Jake and Marley were a bad boy-good girl pairing that never quite panned out the way fans might have hoped. But at least we got some crazy-gorgeous duets out of their brief fling, including this romantic Christina Perri ditty.
BEST: “It’s My Life/Confessions Pt. II” (No. 24)
Halfway through its run, Glee relied heavily on the philosophy, “When in doubt, do a mash-up.” Years later, though, we’re still fond of this high-energy Bon Jovi/Usher arrangement performed by the New Directions guys.
BEST: “Pompeii” (No. 23)
Little did Rachel Berry know, when performing this song at the end of Season 5, that the pilot she was headed to Los Angeles to film would be an utter flop, shattering her self-confidence and sending her back to Lima. It’s easy to forget all that while watching the ensemble perform Bastille’s hit song, which concluded the year on its most hopeful note yet.
BEST: “Shake It Out” (No. 22)
Here’s the magic formula for some of Glee‘s most emotionally sincere performances: Strategically place a few chairs in the center of the choir room. Add a stripped-down, acoustic version of a hit pop song. Rinse and repeat. This lovely Florence and the Machine cover was also the backdrop for a serious domestic violence storyline, making the performance even more profound.
BEST: “America” (No. 21)
We all know that bad things happen in Lima Heights Adjacent. But Santana’s colorful upbringing gave her just the right amount of sass to play Anita in McKinley’s production of West Side Story, leading to a performance of “America” that shook the rafters. (Quite literally. There was a lot of stomping.)
BEST: “Hello” (No. 20)
For fans of Broadway’s Spring Awakening, seeing Jonathan Groff woo Lea Michele once more on Glee was the stuff of dreams. Jesse St. James threw a wrench in the plans of Finchel fans everywhere, but the chemistry between Groff and Michele has always been undeniable.
BEST: “All That Jazz” (No. 19)
Remember the Rachel Berry who once wore tacky sweaters and knee-high stockings on purpose? She is long gone in this sexy, slinky Chicago number, performed opposite Kate Hudson’s tough critic Cassandra July.
BEST: “Singin’ in the Rain / Umbrella” (No. 18)
At Glee’s recent PaleyFest panel, this visually stunning mash-up was said to be one of the show’s most difficult numbers, given the logistics of dancing in water. On camera, though, the ensemble made their fancy footwork look not only easy, but seriously fun.
BEST: “I’ll Stand By You” (No. 17)
Singing to a sonogram could be very, very creepy. Cory Monteith, however, managed to turn in an honest, stirring performance as Finn serenaded (what he thought was) his unborn child.
BEST: “Wide Awake” (No. 16)
Remember what we said about stripping down pop songs to their bare essentials? That played an enormous role in this captivating performance of Katy Perry’s hit, as did the gorgeous blending of four voices that we wish had sung together more often.
Best: “River Deep, Mountain High” (No. 15)
Some things just go together: Peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies and, best of all, Santana and Mercedes. As the two powerhouse vocalists took on Ike and Tina Turner’s song, they gave us just a taste of the many fantastic duets we’d hear throughout Glee‘s run.
BEST: “Poker Face” (No. 14)
Forget Tyson and Holyfield. This Lady Gaga cover from Lea Michele and Idina Menzel was the real heavyweight battle. Michele has performed a number of incredible duets with her on-screen mom, but this one was by far the most fun to watch. (Even if it is a little icky to hear a mother/daughter pair sing, “Bluffin’ with my muffin” to each other.)
BEST: “Smooth Criminal” (No. 13)
In his pre-Flash days, Grant Gustin was matching Naya Rivera note for note on one of Michael Jackson’s toughest songs. Not only was their duet intense and seductive, but it featured the music of 2Cellos, which made the performance even more explosive.
BEST: “For Good” (No. 12)
When you think of Rachel and Kurt performing a song from Wicked, you might jump to “Defying Gravity” first. But their duet on “For Good” was far superior, and not just because they were no longer trying to out-diva each other. As the pair belted from the Gershwin Theater stage, their honest performance spoke volumes about the unlikely friendship they had formed.
BEST: “Somebody to Love” (No. 11)
Glee‘s first season is a blur of impressive New Directions performances. This Queen cover stands out for a number of reasons — but let’s be honest, it’s mostly because of Mercedes’ glory note.
BEST: “Maybe This Time” (No. 10)
Long before Lea Michele went toe-to-toe with Idina Menzel, she belted a number from Cabaret with Menzel’s Broadway co-star, Kristin Chenoweth. Despite the somber lyrics, this duet remains one of Glee‘s most winning performances.
