Straight on the heels of the best-selling Power of Madonna mini-album comes Showstoppers, the music to the second half of Glee’s first season. Now while some people might find Glee filled with cheesy clichés – and let’s be honest, it is – the cast members really know how to sing. Even if you don’t watch the show, this CD is worth listening to for the great remakes of some songs.
The songs in this album are all from the second half of the first season, except for the episodes "The Power of Madonna" and "Journey," which each have their own mini-album (the first has been reviewed here, and stay tuned to this feature for the review of the other). The standard version of the album features 14 songs, while the deluxe edition contains an extra six songs: "A House Is Not A Home," "Home" (featuring Kristin Chenoweth), "Rose’s Turn," "Loser," "Beth," and "Poker Face" (featuring Idina Menzel). If you haven’t been buying songs on iTunes throughout the entire season and you love the Glee songs, then it might be worth it for you to indulge in the deluxe edition. As for the order of the songs, it’s pretty much chronological, except for the last five, as the songs from episode 21, "Loser" and "Give up the Funk," precede that of episode 20, "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance."
Now I have to admit that I liked the first half of the season better when it comes to plotline (and I’m curious to know what my fellow Glee reviewer has to say about this). But when it comes to music, both halves were amazing. One of my favourite performances from the second half of the season remains Lady Gaga’s "Bad Romance" (which is the 19th track on this album), what with the costumes and the attitude and the plot in that episode. But when it comes to emotional quotient, one of my favourite performances remains Kevin McHale’s "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats (which is the 14th track on this album); in the episode "Dream On," Artie daydreams about leading a flash mob to said song. We find out that on top of being a great actor and singer, Kevin McHale is also a great dancer, which kind of makes me hope for another such daydream.
It seems like most of the songs chosen for this album went for emotional memories rather than performance value alone. On top of “The Safety Dance,” the album includes Amber Riley singing “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. The song was performed in the episode “Home” in which Coach Sylvester puts Mercedes on a diet and she faints in the school cafeteria. Quinn gives her advice on how she shouldn’t let the coach get to her and change the fact that she’s so comfortable in her own skin. On the day of the pep rally for which Mercedes has been put on a diet, she doesn’t perform the planned routine, instead singing this song.
Another such song is U2’s “One,” which ended the episode “Laryngitis.” Just like Mercedes’ rendition of “Beautiful,” it’s another lesson in not defining oneself through any superficial quality. In the episode, Rachel is diagnosed with tonsillitis. Her doctor recommends that she have her tonsils removed, which Rachel fears will affect her voice and consequently negatively affect her singing. Finn introduces her to his friend Sean, whom a football accident rendered quadriplegic; he helps Rachel realise that there is a whole lot more to her than her singing, just like there is a whole lot more to him than his mobility.
There weren’t too many songs featuring Jonathan Groff (who portrays Jesse St. James), but there was one of the most powerful ones he sang, a duet with Lea Michele’s character, Rachel Berry. In the episode “Bad Reputation” Rachel thinks that by playing Puck, Finn, and Jesse one against the other, she will gain a bad reputation, which is an invaluable currency in high school. Unfortunately, all it succeeds in doing is to create a vast chasm between her and her boyfriend, Jesse, which is illustrated by their rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Thankfully, another of his great performances, i.e. “Hello” by Lionel Richie, also made it on the album.
There are so many great songs that were performed during the second half of the season that it’s obvious not all could make it on this album (unless they had a two-disk deluxe deluxe version). There is one in particular that I really wish had made it: Puck, Finn, and Mercedes’ rendition of “Good Vibrations” from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I guess I’ll just have to purchase the single on iTunes.
However the album does include a couple of songs with notable guest stars. Two of the most poignant songs performed by the amazing Kristin Chenoweth (who portrayed April Rhodes) are included: "One Less Bell to Answer/A House Is Not a Home" and “Home.” Two songs featuring the great Idina Menzel also made it on the album. The first is Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (albeit a slow, simplified and reflective version of it), and the second, the poignant “I Dreamed a Dream.”
The performance of two other guest stars also made it on the album, which includes Aerosmith’s “Dream On” featuring Neil Patrick Harris and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” featuring, well, herself.
Speaking of “Dream On,” I found an interesting piece of information while researching this review, the kind that makes random information aficionados very happy. Did you know that, according to Billboard, the rendition of “Dream On” by the Glee cast surpassed the original on the charts? While the former made it to number 26, the latter only peaked at number 59 when it was originally released in 1973.
If you like the show and haven’t purchased any of the singles on iTunes, this album is definitely a great addition to your music collection. But if you have already purchased your favourite songs, I’d recommend sticking to purchasing the albums for which there have not been any singles released. Either way, however cliché the plotline can get, the Glee cast continues to give one amazing performance after another, and make purchasing their songs worthwhile. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend the CD; there aren’t any secret tracks, nor any special pictures or features in the CD booklet for you to spend the extra money.