After last week’s melange of meanness (Kitty, Sue, Cassandra, you know who I’m talking about), Glee needed lighthearted fun — if not silliness — and Episode 7, Dynamic Duets, delivered. Again, my holiday schedule won’t permit a full review/recap, but I do have some insights about Glee’s most important element — the songs. Just call me Dr. W.
The one that truly pops for me is the vivid, intense and urgent Holding Out for a Hero, written by the great Jim Steinman.
Who’s he? He’s the guy who’s now had FOUR of his songs performed on Glee, including Paradise by the Dashboard Light (first performed by Meat Loaf) and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (first performed by Celine Dion) to help our favorite little Ohio glee club win Nationals at the end of Season Three. Steinman also wrote Total Eclipse of the Heart (first performed by Bonnie Tyler), which was used in Glee’s Season One.
Now it’s Holding Out For a Hero, another Steinman song first sung by Tyler, and here getting a duet that’s dynamic, all right, from Marley and Kitty. I especially enjoyed the backing chorus in the traditional Steinman vein of gloriously overproduced, fiercely operatic and highly theatrical rock bombast, but the dueling lead vocals are potent, too. Thanks again, Glee, for celebrating one of rock’s finest composers in Jim Steinman.
Dynamic Duets also brought another classic rocker: Heroes, by David Bowie. Loved how the song started out down-tempo, acoustic and unplugged but then galvanized into energy and passion. The performance of Sam and Blaine was more of a straight cover than a reinterpretation, but I’ll take it. Some material is best rendered faithfully rather than reinterpreted, and I’m thinking Heroes is one of those songs.
Also rocking was REM’s Superman, sung by Ryder and Jake, though again it offered nothing new — and again, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate faithful renditions. Then there was Glee’s second song by fun, Some Nights, which was cute and catchy — loved the large-cast rendition — but not nearly as potent in context with the night’s other tunes.
Oh, and while we’re speaking of artists whose work often is used on Glee, how about Kelly Clarkson? Her Dark Side, performed by Blaine and the Warblers (!), is the third Clarkson song on Glee, by my count, starting with Season One’s fiercely exuberant My Life Would Suck Without You and also including Season Three’s stirring Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).
And while Dark Side is more of a mid-tempo ballad, I LOVED hearing the Warblers’ special harmonic stylings and seeing their wildly elaborate choreography, punched up with some quick-cut editing. It’s about time!
What other show has the Dalton Academy Warblers? I didn’t think so.
So thanks, Glee, for holiday-worthy merriment in the superhero-bent plot, and for the vibrancy of the music. The haters will still call Dynamic Duets a turkey, but for me, it was a feast.
— Bruce Westbrook