Giving You What the Results of the Duets Performance from Glee Season 2 Couldn't
Cover Art: Alex Chen
The first Glee episode I ever watched was “Duets”. Now, I’ll admit, being thrown into a show at the beginning of the second season with no idea of any of the characters was one of the more confusing moments of my life.
At the time, I couldn’t fully comprehend the stakes: getting Sam to stay in the Glee club, a dinner at Breadsticks––this competition was no laughing matter.
To provide some context, in this episode Will Schuester has the Glee club members pair up to sing duets. Predictably, many members paired up with their romantic interests –– it wouldn’t be Glee without that aspect. However, Finn and Rachel effectively sabotage the competition, voiding the validity of the results. They purposefully perform an offensive number in order to throw their otherwise likely victory, and instead cast their votes for Sam and Quinn as a ploy to bolster Sam’s confidence and keep him as a member of the club. But this plot point is not the most maddening of the episode. After many rewatches, I now feel ready to express how maddening it feels to reach the end of a slate of (mostly) enjoyable performances only to be utterly let down by Will Schuester’s terrible planning skills. Instead of instating a “you can’t vote for yourself” rule that would allow the results to be more unbiased, participants could vote for whoever they wanted. Why on earth would he create an opportunity for these self-centered teenagers to vote for their own duet performance? It obviously was not going to result in an accurate winner; it was like he was asking for someone to rig it. That is why I’m here to set the record straight.
Here is my ranking of the duets performances as it should have happened back in 2010:
**For this list, let’s disregard the duets from the episode that were not a part of the competition, as great as they were (shoutout to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy. You guys still rock though).
5) With You I’m Born Again (Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry)
I don’t think this last place ranking comes as a surprise to anyone. Rachel and Finn’s vocals meld beautifully, as usual - and if they had done a different song I’m sure they would have been victorious. Unfortunately, their number was wildly inappropriate. Rachel dresses as a Catholic school girl and Finn as a priest, as they sing about being “born again” - the song implies this in a sexual way. Fortunately, they were trying to lose, so they likely would not mind their placement on this list.
4) Le Jazz Hot (Kurt Hummel)
This might have had a higher ranking on this list, but I cannot get past the fact that it simply is not a duet. That being said, this session of “vocal masturbation” (as Santana so delicately put it) was highly successful. The costuming and set design of this number was unmatched, a clear parody of Victor/Victoria, and the backup dancers clearly highlight the amount of preparation and planning that Kurt put into this performance. He dominates the stage in this number, perfectly emulating both Julie Andrews’ ease and energy, and her vocal range. A notable moment is the final note, starting in a low register but ending with a classic Kurt Hummel falsetto note. Overall an impressive performance, if it had actually followed the guidelines of the assignment.
3) Lucky (Sam Evans and Quinn Fabray)
While these two won the duets competition in the episode, I think it’s safe to say that if Rachel and Finn hadn’t rigged it, they wouldn’t have been so lucky (pun intended). The first, and most obvious, note is that they just stood there. Maybe you could call synchronous strumming “choreography,” but when stacked up against many of the other performances, it’s clear how little thought went into this one. The image they present is very conventionally appealing - two beautiful blonde teenagers swaying together - but they lack stage presence and confidence in performing together, and it shows. (See I’ve Had the Time of My Life from Season 2, Episode 9: Special Education for a better idea of the magic that their chemistry and voices can produce). However, it’s important to note that they both present strong, even if uninspiring and vaguely memorable, vocal performances in this episode. Their voices meld really well together, and Sam’s sugary tone is complemented by Quinn’s light and airy one.
2) Sing! (Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang)
Where do I begin? I think it’s important to address one thing first. Yes, Mike’s vocals were lacking. But it was both a plot point and a factor of the performance that he and Tina be unable to sing. And as the number that paved the way for Cool in season 3, I hope we can all let it pass. In terms of the execution of this number, all I can say is bravo. It was carefully choreographed and clearly thought through, as is to be expected from the better dancers in the club. I also think that this number makes the most of the duet assignment; the song choice lends itself really well to both of their voices, and Tina and Mike play off of each other both vocally and physically. Out of every performance, I think this one takes the most advantage of having another body to perform with - instead of just another voice.
1) River Deep, Mountain High (Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones)
Wow. This performance had by far the most energy. Both ladies came to win, and this is evident in their synchronized but loose dance moves. I also have a crazy amount of respect for them for not only going first but also for being the only members that chose a partner that they were not romantically involved with or interested in. And it cannot be ignored that their vocals were by far the strongest. While I recognize the benefit of having glee club members with a variety of ranges and tones, it cannot be denied that Santana and Mercedes’ voices are some of the strongest in the club. This performance gifts us with full-bodied voices filled with passion and capable of filling the room with excitement and executing impressive runs like none of the others. Santana and Mercedes were also by far the most confident –– and sassy –– performers. No one else was as sure of their partner or song choice, or as assured of their dinner at Breadstix.
And with this ranking in mind, I invite you to rewatch this episode of Glee (S2 E4). You may rank the performances differently than me, but at least you gave it more thought than Will Schuester.