Over its six season run, Glee covered a mammoth number of songs, from Hip Hop to Musical Theatre. So, what songs are actually worth listening to?
The 22 Best Glee Songs
With seemingly endless time now on most of our hands, I have returned to one of my old favourites: Glee. Not least because it’s a comforting noise to have in the background while I gaze pensively into the middle distance having an existential crisis. Just me? Not sure which is the more depressing thought. Glee was a show that really became a cultural phenomenon. t was short lived, and most of the fans of it spent their time complaining about how terrible it was, but for the first season or so, everybody was thoroughly on board. The largest part of its appeal lay within the music, but for every certified bop released by Glee, there are those which are skipped every time they turn up on shuffle. So, for your listening pleasure, I have compiled the Best 22 Glee Songs (well, in my opinion), so check them out below.
Somebody to Love
Picture it: Rachel Berry, the star of Glee Club, leaves to go and be in the school musical – which is Cabaret, not that that’s important. But then, she returns just in the nick of time, and all of Glee Club join together to perform Somebody to Love. A truly era-defining moment. Though you do have to question why the club even needs Rachel when you have Mercedes shredding that high note.
Keep Holding On
Quinn is pregnant. And Sue has found out! Meaning that Quinn has been kicked out of the Cheerios!, and so too goes Quinn’s will to live. So Glee Club, including Rachel, who has definitely not been Quinn’s biggest fan up until this point, pledge their support to her in this encouraging and emotional musical moment.
Like a Virgin
It’s hard to think of a time where Glee weren’t doing tribute episodes just because they’d run out of ideas, but because it was a genuinely good theme to base an episode around. The first tribute episode, The Power of Madonna, had this delightful number, as Finn, Rachel and Emma all prepared to lose their virginities to Santana, Jesse and Will respectively (though only one of them went through with it). I mean, this was already going to be a winner, purely on account of the fact that this song was already a bop, but add in a six part harmony? I am sold.
Like a Prayer
Another from the wonderful Madonna tribute episode, Like a Prayer featured an entire gospel choir, while Mercedes and Rachel ad-libbed for the gods. You can bet I spent my teenage time dancing round the room trying to do every single one. By this stage of my life, it’s practically performance art.
Ms Lea Michele, I blame you for wrecking my teenage vocal chords. How can you belt notes that high? Regardless, this entire performance set was absolute magic. Sure, it was dedicated to Journey, who the vast majority of the watching audience had zero awareness of, but I like to think that’s what made half of Glee better: introducing people to kickass songs. The soaring vocals made this a perfect intro to New Directions’ first foray into Regionals.
Any Way You Want It / Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’
Another from New Directions’ Regionals performance set list. I did already know this song, from the end credits of one of the Charlie’s Angels movies, but the harmonies and the production? Stunning. Flawless. Transcendent.
Don’t Stop Believin’ (Regionals Version)
I mean, of course. It’s obligatory to include Don’t Stop Believin’ whenever there is a Glee list. It was genuinely the reason why everybody fell in love with Glee way back when. A group of plucky teenagers bounding around a stage in co-ordinated costumes and belting for Jesus? Sign me up. There was entire generation of weird theatre kids with big feelings who felt a tremendous resonance with the entire message of Glee, especially at the beginning. That was the moment that sealed it. Anthemic is a word that was pretty much invented purely to describe that song. However, after that song came an even more powerful and anthemic moment, being when they performed Don’t Stop Believin’ at Regionals, and more of the Glee kids got to perform it. They even sung it on The X-Factor. It was a simpler time.
Empire State of Mind
Glee burst into Season 2 with a toe-tapping performance of Empire State of Mind, which was a fairly recent song at the time. The Glee-ified versions as like musical crack, and Mercedes’ runs during the verses? Flawless. I long to be the Hook Girl in a rap song. I could dance rhythmically in the background, doing occasional vocal trills until I can belt out the chorus. I COULD.
I Feel Pretty / Unpretty
Rachel and Quinn singing together? But they hate each other! It cannot be! Those were genuinely my 17-year-old thoughts when this duet came out. It is, in fact, the only time that Rachel and Quinn duetted on the entire show, as well as being part of a special longer episode entitled Born This Way, in which New Directions learned to love themselves just a little bit more, including Santana coming to terms with her sexuality, Kurt returning to McKinley High, and Emma seeking therapy for her OCD. Obviously, the big episode moment is the Glee Club singing Born This Way by Lady Gaga, but this song is just so nice, and it really hones in on Rachel’s massive inferiority complex – which is bizarre, considering she spends most of her time bragging about how awesome she is.
