March 16, 2011

Episode Review: GLEE, "Original Song"

It took me a while to start this write-up because I had to watch "Original Song" a few times to really decide on how I felt about the episode. Right off the bat, I knew that I really liked it, but I wanted to love it, and I had to figure out why it fell a bit short of my expectations.

Surprisingly enough, "Original Song" only had a handful of plotlines which isn't something I've been able to write about Glee for sometime now. The lack of jumping around from story to story, an over emphasis on the music, and a shortened competition made for an interesting mix. For me, it's easiest to break the episode into Pre-Game and Regionals.

Sue revealed to Will that she once again sabotaged his set list by convincing the drummer from My Chemical Romance to hit New Directions with a cease and desist letter banning them from using "Sing". Not knowing what to do for their anthem, Rachel once again suggested that they write original songs which was going to be voted down until Quinn backed her up. You see, Quinn's still threatened by Rachel so she figured the only way to keep Finn away from her was to befriend her rival. The rest of the glee club wasn't happy that Rachel and Quinn automatically got to write the song, so they all decided to come up with their own ditties.

Santana, Puck, and Mercedes all threw their names into the hat and came up with their own songs. Santana sang an ode to her lover, Sam, called "Trouty Mouth" which did not go over well. Puck's song was also inspired by his paramour and he cranked out "Big Ass Heart". Finally, Mercedes showed off her sassy side with her original song titled "Hell to the No".

Usually, I wait to write about the music until the end, but it's hard not to share my thoughts about these songs right now. All three were intentionally bad from a lyrical standpoint, which made sense since it would've been hard to believe that they were all amazing songwriters within days. The subject matter and lyrics also worked from a story standpoint because they focused on what the kids knew about. Musically, they all sounded good and reflected the characters well; Santana sang sultry jazz, Puck gave us some rockabilly, and Mercedes' song was funkier. Again, all three songs were entertainingly bad, but that was a good thing.

Rachel and Quinn were working on their own song when the former flat out asked her partner if she was back with Finn. Quinn admitted that they were together, but Rachel was not about to give up on her first true love. Obviously frustrated, Quinn lashed out at Rachel and reminded her that the story was simple: she and Finn will end up getting married and be stuck in Lima while Rachel chases her dreams.

The Twitterverse went to town on Quinn, and the b-word was thrown out way too often. I for one, didn't get why so many people were hating on her after this particular scene. She was being honest with Rachel, and sometimes the truth is hard to hear. If anything, I felt she was telling Rachel these things out of a soft spot deep down inside of her, and it was one of the more moving scenes the show's given us in a while. Sure, the Kurt and Burt moments, and last week's Brittana revelation were emotional, but watching someone so young admit that her future is so mundane was just heartbreaking. Plus, the scene gave Dianna Agron something substantial to do for once this season, and boy did she nail it.

After another attack by Sue, the rest of New Directions talked about how the abuse made them feel, which was the catalyst for their original song, but more on that later.

The Warblers were hard at work getting ready for Regionals as well, and after a fun little practice number, Kurt called Blaine out and shared his feelings about their set list. He's jealous that Blaine gets all of the spotlight and feels like the rest of the group are back-up singers (shouldn't he be used to this by now). This was exactly the wake-up call Blaine needed, and he convinced the Warblers to let him and Kurt sing a duet at the competition. During a practice session, Blaine admitted to Kurt that he fell for him while watching him sing "Blackbird", and Kurt got his first real kiss. Awww!

I'll fully admit that I was never on the Klaine bandwagon because it was so telegraphed, but I did get caught up in the moment when they kissed. I was just impressed that Glee and FOX allowed two openly gay teens to share such a genuine kiss. These kinds of moments may not be foreign on some smaller cable shows (Calvin on Greek had similar kisses), but for one of the most watched network shows to put it all out there was admirable.

Once at Regionals, we met the judges: Rod Remmington was back and was joined by Tea Party candidate Tammy Jean Albertson (Kathy Griffin) and Sister Mary Constance (Loretta Devine). Once the introductions were done, we got to the music. Aural Intensity sang a pandering song about Jesus, and the Warblers preformed "Candles" and "Raise Your Glass". Finally, New Directions debuted their two original songs: "Get It Right" and "Loser Like Me", and after a pointless debate our lovable losers were crowd Regional Champions.

Usually, the competition episodes are the best ones Glee has to offer, but once we got to the big event "Original Song" started to lose its momentum. The overly tacky "Jesus Is My Friend" was the first misstep. I got that it was supposed to be cheesy and underhanded, but it just felt off. The Warblers first song, "Candles", was a nice Kurt and Blaine moment, but not every entertaining. Luckily, "Raise Your Glass" injected some life into the episode before New Directions took the stage.

Plot wise, the two original songs were fine. "Get It Right" was a nice ballad tailor made for Lea Michele and the fans of Glee. It was full of emotion, it sounded good, and the actual performance was grand but not over the top. I can actually see this song becoming a modest pop hit. "Loser Like Me" wasn't that great, and it felt too much like a High School Musical number, but it was able to tell the story of New Directions in song form which was an interesting approach. I don't think the lyrics for "Loser Like Me" will have mass appeal, but it was the appropriate anthem that you'd expect from this group of kids.

All of the wind was out of the sails by the time we got to the judges' room, and the wholly unfunny and unnecessary scene was almost unwatchable. Kathy Griffin's super-Conservative bit was stale, and the idea of a former stripper turned nun wasn't as clever as it was supposed to be. Even Rod couldn't save this debacle, which was a shame since he's usually the MVP.

Also, the complete lack of drama hurt "Original Song" because we all knew that the McKinley kids were going to win so there wasn't any emotional buy-in, and it all felt very by-the-numbers. Even their celebration felt forced and disingenuous. And what was the deal with Sue punching out the totally useless drunk lady?

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I felt so bad for Sam although I've read that he won't be with Santana for much longer.
  • That being said, I laugh every time Mike repeats "Trouty Mouth" to him.
  • With some better lyrics, "Big Ass Heart" and "Hell to the No" could be catchy songs.
  • Reason 1,462 Why I Love Brittany: Her favorite song is "My Headband".
  • The staging of "Get It Right" was distracting because Rachel was so far in front of Tina and Brittany.
  • People love to hate of Glee for plot inconsistencies, but they reintroduced plenty of past story lines during "Original Song".
  • The trophy Mr. Schuester gave Rachel at the end of the episode was the same one from "Dream On".
  • This was the first competition episode that wasn't written by Brad Falchuk. Maybe that's why it didn't feel right.
  • "I don't even remember putting that in there."
  • "Whoa! Scary Quinn."
The idea of Glee coming up with original music seemed like a stroke of brilliance. If it could come up with a song that could transcend the show, Glee would permanently cement its place in the our pop culture history. Instead of ground-breaking music, we got decent pop songs that were OK but nothing too special. The fact that Regionals was kinda boring didn't help either. Maybe "Original Song" was bound to be a let down because I had such high hopes for it, but it was still able to be one of the better Season 2 episodes.


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