Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Student Blog: Top 10 Underrated Glee Songs

This is my own personal "Glist"

Student Blog: Top 10 Underrated Glee Songs

To be a fan of "Glee" is to both roast it and defend one's love of it constantly; because as cringey and terrible as some moments are (looking at you "What Does the Fox Say?"), there are some true gems that make it worthwhile.

Fans are quick to point out some of the best performances ("Smooth Criminal," "River Deep/Mountain High," and "Teenage Dream," to name a few). But some songs have flown somewhat under the radar, forgotten either due to time or other, more popular songs.

As entertaining and cathartic it can be to poke fun at "Glee," we should also take the time to recognize its successes-especially those we missed the first time around. And what better occasion to do so than around the anniversary of the airing of the pilot?

  • "Beautiful"

This season one gem is often forgotten when discussing Mercedes's (Amber Riley) performances. It's understandable, given this song's early placement in the show and the other (far too few) show-stoppers she bestowed upon us mere mortals over time. But watching Mercedes sing this song about the struggles of a journey to self-love is a shining example of when "Glee" got its message right. There are many times when the theme is too performative, contrived, and surface-level. But the simplicity of Mercedes performing this song in front of the rest of the school is a perfect way of executing the show's thematic agenda in a way that feels authentic and real. It suits her voice perfectly, and it was a great way to get to know the different facets of her character's strength. Mercedes was strong whether she was standing up for herself in a passionate speech against those that doubted or underestimated her, or in the moments such as this where she let her vocals do it for her.

  • "Hungry Like the Wolf/Rio"

Matt Bomer and Darren Criss are amazing in this number, and it is a rare example of a performance in which the choreography might actually rival the singing. Their dancing reveals both their individual talent as actors and their chemistry together as imaginary siblings, despite the fact that we only see Blaine's brother for one episode. My only complaint is that we only got two duets with them.

  • "Roots Before Branches"

Confession time: I was a big Rachel (Lea Michele) fan when I first watched the show (in my defense, I was a dramatic, "Wicked"-obsessed theater nerd, and I was in elementary and middle school at the time-it was bound to happen). Needless to say, given my strong attachment to the character and her journey, I cried when I saw this performance. People tend to discuss Rachel's Broadway performances when listing her best songs, and while I am always amenable to talking about her theater repertoire, she had some more overlooked performances in other genres. For example, "The Only Exception" is a great cover, but "Roots Before Branches" is heart-wrenching. I have not forgotten the image of her and Finn walking to the station together, singing this song after just having broken up (and shattering my young Finchel heart in the process). Still, it was a perfect transition for Rachel as she took the first major step toward moving to New York and following her dreams. If you're ever feeling like the main character, brooding about the past, the future, and where your life will take you, just listen to (or sing) this song while wistfully staring out the window. Bonus points if it's raining.

  • "Rolling in the Deep"

Singing an impromptu acapella duet with your ex after not seeing them for months is one of the more dramatic situations in which to find yourself, which is perhaps one of the reasons why I felt compelled to include it on this list. The power of their combined voices, and the always-palpable chemistry between Rachel and Jesse (Jonathan Groff), make this song thrilling. The spectacle of it all-their scowls, Jesse's tiny scarf, Rachel's melodramatic rejection of his proffered hand-make it both hilarious full of tension. Yet, I rarely see fans discussing this moment--as if Jesse St. James swaggered into the auditorium to join in on the song just for us to let the moment fall by the wayside. It's not all that different from "Smooth Criminal," actually, with the way the characters circle each other in the fiery duet. This scene is teeming with friction and anxiety in the best, most theatrical way that only Rachel and Jesse can achieve.

  • "So Emotional"

The Whitney Houston tribute episode was full of great performances, but this duet between Rachel and Santana (Naya Rivera) was one of the best. We got to hear more duets between the two of them in subsequent seasons, but this was the first time we saw the exquisite blend of their voices. While Mercedes might make a slightly better duet partner for Santana, this song was surprising, since we rarely got to see the characters interact beyond the occasional cutting remark in the earlier seasons. It is an upbeat, catchy breath of fresh air in this otherwise somewhat solemn episode.

  • "Getting Married Today"

Jayma Mays, everyone. Frankly, after discovering that Mays could not only sing Sondheim, but could perform the life out of this behemoth of a song, I'm shocked they didn't have her sing more often. Some professional theater actors can't sing this as quickly as she can, and she makes it seem effortless. Coupled with Mercedes's operatic vocals between the rapid verses, this song is one of the best in the entire show, and it doesn't get nearly enough credit. I didn't love the drama surrounding Emma and Will's ruined first wedding, (especially the Kiss Heard Round the World *shudders*), but it was worth it to get this song out of it.

  • "Being Alive"

Speaking of Sondheim (and songs from "Company," for that matter), I think this is Kurt's (Chris Colfer) absolute best performance. His rather tumultuous path to getting accepted to NYADA was made all the more satisfying when he was able to audition with this piece and finally demonstrate the depth of his talent. It illustrates how much Kurt's voice and talent grew over time; this is not the same character who sang "Mr. Cellophane" in season one. Kurt is at his best when he's being vulnerable; "Bring Him Home" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" are evidence of that. It is clear from the moment that he opens his mouth to sing this song that this is his time, the moment we've all been waiting for him to truly come into his own.

  • "The Boy Is Mine"

When we talk about Mercedes and Santana's duets, we often discuss "River Deep Mountain High," or one of the songs by the Troubletones. But this was their first collaboration, and while Puck (Mark Salling) certainly wasn't worth having a diva-off over, we were fortunate enough to be gifted this performance. Their voices are very compatible, each unique and rich in their own way. This was also the first time we really got to see Santana sing, and it was exciting to see that she could potentially (at that point) play a bigger role in the story. It's clear that the producers and writers saw the characters' chemistry during this song, given the number of times that they'd share the stage in the future.

  • "Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do"

Alright. While I like Marley (Melissa Benoist), the Rachel fan in me was disappointed that she was set up to be the "New Rachel," when the show had already given us a successor in the form of the Gerber baby herself, Harmony (Lindsay Pearce). Can you imagine the tension of Rachel coming back to Lima to see that Harmony had taken her spot? The diva-off that would ensue? Still, I suppose I'm grateful for the two songs she sang on the show. They were both fantastic, but I chose to discuss her introductory number, if for no other reason than it means I get to talk about those last belted notes, which are (literally) breathtaking. The song is thrilling from start to finish, and the only drawback is imagining the potential of what might have been, had Harmony only transferred schools. Sigh.

  • "Dream A Little Dream of Me"

If Rachel was looking for a male counterpart who could keep up with her vocally, she needn't have looked further than Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale). Artie's later, unsavory moments aside, he arguably has the best male voice aside from Blaine and Jesse (Jonathan Groff), and as much as I love Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel, I can't help but consider the ableist undertones of insinuating that Artie wasn't a proper duet partner because of his disability. I wish Artie'd had more opportunities to sing solo, but this song encapsulates the kind of performances we might've had more of if the show had given him more attention and development. He has great range and a smooth voice, and I wish both Artie and McHale had been given more credit and chances to show off these attributes.

Related Articles

From This Author - Student Blogger: Alexandra Lang