Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don?t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov.
If you are the kind of person who just wants to see the list without reading the whole article, click here for the spreadsheet with full rankings. You?re welcome
Around the beginning of quarantine I decided to take on the task of ranking every song in Glee. How? I watched through the whole series and ranked each song on six attributes as they came up. Why? I?ll let you know when I find out.
What?s a song?
Anything sung by a cast member, on screen, when the original vocals aren?t playing. Sing-alongs don?t count. Song needs to last around 15 seconds to be considered, though there are exceptions. All songs based on the version played in the episode, not the itunes version.
I used 5 different categories on a 10 point scale, with one modifier to create a base score which would determine the rankings. I?ve given examples of songs for each category that I consider the best and worst of each category.
Is the singing good? Are the voices generally pleasant to listen to? Does it showcase the vocalist?s best skills? Do they hit all the notes (which seems basic but comes up more than you may think)? In this category, songs don?t get credit if they are bad on purpose, this is pure vocal quality.
Context in Episode
Does it make sense for the characters to be singing now? Does it move the story forward? Is that story any good? Does it tell us something new about a character? Does the song ?meet the moment? of an episode? (e.g. if a moment has been hyped up for a season like regionals is, the songs for it better be good) A song may score very low on this metric if the song selection is bad, the song doesn?t meet the moment, or it doesn?t seem to matter or make sense to put a song there.
Comparison to Original
Is the song better than the original? Can I listen to it without thinking ?I wish I was listening to the original right now?? Does it somehow make the original worse? Is it an innovative cover, or just a copy of an already popular song? If it?s an original song, is it good? A song may receive a bad score on this metric if I can no longer listen to the original without thinking of the heinous glee cover.
Is there a lot of emotion in the song? Any dancing or theatricality? If the song is supposed to be funny, is it funny? How is the tone of the performance? A song doesn?t have to be over the top to have a high performance score, sometimes having one person at a piano is the best performance decision available. This is where a song gets credit if it is bad, but it?s bad on purpose.
Do the instruments sound good? If there are changes from the original, do they make sense and enhance the song? Is there too much autotune? Good mashups tend to do well here, while bad mashups can be terrible.
I reserve the right to subtract one or two points at will if Mr. Schuester attempts to rap, or another character attempts to rap in a manner similar to Mr. Schuester (e.g. badly).
These categories are very interconnected. If the vocal quality is bad, the performance suffers. Context in episode plays a role in everything. Before we get into the rankings, here?s some data about the best and worst episodes.
BEST AND WORST EPISODES
Best Musical Episode (Average score 38.3)
?The Quarterback? (S5E3)
Glee?s tribute to the late Cory Monteith remains not only only one of the best episodes of Glee ever, but an all time great television episode. Every song is gutting. Lea Michele?s tour de force performance of ?Make You Feel My Love? still makes me cry. Santana?s ?If I Die Young? takes a thoroughly average pop hit and turns it into a beautiful moment.
Worst Musical Episode (Average score 22.5)
?The Spanish Teacher? (S3E12)
This is where we see some of the worst of Will Schuester, where he admits that he actually doesn?t know Spanish, despite being a SPANISH TEACHER. It?s actually an alright episode (if you read the Schuester plot as being self-aware), but the music is VERY lackluster and includes some weak points. Ricky Martin is a solid, talented guest star and they have him sing? ?Sexy and I know It?. Schuester treats us to a partly offensive performance of ?La Cucaracha? and a Spanish version of ?A Little Less Conversation? where most of the Spanish is wrong. The saving grace of this episode is the duet ?La Isla Bonita?, between Ricky Martin and Santana.
BEST GLEE SONGS EVER
- Teenage Dream (Reprise)
This is among Glee?s most brutal performances. Blaine is visiting his longtime beau, Kurt, in New York after cheating on him. They go to a kind of show tunes karaoke bar and Blaine sings his heart out. Darren Criss alone at a piano was always one of the show?s best weapons, and he doesn?t disappoint. The fact that this is a fairly subpar Katy Perry song makes it even better. The second pause before the chorus where Blaine collects himself is so real. They resist the urge to autotune everything, and let Criss be the perfect amount of messy for the scene. This is the moment that one of the show?s most enduring relationships falls apart, all compressed into five minutes.
