GLEEking out: a sensation that’s sweeping the nation

You either love it or you hate it. Glee has recently grown from a television show fetish into a full-on pop culture phenomenon. Even if you consider Glee to be the bane of your existence, it would be impossible to deny its recent takeover of television. With the coveted television slot after Super Bowl XLV and a second episode in its usual primetime spot that same week, Glee is unmistakably the “it” thing right now. Businesses seem to be clamoring to have their name dropped in the show. Last week’s Valentine-themed episode, entitled “Silly Love Songs,” featured a scene in a Gap, while Sunday’s Super Bowl episode showed an entire Glee commercial for Chevy. So what is the appeal? Is it justified that Glee is an obsession or should we at the College, as patrons and performers of real performing arts, look at Glee as a mishap of our misguided pop culture? My guess is it’s probably a little of both.
Glee is a self-described “biting musical comedy” that follows the lives of a group of high school students who are members of a glee club called the New Directions. For any GLEEks reading (yes, those are Glee geeks, and yes, they exist), this description is a poor representation of the show. For the anti-Glee people out there it sounds like just another show about unrealistic high school situations, only this time they’re going to be breaking out into song; I can see the eyes rolling. But unfortunately for the latter, the statistics are working against them. This series is critically acclaimed in almost every way, boasting “two platinum and two gold albums, two Grammy Award nominations, more than 16 million song downloads, the record for the most titles on the Billboard Hot 100 by a non-solo act (beating out The Beatles), the No. 1 soundtrack of 2010 (“The Christmas Album”), an incredible 19 Emmy and 11 Golden Globe nominations and four Emmy Awards,” according to the Glee fan page. The bottom line: Glee is huge.
The frustrations that people have with Glee are reasonable enough. Obviously the show is not realistic, and some people think of this as a turn-off. However, if we look at it objectively, at least Glee admits that it’s not real. Unlike other high school television series (Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World, The OC) that pretend they are representing real life, Glee is a musical. By definition, musicals are full of identifiable yet ridiculous characters, overly intense emotions and random moments for song and dance breaks. That is part of the appeal. It’s not just another one of those shows; it is representing the high school experience in a way that is more fun than any of us had while we were actually there, and it is using the music that we all know and love to do so.
The music in the show is what makes it different than anything that has ever been on television before. Many people find it almost insulting to hear the cast of Glee remaking classic songs like “Thriller,” originally by Michael Jackson, by mixing it with the more recent “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But again, the music in Glee is all part of the appeal. The cast members are talented singers and while their reinterpretations of classics are different, they are usually highly entertaining. It is also worth noting that Glee takes on all forms of music. From classic rock, to songs from Broadway, to the hottest songs off of the radio, Glee has its finger on the pulse of what is popular. Glee is a time capsule of our generation, forever preserving not only the music that is on the charts but also the issues that are hot-button topics in American society. Taking on issues including homosexuality, teen pregnancy, divorce and obesity, it seems that Glee’s producers and writers must be some of the most culturally aware people in show business right now.
With four volumes of Glee: The Music available in addition to the award-winning Christmas album, the music of Glee has certainly become a success. Even if you do not enjoy the new versions of these songs, it is almost impossible to deny that Glee has become a defining symbol of our culture right now. I say if you can’t beat them, join them.

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