Today we look at what happens when one of my favorite TV shows takes on my favorite band.
This is the time of the week when I'd start raising my expectations about the upcoming Glee episode. I love this show even when, like last week, I thought it aired a subpar episode. There's something so gutsy and yet galling about this show. It's one big infomercial for the upcoming Glee CD and yet it is so full of talent that you find it hard to fault them for the hard sell. When the show's third back-up singing female Brittany (don't call me Britney) S. Pierce comes across with such powerful vocals as she did last week, and the second fiddle Mercedes has a voice that would cause people to throw flowers at her feet just for clearing her throat, you know the talent runs deep.
But none of the female singers, no matter how good, can compete with Rachel. I may find her grating and over-the-top, but her voice is heaven-sent. Sit back and be wowed with how Rachel can out-Stresisand, Streisand with "Papa, can you hear me?" She can take on an icon and wipe the cafeteria floor with her. I don't know that there is a female vocalist out there who has such a perfect voice.
Sadly, the vocal talent is a bit more shallow on the male side of the pool. Artie is a decent faux rapper and Puck has such a raw sensuality that you forgive him his less than Groban-esque vocal power. Mr. Shuster is a very good singer, but there's something creepy and needy about his character stealing the limelight from the kids. Kurt is by far the best male singer, a perfect example of his crystal clear, impeccable vocals is in last night's heartfelt take on the Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand.
Unfortunately, like Mercedes, Kurt is relegated to second fiddle on the show and his higher vocal range may limit the songs he gets.
That leaves the supposed lead male, Finn. But his voice is as thin as Quinn's post-natal waist. Giving him the task of covering R.E.M.'s seminal Losing My Religion on tonight's episode is like arming a lion tamer with a toothpick. He is totally outmatched. His phrasing, tone, even breath control are all off. I think the song should sue for lack of support.
Finn doesn't have the voice, he doesn't have the emotion, he doesn't have the finesse to take on what seems a simple tune but isn't. Just listen to the original if you want to hear how to sell a song. I know it's not a fair comparison, there really is no one who can outsing Michael Stipe. But sad, dopey puppy dog expressions do not compensate for a lackluster singing voice.
This wouldn't bother me so much if he were abusing some other song, but this is R.E.M. This is not just any band and not just any song, it is the most important American band ever and it was the song that catapulted them into the national spotlight (just like in the song!). You don't put a mustache on the Mona Lisa and you don't mar the musical perfection that is Michael Stipe. Just listen to this --
Put Glee on mute and play that clip during Finn's song. Then enjoy the rest of this episode which will no doubt be earning a few Emmys next year. I don't know when I've laughed and cried as much in one hour period and felt as strongly connected to characters on a TV screen. The writers wrote the believers and the skeptics so lovingly, so fairly, that there was no agenda to the show other than love. Who says there's nothing good on television?