After a first season that devolved into a frenzy of too many songs and not enough long-term plot, Glee made a fresh start as it returned for its second season last night. Rachel, Kurt, Finn and Sue saw two key additions to their McKinley High School crew — Sunshine (real-life Filipina pop star Charice) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) — as the glee club went on a recruiting mission, the football players and the Cheerios fought to keep their spots and Sue and Mr. Schuester battled a new football coach. And what about those songs …
“Empire State of Mind”
Mr. Schuester tells New Directions that to secure a spot at Nationals in New York, they have toughen up: “They say we only sing show tunes and eighties pop — let’s show them how down we are!” Cue the Jay-Z and Alica Keys tune, staged like a combination of “Summer Nights” from Grease and an homage to Bronx hip-hop in the eighties. We’ll never believe Finn rapping about life in the concrete jungle, but the arrangement’s a cappella part is still stuck in our head.
Rachel runs into Sunshine — a potential new member, played by the Filipina pop star Charice — in the girls‚ room, and momentarily abandons her spotlight-hogging to hear the sunny one launch into the Lady Gaga and Beyonce song. The Auto-Tuned power struggle reaches its climax when Sue walks in and yells, “Shut Up!” Sue, we’ll respectfully disagree on this one: Rachel has finally met her match, and we want to hear the competition play out.
Meanwhile, Finn is eying another jock to join the team, and convinces Sam (Glee newcomer Chord Overstreet) to come on board with New Directions. Inexplicably, Sam’s “pocket song” is Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars‚ breezy summer hit — but all is forgiven when the song morphs into a charming jam session.
After Rachel initially steers her to a crack house, Sunshine finally finds the auditions for New Directions and delivers this tune from Dreamgirls (“Broadway show first!” Rachel helpfully explains), simultaneously bringing down the McKinley High auditorium and launching Charice’s stateside career.
“What I Did For Love”
Blamed for Sunshine deciding to join New Directions‚ rivals, Rachel works through her guilt by belting out this tune from A Chorus Line to an empty auditorium. Though touching, after a season packed with Rachel Berry solo numbers (including the outstanding “Don’t Rain on My Parade”), this song is ultimately not so memorable.
The boys of Glee had an impressive vocal showing — the glaring absence of Kurt solos aside — but more importantly, the showdown between Rachel and Sunshine is just getting started. Next up: Britney Spears makes a highly-anticipated cameo as the cast tackles her hits, including “Toxic,” “…Baby One More Time,” and “Me Against the Music.”