The music of “Glee”: The Rhodes Not Taken

Last week the pickings were slim. This week reminds us of the season premiere of Saturday Night Live — musical performances are everywhere. And in this case it’s not because the show has nothing to offer aside from an accidental f-bomb and Megan Fox’s looks. (Seriously, U2. Three songs?) “The Rhodes Not Taken” offers up no less than four musical numbers, plus guest star Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies).


The first song of the episode is a joint performance by Rachel (Lea Michele) and April (Chenoweth) of “Maybe This Time” by Liza Minnelli from the 1972 film Cabaret. Given Chenoweth’s Broadway background, it’s a natural choice — though we actually prefer Michele’s less theatrical vocals. Overall it’s a strong performance, but one thing has us puzzled. Is singing Liza really the way to win over a room full of high-school students, even if they are in glee club? We realize the song was chosen to show a parallel between April and Rachel, but Liza wasn’t exactly a hit with the kids when we were in school and it’s unlikely that’s changed much in recent years. Just saying.

Next up is a brief snippet of Heart’s “Alone” by April and Will (Matthew Morrison), sung — as all great love songs are — in a bowling alley. The interplay of their voices works nicely, with Will playing Nancy Wilson to April’s Ann. The patrons of the bowling alley seemed to like it, too, since they allowed the duet even though it wasn’t even karaoke night.

The third song of the evening is the first act of the big New Directions performance, “Last Name” by Carrie Underwood. April once again takes the lead vocal, although this time she’s blitzed out of her mind. It doesn’t hurt her one bit, though, as this is probably Chenoweth’s strongest performance of the night. It’s certainly the song that best suits her singing style. It was a crowd pleaser for Underwood, who rode it to the No. 1 spot on the country charts and a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and we’re guessing Chenoweth’s version pleased any country fans who tuned in to Glee this week.

The big production of the evening comes from the reunited New Directions, singing “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Rachel’s back and she’s once again the star of the show, carrying the rest of the group with her soaring vocals. Freddie Mercury had a big voice, and as pleasant as Finn (Cory Monteith) sounds, he just can’t match up. Rachel gives the performance enough kick to do justice to the original, then Mercedes (Amber Riley) finishes the song in style as only she can. It’s hands down the best track of the night, as one would expect from the show closer.

Three of the four songs (all except for “Last Name”) will appear on the upcoming Glee soundtrack, but all of them are available to download at the iTunes store. They can also be seen in the full episode video below.

Photo: ©2009 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Michael Yarish/FOX