You probably don’t know this about me, but I was a huge Gleek. That’s right - a fan of the show, Glee.
While my love of the dramedy didn’t come until way down the line - like, Season 4 was on the air - I still genuinely enjoyed the heck out of the show, and would tune in pretty regularly even when the songs got a little cringey and the performances would sometimes make me uncomfortable (looking at you “Blurred Lines”).
But, through six seasons and so many Glee cast members with phenomenal voices, there have been several song covers that have really stood out amongst the rest. Some that truly stand the test of time - and honestly, I listen to these more now than the original recordings. For those who are fans of Glee - and maybe even for those who just want to listen to some good songs - here are the best Glee song covers from the Fox show.
Don’t Stop Believin’
What kind of Gleek would I be if I didn’t even bother to mention the song that started it all, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey? In the very first episode, we are blessed with this amazing rendition featuring the original five members of New Directions, and while we do get another version of it in Season 5, nothing quite beats this one.
You can’t sit there and tell me you don’t cry now thinking about Cory Monteith as Finn Hudson singing this with Lea Michele’s Rachel. I’m already sobbing. Even Lea Michele agrees it’s one of the best.
Rumor Has It/Someone Like You
Definitely one of my favorite female-led performances on the show. Featured in the Season 3 episode, “Mash Off,” as sung by Santana and Mercedes (Naya Rivera and Amber Riley), this mash-up of two of Adele’s biggest hits was definitely a killer the moment it premiered on TV, mixing Mercedes’ powerful vocals with the dramatic tone that Santana had to offer.
It always reminds me of how talented these two amazing actresses really are - and it’s not the last Mercedes/Santana duet on this list.
Watching this performance now is even more exciting knowing that a new Wicked movie is coming.
While I’m sure Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo are going to both be exceptional, there’s just something about Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer) singing this ballad in the Season 1 episode, “Wheels.” Their two voices, so different, meld so well together, and give my ears a joyful party every time I’ve listened to it.
Make You Feel My Love
After the unfortunate passing of Cory Monteith in July 2013, Glee wanted to find a way to honor his legacy as Finn Hudson, and they did it the episode, “The Quarterback,” where many of the original characters sang their own song in honor of him. Rachel (Michele, who was dating Monteith at the time) sang “To Make You Feel My Love” by Adele, and God, even listening to it now, years later, still makes me cry.
The amount of emotion that she pours into this performance is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and you can truly tell that she is going through so much pain. It’s a testament to her skills as a singer.
Start Me Up/Livin’ On A Prayer
One of my favorite episodes of Glee is “Never Been Kissed,” mainly for the awesome music that is featured in it, and its stellar plot. One of the mashups is “Start Me Up/Livin’ On A Prayer,” by The Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi, respectively. And I love listening to this over and over.
There’s something so gratifying about watching this whole group of women come together and sing these two very classic rock songs and kill it on stage. They were truly livin’ on a prayer. And, their outfits were so freaking amazing.
It's My Life/Confessions
The episode, “Vitamin D,” features another mash-up that makes this list, this time entirely sung by the main guys of the group, who performed “It’s My Life/Confessions,” a mashup of Bon Jovi and Usher, and somehow, it’s so fantastic.
Even though the styles are completely different (the first rock and the other R&B), they melded these two songs perfectly together, and the voices fit together and create amazing harmonies. I still remember Finn’s voice when he sings “This ain’t a song for the brokenhearted.” Memories...
I think everyone sort of fell in love with Blaine (played by the lovely Darren Criss) when he first appeared on Glee in the episode, “Never Been Kissed,” - as did I, even though I already knew about him from A Very Potter Musical. However, it was when he opened his mouth to sing the classic Katy Perry song, “Teenage Dream,” that I realized just how deep in love I was.
He and the Warblers were the perfect pick for this. Their suave motions, charming smiles, and that cute little bounce they do when they start to dance...it all just fits so perfectly. What a great character introduction.
