“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Glee Cast

The pair of consecutive recordings of this song released during Glee‘s first reason serve as a powerful reminder that, however poor the show’s writing may have been, its musical components were strong enough to justify its breakout success at the time. To begin with, while Journey was, as a rule, a second-rank contender at best within the Arena Rock genre, this particular song is a stone-cold, genre-defining classic that more legit Arena acts like Boston or early-career Chicago would probably have killed to have written themselves. It has the same level of glorious over-the-top theatricality as the top-level classics by Queen or Meat Loaf, only with their usual undercurrent of irony being replaced by a blinding sincerity. The song doesn’t lack self-awareness…it knows exactly how cheesy it is…but its complete lack of shame at its own dopey earnestness somehow made it immensely inspiring. This, of course, made it a perfect match for the show’s overall vibe, and this was one of the rare times when a Glee performance of an actual old-school classic arguably managed to genuinely surpass the original recording. There’s a reason why this song became the show’s signature number and produced its first Top Ten hit, and why, in the depths of desperation in Season 5, one of their attempted solutions was basically “Let’s have Lea Michele record “Don’t Stop Believin’” again”. And say what you will about cheap tactics, but even that version was still an amazing performance of a great song.

Verdict: I will readily acknowledge that Glee was not good television, but it was often extremely good music, and this cover in all its forms is the definitive example of that.

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