Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

TUNES RECOVERY PROJECT: The Cast of Glee – Don’t Stop Believing

Well, they’ve had more than a few hits this year, and this seemed like the obvious one to pick…


Martin Kavka: No one thinks that it’s odd for a show to have minors singing a song about the sad sacks involved in prostitution?

Alex Ostroff: I love the cheesy melodrama of “Don’t Stop Believin'” (and the strange popularity of a song about a small-town-girl-turned-prostitute) as much as the next guy. Plus, Glee‘s been a delicious candy-coated dose of cynicism all autumn. That said, the treacly overproduced covers are perfunctory at best, despite the genuine talent of the ensemble. Outside the context of McKinley High, this is essentially redundant.

Keane Tzong: Now that Glee is on weekly, it’s become apparent that it is not quite the Popular replacement I was hoping for, because it has “heart” and “soul” and all that, and that wasn’t really what Popular was all about (basically, the problem is that Glee has nothing as good as Mary Cherry on it. Hugely disappointing). But I find it impossible to divorce my feelings on this as a song from the slightly giddy hope that I felt when I saw this “performed” in all its earnestness at the end of the Glee pilot, and so listening to this reminds me why I keep watching every week, and why, in spite of my unmet expectations, I’m still pretty satisfied by what I get.

Anthony Easton: Ryan Murphy does not know tone. He cannot quite figure out if he is making satire, parody, or earnest (melo)drama, so his work becomes a confusing mishmash of competing signals, none of which gel. He also is not allowed to be as nasty as he wants to be. Sometimes he gets close — some of Nip/Tuck and Popular gets close. This track is an example of what happens when he allows his love of middle American cheese to overwhelm any critical sense he might have. And I like middle American cheese.

Michaelangelo Matos: The show isn’t very good, but it stops dead in its tracks whenever one of these numbers come in, and it figures that its most elaborate arrangement (I’m guessing, haven’t watched ’em all) would be in the service, or at the mercy, of the most overblown critical-rehab project of the past half-decade. The harmonies at the top remind me of Steve Reich or something, but when Mr. Theater Training Jr. came in with the first line, it’s a quick race to the handbasket. I never want to hear the Journey original again, but I want to hear this even less.

Matt Cibula: Love the show, love the voices, but the arrangement cloys when stripped of its visual aspect.

Chuck Eddy: Great song. Competent high-school talent show performance, though maybe that’s the point? But what’s with all the Polyphonic Spree-or-whoever a cappella churchbell crap? (P.S.: There’s still no such place as South Detroit, last time I checked.)

John Seroff: What kind of monster listens to Journey and says “You know what this needs is more structure and less feeling”? The arrangers for Glee have taken the gold standard for greaseball last-call chicken wings and dressed it up as petits fours; every note has been crammed into a standard time signature and Steve Perry’s adenoidal howl has been replaced with overscrubbed and overenunciating nu-Donnie and Marie, hamming it up like Pill. I have an abiding love for college acapella but shoehorning that sound in as an afterthought and relegating all the freshmen to “dun dun dun/shah shah shah” duty while the prom king and queen glam out under the spotlight misses the point of the song entirely. Christ, they even flub the marching band vamp and I wasn’t even sure you could do that. As production music, this is merely insipid but for anyone to actively choose to seek out a cover this cookie-cutter neuter for repeat listening is completely beyond me.

Anthony Miccio: It’s like someone ran those Langley Schools Music Project kids through Mutt Lange’s Fairlight. Or at least it would be if the lead vocals weren’t sung by hack Idol-lites.

Rodney J. Greene: The Emulator arrangement that opens and underpins this is pretty cool, but I don’t have any need to hear this sung by people without a meager fraction of Steve Perry’s admittedly questionable personality.

Jonathan Bradley: Like I said about “Breaking Free,” from the original High School Musical, the charm of this is in its verisimilitude: the delivery actually does sound like that of overachieving high school music geeks, even if some of the production touches are a bit too professional. “Don’t Stop Believing” is a better tune than “Breaking Free,” as well, which should work in the Glee cast’s favor. And it does — on television. On my iTunes, though, I’ve got Journey’s version, and that’s the only one I’ll be listening to after I hit “Submit” on this blurb.

Additional Scores

Ian Mathers: [8]
Martin Skidmore: [4]

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