Glee recently hit a huge milestone with their 300th performance a few weeks ago, and while even the most fanatic Gleek will admit that they haven’t all been hits we thought it’d be worth it to revisit the 10 best performances so far. But how does one choose the best performance when you could argue that even the terrible ones are great because it’s tucked in such an amazing show? You sacrifice. Plus no list of the best performances can be comprehensive, because such a list would vary according to what you value.
Is it the emotional charge of the song or the fancy footwork that makes a performance the best, and what about the songs with outstanding vocal performances (everything in the Amber Riley catalog )? This list takes a holistic approach to its rankings, considering everything from the context to the visuals to vocals, and this selection represents the best all things considered. If it helps to see this as the 10 best performances in no particular order then go ahead. Still number one may shock you, so look ahead to see if your favorite made the list!
Find out what our 10 favorite Glee performances are after the jump, and then launch the gallery to check out pics of Chris Colfer, Heather Morris, Lea Michele, Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera and the cast of the hit show Glee, dress as characters from the movie Grease on the set of their show filming in Los Angeles.
10. Don’t Rain on My Parade (Season 1, Sectionals)
Context: The New Directions have just realized that their entire Sectionals set-list has been jacked by their two opposing teams, including Merecedes’ showstopper ‘And I Am Telling you I’m Not Going’, leaving the Glee club just minutes to come up with new songs to perform.
Why It’s So Great: The number, which Rachel (Lea Michele) quips she’s been working on since she was four, does more than gets the job done. The song expresses the perfect sentiment for the New Directions, and Rachel puts her all into the performance making it one of her best of the season. Her vocals are truly phenomenal and you can see the emotion practically dripping from Rachel’s ever-expressive face. There’s also the beautiful moment when Rachel sings about marching her band out, and simultaneously from the curtains come the beaten but not destroyed New Directions – the underdogs that you can’t help but love.
9. Run the World (Girls) (Season 3, Asian F)
Context: McKinley High’s race for Senior Class President just got a little more interesting as Britney (Heather Morris), the hilarious doe-eyed Cheerio, has just decided that instead of being Kurt’s campaign manager she wants to win the title herself.
Why It’s So Great: Brittany S. Pierce may not be the most quick-witted, but with the exception of perhaps Mike Chang, Britney is the New Directions’ best dancer. Any performance with Britney on vocals is guaranteed to have some killer moves and this number is no exception. The choreography and execution give Beyonce a run for her money (interestingly enough, Morris was at one point a backup dancer for Bey), and just look at the way she unifies the ladies of McKinley! Even resident joy-killer Sue gets swept up in the excitement. If we’re just choosing Presidents according to best flash mob pep rally performances, then Brittany for the win!
8. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Season 2, A Very Glee Christmas)
Context: Blaine (Darren Criss, one of the best things to happen to Glee since Matthew Morrison) needs to rehearse for his gig at Kings Island, so naturally he finds Kurt (Chris Colfer) to help him out.
Why It’s So Great: This is just the cutest thing. I dare someone to try to find a cuter performance on Glee. You may try, but you’ll fail (but you’ll probably try to show me this). Blaine is as characteristically dreamy as ever in this number and Kurt is the right amount of dorky-adorable, and the combination of the two results in a great, heartwarming rendition of this Christmas classic. Nothing about this performance seems forced or strange, and it’s just amazing to watch and listen to. If the powers that be hadn’t given us Gleeks the Kurt/Blaine relationship that we all wanted to see, at least I’d always have this video to watch. Over and over again.
7. Rumor Has It/Someone Like You (Season 3, Mash-Off)
Context: Mr. Schuester and Ms. Cochran decided it’d be a good idea to introduce some fun competition to the McKinley High glee club atmosphere, so they’re holding the 1st annual Mash-Off.
