The best Glee numbers, generally speaking and in my opinion, are the big productions, whether they're solos, duets or group numbers.
And it's the season's best production so far, the mash-up of Adele's Rumour Has It/Someone Like You, that is the standout on Glee: The Music - Volume 7, the album of songs from the first half of the programme's third series. Packed full of drama, sadness, anger and more, it's even better in its full version than it was in the shorter cut used on the programme, with Amber Riley and Naya Rivera's talents shown off fully. These two singers blend brilliantly together, yet you can always tell their voices apart as they soar over and around each other.
Unfortunately, while the best song is on the album, many of the other brilliant numbers from the third season are missing. Among them are I'm the Greatest Star, Something's Coming, Spotlight and America (plus all the numbers from West Side Story apart from Tonight), to name but a few. It's no coincidence these are all songs originally from musicals - Glee, as close to a modern musical as we'll get on television, is really, really good at numbers from musicals. Why none of these songs, plus things like the mash-up of Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do, are not on this album puzzles me. Perhaps (and this is wishful thinking) all those songs will be released as part of a special Glee musicals album.
I'd also have liked to have seen Candyman, Perfect and Jolene included, and Damian McGinty's version of Take Care of Yourself would have been a great addition.
So if most of the best stuff is missing, what has been included? Unfortunately, some of the worst. The producers have chosen to include Heather Morris's version of Beyonce's Run the World (Girls) and Matthew Morrison's cover of Coldplay's Fix You. Even worse, these two songs are next to each other on the album. There's close to four minutes of Run the World, which was fun in its shorter version when you've also got the visuals of the scene to distract you, but is just interminable and all over the place in its full album version (no fault of Morris's, it's just a bad song). We're then treated to almost five minutes of Fix You, a depressing song that seems to go on forever. Morrison's voice sounds weak on this number, and by the end of both tracks I'm gritting my teeth and resisting the urge to just press the skip button.
Thankfully, it does get better, with some of the fun stuff from this series so far included. The group's version of You Can't Stop the Beat (a great number from a musical), Darren Criss's renditions of Katy Perry's Last Friday Night and Tom Jones's It's Not Unusual, and the Warblers' version of Uptown Girl, which brings a smile to my face every time I hear it, are all on here. The pace slows down with Tonight, the only song from West Side Story, the musical that was the focus of a large part of the first half of the third season, on this album. If it couldn't be America, at least it was Tonight, which is sung beautifully by Darren Criss and Lea Michele.
A complete contrast to Tonight is the next number, Hot for Teacher, sung by Mark Salling. It's a fun song, but definitely better to watch than just to listen to, especially with all the spoken parts. It works better when you can see Salling rocking out with his guitar, backed up by the crazy dance moves of Criss and Harry Shum Jr.
Broadway legend Idina Menzel gets to show off her vocal stylings on Somewhere, alongside Lea Michele, but she's better on Constant Craving, with Rivera and Chris Colfer (who should definitely feature on this album more). Constant Craving, originally by k.d.lang, is my favourite ballad on this album, although some may argue for the stripped down version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, with Cory Monteith on lead vocals. It may not have seemed an appropriate song for an episode about a girl struggling with coming out to the world at large, but slowed down the focus is on the lyrics, which are as much about longing and acceptance as they are about girls wanting to have fun.
The album ends strongly, with covers of three songs originally by various members of the Jackson family - ABC by The Jackson Five, Janet Jackson's Control, and Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror. Partly, that's because these are just great songs. ABC is great because it showcases what's best about Glee - the group numbers where lots of people get the chance to show off their vocals (although this number is missing Lea Michele's vocals, it's nice to hear people like Jenna Ushkowitz). Control features the vocals of Criss, Kevin McHale and Dianna Agron. It's good to hear the latter two, as they've barely had a chance to sing this series so far. And Man in the Mirror showcases the vocal stylings of the club's male singers, without resorting to the rock songs they so often get lumped with when they sing in a group.
This isn't the best compilation of songs from Glee. It's missing coherency. If we go all the way back to the first album of songs, we can see that had a mission: to show off the best songs from Glee, and to convey the fun, the camaraderie and the vocal talents of the cast and characters.
By contrast Volume 7 is a bit of a mish mash, perhaps because this season there haven't been many songs featuring the whole cast. That aside, if the album had included all the best songs from the series so far, it would have been a hit. As it is, despite the inclusion of strong numbers including the season's best song, it's something even the most hardcore Glee fans will struggle to love in its entirety. Instead, there'll be a lot of reaching for the skip button. Or a lot of ground down teeth.