Glee's tenth CD release (four previous regular volumes, plus three episode-specific EPs, one Christmas album, one Valentine's Day collection) arrives in stores, featuring a broad selection of songs from episodes eleven to sixteen of the show's second season. Some story-related spoilers are included in discussions of the songs, so be warned.
The first general note is that the selections for this CD have clearly prioritized the more contemporary covers done by the show, with the older songs and showtunes mostly marginalized. However, compared to the preceding CD, this has not greatly limited the presence of Lea Michele (Rachel), the show's overall lead singer, who is featured much more frequently in these songs. Male vocals continue to be dominated by Kevin McHale (Artie), with Mark Salling (Puck) also making his presence much more evident on this collection than in the one preceding it. There's also quite a bit of special guest Gwyneth Paltrow.
One notable absence from this collection are any of the acapella songs performed by Darren Criss (Blaine) and the Tufts Beelzebubs (the Dalton Academy Warblers). Presumably those numbers are destined for their own independent collection.
The sixteen songs included are:
"Thriller/Heads Will Roll" (originally by, respectively, Michael Jackson and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) - the much-talked-of mash-up from the Superbowl episode, with vocals primarily handled by McHale and Naya Rivera (Santana), with Michele dueting with McHale for a piece of it. Overall, it's quite a fun piece that would make a good dance mix (though Rivera's vocals are unnecessarily overprocessed in places).
"Need You Now" (originally by Lady Antebellum) - duet between Michele and Salling that should please Rachel/Puck shippers. It's pleasant enough, but resembles the original pretty heavily.
"She's Not There" (originally by the Zombies) - the lone solo appearance on this track of Cory Monteith (Finn), and it's actually one of his stronger efforts, though I'm not a huge fan of the original.
"Fat Bottomed Girls" (originally by Queen) - a solo by Mark Salling, which is quite fun (both in the show and by itself).
"P.Y.T." (originally by Michael Jackson) - another Kevin McHale cover of a Michael Jackson song, in this case the considerably less-
good "P.Y.T."; in the show this came with a Harry Shum, Jr. dance routine that was really impressive, but that's obviously not a factor here. It's a capable cover, though, again, I'm not a big fan of the song itself.
"Firework" (originally by Katy Perry) - Lea Michele's first solo of the collection. She's a far superior singer to Perry (who I enjoy, nonetheless), though the cover is hindered a bit with, again, some unnecessary processing.
"Baby" (originally by Justin Bieber) - ack. Chord Overstreet (Sam) gamely takes on this ubiquitous pop hit, and he does a decent job with it, even if it is hard to get past the fundamentals of its nature.
"Somebody to Love" (originally by Justin Bieber) - see above, though also featuring Mark Salling and Kevin McHale.
"Take Me Or Leave Me" (originally performed by Idina Menzel and Fredi Walker) - in one of the vocal highlights of the season so far, Lea Michele and Amber Riley (Mercedes) are unleashed on this famous duet from the musical "Rent", with Michele taking the part originated by Idina Menzel, her onscreen mother and lookalike. This is a jazzier version than is typical (partly since it's not performed in-context), but I enjoyed it tremendously. Nice to hear something a little different.
"Sing" (originally performed by My Chemical Romance) - a Finn and Rachel-led group number, something that's been very thin on the ground this year after being incredibly common in the first season. And it's one of the best in a while, in my opinion. I could stand to have the show get back to producing more of this style of song.
"Don't You Want Me" (originally by the Human League) - Michele and Criss duet for the first time on this old 1980s standard, and do a very strong job; one would like to hear them paired together again for future songs.
"Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" (originally by Gary Glitter, famously covered by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) - the first of three numbers featuring guest star Gwyneth Paltrow (Holly Holliday), in this case backed by the full New Directions. Paltrow will never be a rocker chick, but she does well on the song overall.
"Kiss" (originally by Prince) - the second Paltrow number, sung alongside Matthew Morrison (Will), the best male singer in the cast by far who has been rather underused this season. Even securing the rights to cover a Prince song is something of a coup for the show, given Prince's past reluctance to license his work. Unfortunately, the result is...bad; neither Paltrow's nor, surprisingly, Morrison's voices really work (the latter is working a particularly strange falsetto in places).
"Landslide" (originally by Fleetwood Mac) - Paltrow's third number, performed here alongside Naya Rivera and (in a minor vocal role) Heather Morris (Brittany). It's truly beautiful; Paltrow was born to sing country, and her voice mixes very well with Rivera's.
"Get It Right" (originally by no one) - the first piece of original music ever performed on the show is a solo for Michele (Rachel being the putative author of these works), with some harmonies provided by Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina). It's a nice little ballad that fits the character well.
"Loser Like Me" (originally by no one) - the second piece of original music, not nearly as successful as the first. Another New Directions number with Michele and Monteith as the leads, it's pure bubblegum pop, and not even a particularly good example of the genre.