After the mix of music in the Pilot, I remember thinking “How can the show do this every week?!” When we saw this episode at Comic-Con in 2009, I was stunned to see them do it again, bringing a mix of songs that were both new and old, and from all over the genre spectrum.
Written by Kanye West, Ray Charles and Renald Richard
Most Notably Performed by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
Performed on GLEE by Matthew Morrison
From West’s second album, Late Registration, this was a huge hit, sampling Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman.” Charles’ parts were performed by Jamie Foxx, shortly after he won an Oscar for portraying the singer. West actually wrote the song without the sample for Shawnna’s album in 2004, but she passed on the song.
Josh Note: The Kanye West version was produced by West and Jon Brion. They’ve worked together a lot, which never ceases to amaze me. Jon Brion’s not really known for his Hip-Hop work, but more for producing Chamber Pop records like Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine,” Dido and Keane and music for movies like Magnolia, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Written by Hurby Azor & Raymond Douglas Davies
Performed Most Notably by Salt-n-Pepa Song
Performed on GLEE by the GLEE Cast
A dance floor mainstay since its release in 1987, Salt-N-Pepa’s tribute to “gettin’ it on” established them as one of most commercially successful Hip-Hop groups in history. It actually only peaked at #19 on the U.S. charts, but paved the way for several similar songs from the group, like 1991’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The quote “This dance ain’t for everybody, only the sexy people” is a reference to “The Bird” by The Time.
Josh Note: Seeing this number, for the first time, at Comic-Con 2009, took me totally by surprise. I had no idea the show would go so far. I really expected it, after the Pilot, to fall somewhere between Beverly Hills 90210 and KIDS Incorporated. This number showed how far GLEE was willing to go for a joke and for a number.
“I Say a Little Prayer”
Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Performed Most Notably by Dionne Warwick
Performed on GLEE by Dianna Agron
You can’t miss that flugelhorn in the opening that signified Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the 1960’s. These guys defined the Soul/Pop sound for everyone from Dusty Springfield to The Carpenters to The Walker Brothers. But, Dionne Warwick was their muse, recording this classic, along with “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and many more.
Josh Note: I could probably write three blog posts about this music and the artists mentioned above. The Carpenter’s classics, Scott Walker’s Jacques Brel records and Burt Bacharach’s amazing catalogue. But, really, this song makes me think of two things: 1) the Aretha Franklin version is hilarious. I love how she only sings part of the hook (“I say a little…” Backup singers: “…prayer for you.”) I imagine her, in the studio, saying “I’m Aretha Franklin. I have don’t have to sing all the words. I’ve got enough soul to sing half!” 2) The “cover versions” of the dance number that Quinn and the Cheerios perform for Mr. Shue. Honestly, this deserves every one of its 1.5 million hits.
“Take a Bow”
Written by Ne-Yo, T.E. Hermansen, M.S. Eriksen
Performed Most Notably by Rihanna
Performed on GLEE by Lea Michelle
This song was the fifth single released by Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad, though it was actually included on the album’s re-release Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded. Her delivery on the track is stunning, showing the mix of strength, anger and vulnerability that makes Rihanna so damn captivating. It was Rihanna’s third #1 on the US Chart and reached the top 10 in six other countries.
Josh Note: Other songs named “Take a Bow”? Madonna had a #1 hit called “Take a Bow” in mid-nineties. Muse had a song on Black Holes and Revelations. Sister Hazel, best known for “All For You,” had one on their Release album, as well as Leona Lewis on Spirit and the Canadian metal band The Agonist.