Glee, a heartfelt dramedy that has become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon in two short years, saw a heavy resurgence in storyline-driven plot --with a dash of music--in its third season, which kicked off with "The Purple Piano Project." With Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 1 under their belt, the Glee cast was ready and willing to spread some (more) sugary Christmas cheer. This time last year, Gleeks around the globe were celebrating the snow-filled holidays with the first Glee-fully dreary album set, which tackled a range of Christmas classics, including "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "O Holy Night."
This year, the cast continues to recreate some of our favorite tracks ("All I Want for Christmas is You") and even pepper in some originals ("Extraordinary Merry Christmas") that culminates in a necessary purchase for even the casual Glee fan. Several tracks from the album were featured on the December 13, 2011 holiday-themed episode titled "Extraordinary Merry Christmas," namely the title track. On "All I Want for Christmas," Amber Riley, who plays the resident diva at McKinley High, Mercedes Jones, gets to exercise her impressive vocal chops on this Mariah Carey standard. While keeping true to the original, Riley manages to twist this song and make it fresh enough for a new generation, as most Gleeks were probably not even born when it was first released (way back in 1994).
On "Extraordinary Merry Christmas," Darren Criss and Lea Michele lend their smooth voices and contagious charisma on a heavily synthesized and bouncing Christmas jingle. As evidenced in a many previous recordings, Michele and Criss have a hot AC-ready sound to their vocals that have helped Glee achieve remarkable Billboard chart success. This special moment on the December 13 episode highlights the fact that these two divas are the real stars of the show. With lyrics that are as warm and buttery as freshly brewed egg nog, this song will cheer up even the most downer of Debbies.
Michele and Criss are not the only New Directions' members that get the spotlight on this jolly set. A wonderful surprise is Naya Rivera, who portrays the always in-your-face Santana Lopez, when she uses her Amy Winehouse-like vocals to magically conjure up a delightful "Santa Baby." A track that has been covered countless times before, almost to the point of no return, is reinvisioned by Rivera's clever and wowing rendition. McKinley's teachers even get in on the caroling as Will Shuester and Emma Pillsbury duet on "Christmas Eve with You." Despite the rocky journey their relationship has taken over the course of two and a half seasons, this sweet mid-tempo track embodies where they are now, which is all that matters. Kevin McHale, aka Artie, impresses on "Little Drummer Boy," a yes-you-can story which is incredibly fitting and moving for the wheelchair-bound singer.