Rumour Has It / Someone Like You
Santana is forced to come out because of Sue’s attempt to run for congress. I think. I forget. But either way, somebody posts an advert about Sue’s lesbian head cheerleader, which pushes Santana towards coming out, which she isn’t quite ready for, and she’s quite angry at Finn for having outed her in a corridor as well, which led to all of this mess. So, I digress, but Adele in Glee? With Amber Riley and Naya Rivera singing it? Yes please. The Troubletones was probably the best part of Season Three. I am accepting no questions at this time.
We Are Young
fun.’s We Are Young was big back in 2012. I remember distinctly it being sung at my leaver’s assembly, because questions were raised about how appropriate it was to be singing “getting higher than the Empire State”, so we instead changed it to “getting flyer”, which, I hasten to point out, was meant to be ironic. Anyway, I digress. This song has a special place to me, personally, because at the time it was sort of a marker that we were growing up and moving on to different things. It was a way of sort of waving goodbye to school existence before moving to the next stage of existence. Not to mention the killer vocals in this ensemble number.
Extraordinary Merry Christmas
An original Christmas song sung by Lea Michele and Darren Criss? I don’t need to explain myself anymore than that.
This bizarrely sexual-tension-filled duet between Santana, the lesbian, and Sebastian, the gay, was so intense. I just loved it. Not to mention the wonderful backing of the cellos building to a perfect climax and Naya Rivera and Grant Gustin’s vocals just absolutely soaring. A favourite of mine.
Fly / I Believe I Can Fly
Nicki Minaj was huge in 2012. I mean, it’s not as if she’s small now, of course. But she did start a sort of phenomenon of an approachable sort of rap that made white people very ready to start their own versions of it. I can say this on account of my stripped down, heartfelt acoustic version of Superbass. And that’s how the executives of Glee became bold enough to make a mashup of Fly and I Believe I Can Fly, which is notable for Blaine singing “I ain’t got no motherfickle time to spare”. Which is iconic, and ridiculous, in equal measure.
How Will I Know
A mournful, acapella cover of How Will I Know? to kick off the Whitney Houston tribute episode? Covered by Amber Riley, Lea Michele and Naya Rivera? The harmonies are absolutely stunning, and I have definitely recorded my own version. The only improvement would have been not having Kurt, and having Blaine instead, but plot-wise, it totally makes sense.
Shake It Out
This is another song that has brilliant harmonies: an acoustic version of Florence + the Machine’s Shake It Out. Absolutely gorgeous.
The Glee Club are on top! They have won Nationals! This is what acceptance looks like!
Finn and Rachel, and Kurt and Blaine break up in this cover of the already stunning song, with killer harmonies here too.
Homeward Bound / Home
There’s something just delightfully mournful about this rendition. It’s got a lovely beating heart, but there’s something so poignant about it. I suppose first hearing the song while homesick in Durham, wishing to go back to the way things used to be probably coloured my interpretation of it forever, but I simply adore it.
Don’t Dream It’s Over
I mean, this is just a brilliant song, isn’t it? Even if the reasons for singing it were because New Directions lost at Sectionals, thus being disbanded because Marley passed out during their rendition of Gangnam Style and apparently leaving the stage during competition – even if one of your number have passed out and need medical attention – is grounds for disqualification, but the only reason that Marley passed out is because she’s developed bulimia as a result of her “friend” Kitty constantly making her clothes smaller to convince Marley that she was getting fatter and developing her mum’s “fat gene”. Yeah. Things got really weird, guys.
Make No Mistake (She’s Mine)
I just love this song! I’m a bit of a sucker for Naya Rivera’s voice, clearly, but this wonderful duet in which she warns Sam off Brittany is simply gorgeous.
Nothing from Season 5, you notice? Yes, well. Moving on. This is the only inclusion from Season 6, purely because it’s the only time that Glee really felt as anthemic and emotional as it used to. Probably because the huge number of ridiculous gimmicks that Glee had pulled, and Glee Season 6 was somewhat of a return to power. This original song, written by Darren Criss, was sung by The Warblers and New Directions after Dalton Academy burned down, and mixed the best elements of both of the groups with near-perfect results.
Bonus: See The USA in Your Chevrolet
Okay, so technically, this wasn’t in the show. But this song is so irritatingly catchy!
Glee is streaming now on Netflix.