It’s Not Unusual
You thought we were done with Blaine? Heck nah. He’s featured again here, in “It’s Not Unusual” from the Season 3 episode, “The Purple Piano Project.” While I’ll always have a personal love for Carlton from The Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air dancing to this Tom Jones classic, Blaine’s cover of the song has another special place in my heart because it’s full of so much energy.
Him on the stairs dancing with the cheerleaders, just having the time of his life now as a McKinley High School student - gets me every time.
If I Die Young
The first time I heard Santana sing this song in the episode, “The Quarterback,” in honor of Finn, I cried for a good ten minutes straight.
The original, “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry, always made my heart clench but Rivera's particular voice was something out of a fairytale and she was able to deliver the perfect amount of emotion and created a beautiful rendition. It’s even sadder to think of Rivera's unfortunate passing in 2020.
Another Santana-lead song. While some people might not know “Cold Hearted” as much since it came out during Season 4 of the show, I seriously love it. In the episode “Feud,” Santana sings this song to Rachel’s boyfriend at the time, whom she knew was bad news. And, God she pulls it off.
The original was sung by Paula Abdul, but I think Rivera did even better. Santana just has this sass and spice that she brought to the song, mixed in with Rivera’s already impressive vocal range. If you haven’t heard it yet, be sure to listen.
Thriller/Heads Will Roll
What’s better than dressing up as a zombie? Dancing as a zombie to a mashup of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson and “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. As someone who is a big fan of zombie shows like The Walking Dead, I can say that seeing my favorite Glee cast members all dressed up in zombie gear is something I can get behind - but let’s be honest, we’re here for the music and damn are they amazing.
The harmonies, the dance movies, the atmosphere of a football game - it all just works together so well. This is certainly a killer performance - see what I did there? Heehee.
Don’t Rain On My Parade
Another classic, this time featuring Rachel. We first see her sing this song in the Season 1 episode, “Sectionals,” where she performs it to bring New Directions in for the competition, and we heard it pretty steadily throughout her run on Glee. But, there’s no denying that the first time is the most magical.
It just screams Rachel Berry. It shows off her complex vocal range, stage presence, and overall ability to hit those high notes. As much as Rachel can be a bit annoying at times, you just can’t deny her talent.
Raise Your Glass
You want more Warblers? We got ‘em right here. In the Season 2 episode, “Original Song,” the Warblers appear at another competition where they sing this P!nk classic, “Raise Your Glass,” and you can’t not love them.
Again, this is one of those covers that you just want to get up and dance around to. The Warblers all look like they’re having the time of their lives, and dang it, I want to join them on stage. And, of course, Blaine is great as always.
Can you tell Santana is my favorite character? In the Season 2 episode, “Special Education,” Santana takes on this solo, “Valerie,” by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, at another competition, where Brittany (Heather Morris) and Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) get to show off their dance skills.
Again, this performance is just filled with so much energy, and Santana’s vocals really shine in one of her first solos ever.
River Deep, Mountain High
This cover features both Santana and Mercedes' amazing voices yet again in Glee, for “River Deep, Mountain High,” originally performed by Ike and Tina Turner. And, wowie do these two phenomenal women blow the whole roof off the high school.
Again, this is another case where they perfectly harmonize together and are just fantastic, along with their combined attitudes while singing, completely showing off the passion of the song.
I Will Always Love You
Last but not least, we have Mercedes’ cover of “I Will Always Love You,” by the amazing Whitney Houston, in the Glee Season 3 episode, “Heart.”
The song itself is historic no matter what, but Amber Riley’s soulful voice is perfect in every way and a stellar fit for this cover. Whitney Houston would have been proud of her vocals in every way, and the performance itself is just amazing - Amber in that red dress, singing her heart out to Sam - ugh, has me in my feels every time.
Glee will forever live in my heart as one of those shows that had its problems, but will always mean the world to me. It was something special that I felt I was a part of, and now I have all these awesome covers to listen to even years later.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!