In the entire series of Glee, there are maybe 15 total minutes of realism. The courage to commit to this moment of incredibly honest pain in an acoustic cover of Katy Perry perfectly reflects how Glee could create an absurd world with very real emotions in it.
I?m not saying everyone who likes this song is gay, but this is every gay person?s favorite Glee song.
2. Make You Feel My Love
The Quarterback isn?t just one of the best episodes of glee, it?s one of the best episodes of television from the decade. The entire episode, you know Rachel is going to sing eventually, but you?re not ready for it. You?re never ready for it.
Rachel Berry is singing about her recently passed away on and off boyfriend, Finn Hudson. Lea Michele, the actress that played Rachel, also dated Cory Monteith (Finn) in real life.
Her monologue before is perfect. Everyone is just barely keeping it together. You can?t really consider the Quarterback outside the context of Monteith?s death. It is television, it is Glee and it is also a wake. It is something so much more raw than anything the show has done.
I thought a long time about whether this or Teenage Dream would be the top song. I ultimately decided that this is, musically, the better song. But it feels so far outside of the Glee universe, it expresses a message that Glee never tried to touch again. So this is the better song, but Teenage Dream is the better GLEE song.
3. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
While Colfer was never the strongest singer in Glee, he was always one of the best actors and characters. Singing about his father who had a recent stroke, Colfer croons the Beatles in the style of TV Carpio in ?Across the Universe? (also a great performance). The show took its time to develop the relationship between Kurt and his father, and it shows here. His performance is gutting, and the cutscenes are moving without being too sappy. The small touch of young Kurt wearing a dapper bowtie while learning to ride a bike is almost too much to handle. The song is so good, it makes you forget that Glee spent the whole episode fumbling some kind of message about religion that?s never quite clear.
4. Don?t Rain on My Parade
In the opening number at the first real competition the New Directions go to, Rachel Berry kills it. Coming from the back and walking through the aisle is such a high school show choir power move. Every aspect of the performance is so fun.
The moment where Rachel says ?I march my band out? and the rest of the club comes out is one of the best musical moments the show has. This is mostly just Rachel being Barbara Streisand, but that is very very hard to beat.
5. Disco Inferno
This song is great, Mercedes is great, the performance is great. I know this is cheesier than some people may like, and I invite those people to make their own ranking of 705 Glee songs.
But I want to talk about a line at the end of the scene that may be the worst line ever aired on television. Mr. Shuester has been getting on Mercedes about her after graduation plans. After KILLING her performance, Mercedes says:
?Contrary to current opinion, I do have a dream. My dream is Mariah, it?s Whitney, it?s Aretha?
To which Mr. Shu replies
?Those are people, they?re not dreams?
We can throw out the possibility that Will isn?t aware of the existence of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin, because the glee club has performed songs by all of them. This is truly a baffling line.
Great song though.
6. Don?t Stop Believing
Don?t Stop Believing was the first great song Glee did. They beat it to death in commercials, but it was always catchy and caused a small resurgence of the original Journey song. It was the perfect song for the scrappy, underdog glee club to do. It is unreasonably sincere for a song in a show where a teacher just planted drugs in a students? locker, but that?s what makes Glee great. If the first season has a thesis, it?s ?being a part of something special makes you special?. This song makes you feel special listening to it and really drives home that sappy (but good) message.
This song was so good they did it a total of four times in the show. My ranking of all the?Don?t Stop Believing? performances are as following
Alright: The one that?s a reunion for Will?s unborn kid
Pretty bad: The one from Regionals
Even worse: The one where Rachel auditions for Funny girl
7. Baby It?s Cold Outside
The chemistry between Blaine and Kurt is phenomenal, as are both of their voices. You fall in love with them and you fall in love with the fact that they are falling in love with each other. This is also the least creepy version of ?Baby It?s Cold Outside? to listen to, which is cool.
8. Teenage Dream
This is the first song we hear from the Warblers, the acapella group from gay utopia school, Dalton Academy. It?s performed right after Kurt and Blaine meet, and it is such a fun, catchy song. When I was in high school, I had a CD (the one with all the Warbler?s songs) and I played this one so much the CD started to skip. They improve basically every aspect of the song.