BEST: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (No. 9)
As if The Beatles’ legendary discography wasn’t enough to mess with our emotions, Chris Colfer delivered the final blow with one of his series-best numbers as Kurt grappled with the potential loss of his father.
BEST: “Thriller/Heads Will Roll” (No. 8)
Any Halloween performance that comes with zombie makeup is a win in our book. But this mash-up also featured one of the series’ most enjoyable dance breaks — even Karofsky shook his tailfeather, so you know it was a good time.
BEST: “Rumour Has It/Someone Like You” (No. 7)
Did we mention how insanely good Santana and Mercedes are together? Just add two of Adele’s biggest hits (and a side of lesbian drama), and you’ve got a recipe for perfection.
BEST: “Cough Syrup” (No. 6)
No one enjoys a good, old-fashioned Warbler dance break more than we do. But Darren Criss’ most memorable performances were often those that didn’t take place in the feel-good halls of Dalton Academy. As Criss belted Young the Giant’s hit, Glee simultaneously told the tragic story of Karofsky’s suicide attempt — a compelling combination that provided one of the series’ most moving numbers.
BEST: “Faithfully” (No. 5)
Finn tells Rachel he loves her just before they perform an incredible cover of Journey’s love ballad. Enough said.
Best: “Teenage Dream” (No. 4)
Joining the ensemble cast of a well-established hit show is no easy task. Fortunately for Darren Criss, all it took was a few bars of Katy Perry’s smash single for him to captivate Glee fans everywhere — and Kurt. Definitely Kurt.
BEST: “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (No. 3)
Just when New Directions’ Sectionals performance seemed doomed, Rachel saved the day — and Lea Michele gave us a preview of her many glorious Barbra Streisand covers to come.
BEST: “Make You Feel My Love” (No. 2)
It’s tough to call this a “performance” by Lea Michele, given how utterly raw and authentic her emotions were as she sang a love song to the late Cory Monteith. We’re still marveling at the actress’ ability to tap into her grief so beautifully, allowing for Glee‘s most genuine performance of all.
BEST: “Don’t Stop Believin'” (No. 1)
Then again, the New Directions’ flawless cover of Journey’s ubiquitous hit is a tough act to beat. Many of Glee‘s future performances would surpass this one in production value, complexity and, at times, emotional power. But it’s also the first song that comes to mind when thinking about the show’s massive success.
WORST: “Toxic” (No. 10)
Hear us out: While the actual song-and-dance portion of New Directions’ Britney Spears cover was perfectly proficient, Will Schuester’s hyper-sexual performance with his students is enough to give us the heebie-jeebies for years to come. That, and the sight of Jacob Ben Israel getting way too excited by the performance.
WORST: “American Boy” (No. 9)
If Kurt and Blaine’s cover of a One Direction song didn’t resonate with Shirley MacLaine’s June Dolloway, there was no way this Estelle/Kanye West jam would.
WORST: “Baby Got Back” (No. 8)
Sometimes, reinventing a hip-hop song goes really well. Other times, it really doesn’t. We’ll let you guess into which category this fell.
WORST: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” (No. 7)
Not even the sight of Santana, Kurt and Rachel sucking in helium could fully explain why this high-pitched song was performed — led, no less, by a hot Santa who ended up robbing the NYADA students’ apartment.
WORST: “Run Joey Run” (No. 6)
Intentionally bad? Yes. Still very, very hard to watch? Also yes.
WORST: “Copacabana” (No. 5)
All the proof you need as to why there was never a Barry Manilow Week in Glee Club. (Poor Chord Overstreet.)
WORST: “Thong Song” (No. 4)
We can give Mr. Schuester a pass for his interesting rapping on “Gold Digger.” We can’t, however, forgive his immensely awkward cover of one-hit wonder Sisqo, especially given how terrified Emma looks as he gyrates in front of her wedding gown while singing, “Let me see that thong.”
WORST: “I Still Believe/Super Bass” (No. 3)
The image of Jane Lynch in a Nicki Minaj wig was not on our list of Things We Hope to See on Glee. Alas, we received it anyway.
WORST: “Gangnam Style” (No. 2)
We can’t help but find it a little offensive that Tina’s most prominent solo to date was the lead vocal on a South Korean viral hit.
WORST: “What Does the Fox Say?” (No. 1)
If the puppets used in this episode of Glee weren’t disturbing enough, the animal noses definitely were.