mashup of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” and “Someone Like You” on “Glee.”
(Fox Image Collection via Getty Images)
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‘America’ (Season 3, Episode 5)

“The First Time” sees Santana lead a dazzling ensemble performance of “America” as Anita in McKinley High’s production of “West Side Story.” The number begins and ends with Santana center stage, dancing and singing circles around her castmates in a stunning red dress.

‘Rumour Has It’ / ‘Someone Like You’ (Season 3, Episode 6)

In “Mash Off,” Mercedes and Santana lead the all-female Troubletones in a seamless mashup of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” and “Someone Like You.” The performance also sees Santana in a rare moment of vulnerability after she has just been outed as a lesbian.

‘Smooth Criminal’ (Season 3, Episode 11)

In the show’s Michael Jackson-themed episode, New Directions’ Santana faces off against the Warblers’ Sebastian (Grant Gustin) for an intense duet of “Smooth Criminal.” She challenges Sebastian after the Warblers attack their former choir-mate, Blaine (Darren Criss), during a parking-lot showdown of “Bad” (which also features impressive solo work by Santana).

At the end of their heated duet, Santana declares, “I was better.” Yep.

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Naya Rivera, Grant Gustin
Santana (Naya Rivera) and Sebastian (Grant Gustin) perform “Smooth Criminal” on “Glee.”
(Fox Image Collection via Getty Images)

‘Mine’ (Season 4, Episode 4)

“The Break-Up” sees Santana return to McKinley High to visit her girlfriend, Brittany. She later serenades Brittany with an intimate, tearful cover of Swift’s “Mine” before suggesting that they take a break from their relationship.

‘Cold Hearted’ (Season 4, Episode 16)

In “Feud,” Santana confronts Rachel’s love interest, Brody (Dean Geyer), with a dynamic performance of “Cold Hearted” closely mirroring Paula Abdul’s original music video.

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Santana leads the dance-heavy number with the help of some students from the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts.

‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ (Season 5, Episode 9)

“Frenemies” is the second “Glee” episode to feature Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl.” The first was Season 1’s “Sectionals,” which sees Rachel (Lea Michele) deliver a showstopping performance of the tune during a choir competition.

In the fifth season, Santana stuns Rachel with an effortless performance of the same song that rivals her own while unexpectedly auditioning to be Rachel’s understudy in a Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.”


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