9. Rumor Has It/Someone Like You
Best mash-up Glee ever did. The pause after the first 4 lines is BEAUTIFUL. Santana?s pained chorus is heartbreaking and angry. This mashup highlights some of the best parts of both songs, and is one of the precious few duets between Mercedes and Santana. I still think of how good this version is when I hear the originals.
This also set the stage for Finn to sing ?Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? to Santana, which is another top 20.
10. Rolling In The Deep
Rachel falls for Jesse St. James (A+ character name) while belting a duet. Completely unrealistic and amazing. The stripped down arrangement works well with two great voices. Jonathon Groff can sing angrily at me while wearing a tiny scarf any day.
Santana singing Amy Winehouse is like Yo Yo Ma playing a cello. It just works. The swankiness of the voice, the unexpected solo from a routinely underestimated member of the cast, the excellent dancing.
We don?t get a lot of dance solos including Britney and Mike Chang, but that?s only due to the coaching failures of Will Schuester. They elevate every number they are in, and should?ve been in every competition number at least once.
12. Not While I?m Around
The emotion in Blaine?s voice gets me every time. One of the few times in the series that a moment feels really intimate, not like it?s behind 5 layers of performance. It?s short but perfect.
I think the second most powerful moment a performer can give is if it feels like they are talking directly to you. The most powerful moment is if you realize they aren?t talking to you at all. They aren?t worried about the stage or the audience. Blaine is technically singing for his NYADA assignment, but it still feels like he?s at the hospital bed. He?s still singing to Kurt.
The relationship between Santana and Britney was always a fan favorite, for good reason. We don?t see Santana get emotionally vulnerable often, so it?s special when she does. One of the few ?issues? Glee understood was coming out of the closet. I think this song did a lot of good for a lot of people, and it still stands up today.
14. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Just watch the video. I?m a sap. I love this stuff.
15. Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy
One of the better mash up ideas that Glee executed. Good end to a good episode, and the crescendo of the song is great. Kurt is at home with a Broadway standard. His outfit is suitably ridiculous. It?s hard to listen to this without wanting to join in during the last few ?happy days are here again?.
16. If I Die Young
Santana gives a masterclass performance in the Quarterback. She takes what is normally a saccharine pop ballad and imbues it with a sense of purpose. Her breaking down and running away is one of the few times Glee has actually surprised me. It is raw, difficult to listen to, and very good.
17. I Still Haven?t Found What I?m Looking For
Generally, the New Directions? performances look absolutely nothing like a high school show choir would. Season 5?s performance features the New Directions performing the favorite songs of their late coach, Finn Hudson. Unlike other competitions, everyone sings a fair amount and you see the team contributing to the effort in small and big ways. The growth moments across the season actually have payoff! This is so much better than hiring a bunch of 27 year-olds to do backflips and pretend to be high-schoolers.
Glee disrespected Sam Evans so much. He took care of his family after his dad lost his job and still came back for a show choir! They treat him like a golden retriever, despite the fact that he works hard and always saves the glee club. He proved that the Warblers were taking steroids (it?s a long story) in order to get them disqualified and give the New Directions an unearned spot at regionals. This is one of the few songs where Sam gets the hero treatment and I love it.
18. Smooth Criminal
One of the only 10 scores for arrangement, this is a super fun cover. The musical battle is ridiculous. That Warbler assaulted Blaine. He should be in jail.
What is this room set up for? There are around 50 chairs in concentric circles surrounding two cellos. There were never that many people in the room.
Mike Chang is eminently likeable. He exudes likeability. He is impossible not to like. In one of his most charming performances, he dances his heart out to A Chorus Line?s Sing. This song is entertaining and shines a light on one of the best, underappreciated stars of Glee.
20. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
I never expected to like this at all. A stripped down version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun sounds like something that might be interesting, but not quite good. But Cory Monteith nails it. He was always so much better at tone than musicality; it shows here.
21. I Dreamed a Dream
Idina Mendzel was always such a great fit as Rachel?s mom, despite their very strange ?Poker Face? cover. Lea Michele and Idina Mendzel going toe to toe is a recipe for success. You don?t need to do much more than give them a microphone and hit record.