Why It’s So Great: The vocals, the choreography, the attitude – The Troubletones know how to bring it. This is a Santana (Naya Rivera) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) affair, so you know you should expect to hear the sass and soul in ever word. I might even argue that Santana’s vocals outshined Mercedes, and that’s not a feat easily accomplished. And can we all just think for a second about all the amazing mash-ups that the kids at McKinley perform. I don’t know who composed this arrangement, but it’s phenomenal (quite unlike the New Directions’ awkward Hall and Oates mash-up) and seamless. I never even thought these two songs went together until this performance, and now I don’t really want to hear them apart anymore. And kudos to the beautiful visual effect of the all-black attire and the minimalist movements– the girls’ elegant choreography is really the beautifully tied ribbon on top of this whole package.
6. Landslide (Season 2, Sexy)
Context: Santana has found the perfect song that expresses how she’s been feeling lately and she’s decided to sing with Brittany and with everyone’s favorite substitute, Ms. Holly Holiday (Gweneth Paltrow).
Why It’s So Great: This is the perfect example of when Glee gets serious. The three ladies sitting on the stools is captivating enough, and the direction of this performance does a lot to take it to another level. The vocals and great, and seeing Santana’s face as she sings is reason enough for this to be a top 10 performance.
5. Lean On Me (Season 1, Ballad)
Context: The New Directions have chosen this song to sing to Fin & Quinn to express that the Glee Club will be there to support them.
Why It’s So Great: There are a lot of stars in the New Directions, so it’s nice to see them all coming together to support some member of the group. Quinn actually just got kicked out of her home, and it’s clear that her position at the top top of the social pyramid will soon be taken away too, so it’s telling to see that the people who she once despised and made fun of still care about her. This is also a great arrangement of Lean on Me, and the solos went to the right people – Artie (Kevin McHale) and Mercedes always make sweet, sweet music together. And speaking of sweetness, this performance just warms my heart.
4. When I Get You Alone
Context: Valentine’s Day is approaching, and of course Blaine has decided this means he should sing about his feelings to the man he’s got his eye on.
Why It’s So Great: Blaine Anderson was born to croon. I just wish I could’ve been that assistant manager at the Gap – I certainly wouldn’t have turned Blaine down after seeing this. The Warblers’ backing vocals are lovely as usual, but something about the urgency in Blaine’s voice makes this one of his best performances. He really wants to get you alone, and I don’t see why anyone would stop him. Also check out 0:56 when Criss puts on a pair of his signature hot pink sunglasses. That’s so meta. And great.
3. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Season 1, Pilot)
Context: The newly formed New Directions get their act together long enough to perform one solid song, despite the taunts and lack of faith from everyone else.
Why It’s So Great: Does anyone really need to explain why this is so great? This moment is arguably the greatest moment is Glee history (although it’s time to give credit to some other performances as well – this was only season one for crying out loud!) and the song is well deserving of all its accolades.
2. Ain’t No Way (Season 2, A Night of Neglect)
Context: The Glee Club is putting on a benefit concert to raise some money for the Brainiacs, and Mercedes wants to take the last spot of the night despite the fact that Rachel believes it should go to her.
Why It’s So Great: Mercedes knocks this out the park! I particularly love the reaction from everyone in the audience – everyone cheering, singing along, Artie giving his hand-wave-of-approval – even Sandy can’t help but get caught up in the magnitude of this performance. The choir coming out from behind the curtains is a beautiful visual, and they add great backup to Riley’s stunning vocals. Mercedes just looks and sounds like a star. It’s no wonder Rachel opts out of performing after Mercedes. How on Earth could she top that?
1. Valerie (Season 2, Special Education)
Context: It’s Sectionals time again, and for once someone points out that Mr. Schuester should considering highlighting some New Directions members who aren’t Fin and Rachel.
Why It’s So Great: Santana has a voice that isn’t quite as powerful as Rachel’s or Mercedes’ nor as soft/thin as Quinn’s, but this song is perfect for highlighting her vocal abilities. She brings her signature sass to the performance, and she sounds amazing along with the rest of the New Directions. That’s what makes this a great performance – there’s a sense of unity that isn’t achieved by many other New Directions numbers. Santana on lead, killer backup by everyone else, and phenomenal dancing by Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) and Brittany make this my favorite Glee performance.