After most Glee episodes I’m eager to write. I’m always excited to share my thoughts on the cheesy one liners, cute song choices, sometimes witty but often melodramatic dialogue.
But tonight is different. Tonight I put off writing, albeit for only about 15 minutes longer than usual. Yet the postponement, as short as it was, speaks to the heart of “Funeral” and how Glee can be truly beautiful and (at times) heart-wrenching if it sets itself free from kitsch.
Anyone who’s lost someone that meant the world to them is no stranger to the sentiment in the eulogy that Sue Sylvester wrote for her sister, Jean. “When you love someone like I love her, they’re a part of you,” the eulogy read.
Insincere, Glee may often be. It lives up to this label more times than not. But in the moment when the New Directions started to sing “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Sue grabbed at Will Schuester’s hand, the honesty was real and almost palpable from within the television screen.
In being someone who has felt the pain of losing a person that meant everything to them, that expressed desire to feel human contact is something relatable and more than true. Thinking back to the moment I lost the person that meant so much to me to a stroke, my mother, a single thought comes to mind:
My grandmother, just as distraught and twice as confused as I was, ran into the hospital room to find me standing next to my mother’s bed. Without a word, my grandmother came towards me and trapped me in the most emotionally powerful embrace I had ever felt. Even in a moment of sadness, feeling the love of another person made the world disappear, the pain dissolve.
Glee recognized that unspoken aspect of a person’s grieving process: the desire to feel something.
And in a way, each of the songs of “Funeral” carried the weight of the whole episode. The auditions for lead performer at Nationals were not only beautiful songs, but poignant power ballads and musical laments that alluded to the nature of the episode without spelling it out.
In the past year, Glee became increasingly fond of themes. Episodes were based around a musical artist (Lady Gaga, Britney Spears), a word (Hello), a holiday (Christmas). But they were never sentiment-based, which is actually the most sincere of the possible themes for an episode.
Instead of choosing songs that were by artists that might appear on a similar playlist, “Funeral” focused on songs that carried the show along with the strength and passion of the plot.
Even for those who have been fortunate to not lose a loved one, I assume they’d have no question that the reality of this episode was scarcely compromised, particularly in contrast to other shows in the series.
When Glee tries something new, there’s never a guarantee that it is going to make the show any better or credible among reluctant viewers. But the way it tackled an emotional concept as it did in “Funeral” makes clear the potential of Glee to be more than a cheesy musical revue. It can really be a work of art.
The Songs of “Funeral”:
“Back to Black” – Santana singing Amy Winehouse definitely works. As much as I hate to agree with Jesse, who in this episode was even more despicable than usual, I did think that the emotion just was not there. It was a great vocal performance, but just not the same emotional value of other songs in the episode.
“Some People” – If only there could be an CD made up of Kurt singing the entire soundtrack of Gypsy. There is such a uniqueness to his voice that traditional Broadway sounds wonderful when Chris Colfer tries his hand at it. When I was in high school choir my teacher would say sopranos are a dime a dozen, but what she never had in her choir was a male alto. They’re really something interesting.
“Try a Little Tenderness” – I will usually side with the person who says Mercedes’ songs can be over the top and at times over-performed. But wow, this song proved me wrong in every possible way. Her voice was smooth, soulful and gritty when necessary. So much emotion in one song.
“My Man” – Rachel Berry + Barbra Streisand = The best possible combination. Again, I just want an entire CD of Rachel singing Barbra. Even more than the plot of “Funeral” as a whole, this song truly brought me to tears.
“Pure Imagination” – The best thing about Glee is that in moments of triumph, sadness, anger, etc., there is always a song to match. Listening to the New Directions perform this song from Willy Wonka (that I’ve actually known all my life) brought out a new meaning to the lyrics for me. It isn’t just about kids wandering through a wonderland of candy. It’s about that cliché (but still true) “seize the day” concept. “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”