The time has finally arrived, where once again that almost-mythical (even though everything depends on it) competition the New Directions are preparing for happens. Last night, our favorite glee club headed to regionals to compete against the Warblers and Aural Intensity. The episode was jam-packed with music and saw the debut of three original tunes — six if you count some missteps along the way, but we'll get to that later — but the actual songs were almost overshadowed by the kiss between Blaine and Kurt. Here's how that happened ...
As Ryan Murphy predicted for us, Blaine covers Maroon 5's hit with the Warblers. The group dances through the halls of Dalton Academy to their new opening number for regionals. The song naturally lends itself to an a cappella arrangement that fits comfortably in the Warblers' wheelhouse of smooth R&B pop, but we found ourselves wholeheartedly agreeing with Kurt's critique at the end: "Can I be really honest with you, because it comes from a place with caring?" he asks Blaine. "Been there, done that ... Sometimes I don't feel like we're the Warblers; I feel like we're Blaine and the Pips." Though he admits the critique was sparked by jealousy, Kurt's right on.
"Only Child," "Trouty Mouth" and "Big Ass Heart"
Rachel's second attempt at penning an original song draws inspiration from growing up an only child of two gay dads: "I'm the only Berry on my family tree." Finn smartly encourages her to dig deeper, while Quinn takes the opportunity to back Rachel's idea for New Directions to perform original material at regionals. It's part of Quinn's use of the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" philosophy: her Queen Bee ploy to keep Finn as her boyfriend at least long enough to secure prom king and queen means Rachel has to stay out of the picture.
As the glee club finds its groove in songwriting (or waits for Max Martin to step in and save the day), we are treated to Santana and Puck's attempts at the craft: Things are still tense between her and Brittany, so Santana writes bluesy ode "Trouty Mouth" for her heterosexual love, Sam ("Grouper mouth, Froggy lips / I love suckin' on those salamander lips"). Puck's tribute to Lauren's attributes, "Big Ass Heart" doesn't fare much better ("That big ass heart can pump two tons of love through her chest / And then sit down and win a lovin' pie-eating contest"). The whole thing comes off as awkward-funny rather than funny-funny.
As the New Directions struggle with song, Kurt is struggling with the death of his warbler, Pavarotti. He interrupts an otherwise serious Warblers debate about regionals attire to sing an impromptu song for his dead bird — starting a new trend in which Kurt sings Beatles ballads in times of personal grief (see also: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from "Grilled Cheesus"). Kurt's rendition of "Blackbird" is simple and sweet and thankfully didn't attempt anything flashy. As the Warblers joined in, Blaine looks at Kurt tenderly. Later, he explains: "Kurt, there is a moment when you say to yourself, 'Oh, there you are. I've been looking for you forever.'" It's a big moment, a moment that fans have been clamoring for ever since Kurt and Blaine first met last fall: the kiss. It's an important moment, too — not just for Kurt, but for Glee as a series — and it was thrilling to see the show handle it with the same natural grace as it has the rest of Kurt's storylines.
"Hell to the No"
Mercedes' attempt at songwriting fares much better than that of her counterparts. Her infectious tune about self-acceptance is straight from the school of Amy Winehouse. It's nice to get a reminder that our resident diva can wail. And the song has a hook that will be stuck in our head for days.
Regionals time: the Sue Sylvester-led Aural Intensity does a campy Jesus number to appeal to the judges (slimy local anchor Rod; stripper-turned-nun Mary Constance, played by Loretta Devine; and the Christine O'Donnell-inspired "Twitterer and former Tea Party candidate" Tammy Jean Albertson, played by Kathy Grifffin). It ends in a Star of David formation. Then the Warblers take the stage, with everyone but Blaine and Kurt blending into the background as they launch into the pop ballad by Hey Monday. As Kurt pointed out, it's a welcome departure from the Warblers' Top 40 songbook — but both Kurt and Blaine sound strained and unnatural in what's supposed to be a touching moment. After last week's "Animal," we have to wonder: Is it that hard to find a fitting duet for them?
"Raise Your Glass"
Pink's song is a good choice for regionals, and the Warblers handle it well, striking a balance between a polished arrangement and a fun, loose performance. But it would have been a home run as a New Directions' post-regionals celebration.
"Get It Right"
Rachel finally writes the song she'd been hoping for after Quinn brashly admits that she and Finn are together and tells Rachel to get out of her schoolgirl fantasy. The only problem is, the song (co-written by Glee music producer Adam Anders, his writing partner and his wife) sounds exactly like every song she's ever covered on the show in a moment of reflection (see also: "Firework", "Take a Bow," "The Only Exception"). She nails it, but it's relatively boring and repetetive in the context of the show. It'd fit right in on Top 40 radio, though.
"Loser Like Me"
Pop hitmaker Max Martin — er, the New Directions — wrote the unofficial Glee anthem, celebrating all of the things that everyone, especially Sue Sylvester, picks on them for. It's a true anthem, and it ends triumphantly, with the New Directions tossing confetti-filled Slushie cups into the crowd — and then going on to win regionals.
Bottom Line: "Original Song" was better than last fall's sectionals, but not as good as 2009's competition (will anything top "Don't Rain on My Parade?"). The payoff was finally seeing Kurt and Blaine's friendship grow into something more.
Next Up: When Glee returns in April, we find out the answers to important questions, like "Is Will and Holly's romance rockin'? "Has Mercedes gone diva?" (maybe "Hell to the No" was foreshadowing of things to come) and "What has Sue Sylvester up to now?"
Last Episode: A Crash Course in 'Sexy'