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Glee’s Sleaze: My Take on the "Rumours" Episode

Even though I don’t own a television, I am an unabashed Gleek.  I’m currently watching Season One on Netflix, and keeping up with Season Two on Hulu.  Having graduated from high school in 1980, I am the target demographic for this larger-than-life cartoony series about the struggles of a high school show choir in Lima, Ohio.

This week’s episode featured the classic Fleetwood Mac album, “Rumours.”  The album came out in 1977, making it another favorite of my demographic, and, I daresay, one of the defining albums of my generation.

I woke up Tuesday morning to see myself tagged in a friend’s Facebook status.  Knowing what a huge Fleetwood Mac and Glee fan I am, he couldn’t wait to hear my review of the “Rumours”  episode.  When I sat down to watch it last night, armed with wine, ice cream and a very patient husband, I was  looking forward to  what I thought might be the best Glee episode ever.  When the hour was over, I was underwhelmed.

Mature Stevie Nicks disappoints me.  If only the Unintentional Godmother of Goth loved herself as much as we love her!  I cringed at her silly duet with the  off-key Taylor Swift at the Grammys.  It feels manipulative that Stevie’s first album in a decade, “In Your Dreams,” dropped on the same day the Glee “Rumours” episode aired.  Stevie was even quoted calling her new album her “own little ‘Rumours’.”  

“In Your Dreams” is getting great reviews.  Stevie should know that greatness doesn’t need cheap tricks to be heard and appreciated.

I believed that Glee was going to give tribute to something that deserves tribute.  Instead, it was simply a platform to sell a new album based not on that album’s merit, but on the merit of an album thirty years old. 

In the “Rumours” episode, Sue uses the school’s newspaper to spread gossip in an effort to tear the Glee Club apart.  Will enlists April Rhodes to help him teach the kids that great music can come from their internal struggles, just as Fleetwood Mac’s best album came from the breakup of the two couples who comprised the band.  The assignment: pick a song off the “Rumours” album and give it your own spin. 

Kristin Chenoweth, in her role as the alcohol-soaked April Rhodes, shows the kids how it’s done with “Dreams.”  She really nailed Stevie with her amazing vocals.  If I had kept my eyes closed, I would have loved this number.  Problem is, Kristin Chenoweth is a great actor.  Her portrayal of the alcoholic April is so on target that it turned this darkly mystical song into a cheesy, flirty pop tune sung by a barfly.  In the Seventies, Stevie made drug addiction look sexy.  Today, Kristin makes addiction appear to be exactly what it is: pathetic.

Even though we all know the things that happen at McKinley High can never happen in real life, Glee still manages to discuss important issues.  While this episode was about conflicts between the glee club members, there is always a subtext of personal internal conflict.  Nowhere do we see that more than in the character of Santana as she struggles with her feelings for Brittany and her fear of the social repercussions.  Santana’s rendition of “Songbird,” sung privately to Brittany, was stunning.  Santana’s refusal to be the now-single Brittany’s prom date was as poignant as Brittany’s inability to understand her friend’s fears.  Brittany, in her simplicity, is often the wisest kid in the club.

Artie’s decision to break up with Brittany for hooking up with Santana surprised me.  I thought he knew and accepted their relationship.  Wasn’t that why he gave Sam a funny look in the “Sexy” episode when Sam wished that he and Artie could be as close as their girlfriends were?

Artie’s vocals on the song “Never Going Back Again” were great, but he should have done it without a parade of ten million guitarists backing him up. 

Quinn is one of the most complex characters in Glee club.  She shows both her crazy and her compassionate side in this episode.  Her duet with Finn, “I Don’t Want to Know,” could have been called “I Don’t Want to Hear,” as in, I personally didn’t want to hear or see Quinn and Finn angrily singing this song to each other.  They both looked bipolar.

Equally irritating was Rachel’s rendition of “Go Your Own Way,” sung to Finn.  Sure, she has a terrific voice.  But the smile on her face suggested she lacked the real pain and raw emotion that make this song what it is.

 She referred to the song as her “favorite Fleetwood Mac song.”  Um, I know Glee always pushes the boundaries on believable, but this is too much.  In 2011, what sixteen-year-old has a favorite Fleetwood Mac song?

The finally number, “Don’t Stop” was a tear-jerking show-stopper.  Sam’s family has gone homeless, and the Glee kids put aside their differences and pull together to support him.  It was a sobering plot twist that shows, once again, Glee is not afraid to take on some serious issues.

What they were afraid to take on, however, was arguably the best song on the Rumours album, “The Chain.”  How do you tribute “Rumours” and leave off “The Chain?”

Ultimately, I think the Glee club failed miserably at this week’s assignment.  None of the songs felt like a new spin, or an inspired rendition.  Neither did they manage to capture the feel of Seventies music. 

“Rumours” typified the sound of the decade by being both powerful and understated.  By trying too hard and emoting too much, the Glee kids failed to portray the real power of the music.  But perhaps they succeeded at helping Stevie sell some new albums, and that was what it was all about anyway.

As far as paying tribute to one of the greatest albums of all time is concerned, I think the Simpsons did it better.