22. And I Am Telling You, I?m Not Going
I can?t believe they were able to wait 12 whole episodes before having Mercedes sing this song. This is already a bona fide top 50 best song of all time and Amber Riley does the original justice. She kills it. It?s the perfect diva song.
Santana is such a star. You realize halfway through what the song is about and it?s a gut punch. She only needs her voice and guitar to fill a room. Why isn?t the show about Santana?
24. Being Good Isn?t Good Enough
Rachel Berry?s New York saga was a low point for Glee, but we at least got some great performances. Lea Michele?s singing makes you forget that they only told you about the winter showcase this episode.
25. If I Were A Boy
Unique was such a promising character that got left by the wayside. Glee always brushed trans issues, but wasn?t interested in making it a focal point until season 6. This was a bright moment, and it packs an emotional punch.
26. Le Jazz Hot
Kurt doing a duet with himself is the most deliciously diva thing Glee has done. He absolutely kills it and gives one of the best performances glee has ever seen.
27. Pinball Wizard
While watching this, I was rooting for vocal Adrenaline because Unique is so good! They manage to be theatrical while being rooted in great performance. While this is an accentuated show choir performance, it also is much more in the reach of high schoolers than other performances.
28. Bridge Over Troubled Water
This is vintage Mercedes and very good. Bridge Over Troubled Water works great as gospel, but this is a version I hadn?t heard before. Mercedes? voice is great as always.
29. Sweet Transvestite
Having Mercedes as Dr. Frankenfurter is a stroke of genius. It?s hard to do something unique with something that?s been covered as much as Rocky Horror, but they nail it. The performance from all the backups is solid as well.
30. River Deep Mountain High
The duets episode is great, but Mercedes and Santana were robbed. The only thing that holds this song back is that it was just for a class assignment and never was used in a more high stakes storyline (but it should have been!) Still regularly makes an appearance on my playlists.
Worst Glee Songs ever
This song might have a claim of being purposefully bad but I don?t see it. The original is bad, this cover is also bad, the decision to do it is also bad.
684. Singing In the Rain/Umbrella
Worst mash up in Glee history. Singing in the rain doesn?t work at all, no matter how much production they throw at it. The stage is cool, but that?s about the only good thing. I feel like I?m driving in a car where the radio is broken and the station keeps switching.
Listening to Creep is supposed to feel like getting punched in the stomach. In fact, the only way to strip the emotion out of the song is to try too hard. Creep is not supposed to be easy to listen to. It should never be pleasant. They picked two of the worst possible characters to do this song.
686. Same Love
This is maybe the preachiest Glee has gone, and Will still can?t rap. It?s kind of hard to ruin a song that is already half a joke in 2020, but Glee did it. This might well be the worst song, but Unique is good and Will mercifully doesn?t do the last verse.
687. Hey Ya
Artie?s vocals sound strange and over-produced here and the vibe is much more karaoke than anything good. This song is hurt a lot by the fact that Hey Ya! Is one of the best songs of the past 20 years and they do a slightly below average job at it. There are many good Hey Ya covers. This is not one of them.
I really never needed a pop punk cover of Taylor Swift from the two characters of Glee that are least likely to listen to Taylor Swift. Maybe it connects thematically to the plot? Nope. Not really.
689. Blurred Lines
Will fails in his attempt to make a song about date rape empowering. His twerking crusade is among the worst things Glee has done. Kitty literally says meow. While no moment is particularly awful to listen to, the whole idea is awful in sum.
690. La Cucaracha
William Schuester is a fraud and should not be a teacher. I guarantee you Santana was not the first person to point out the issue of playing La Cucaracha in a high school classroom in full mariachi gear, particularly when your teacher doesn?t know Spanish.
691. You?ve Got to Fight for Your Right to Party
The original is so much more charming and fun. Glee?s portrayal of college was always bad. This is a soulless, overproduced version of a Beastie Boys classic. Though it is ironically, not a very good party song.
692. Stereo Hearts
Another song with terrible rapping but a couple of redeeming qualities. The story line is bland, the song is super pop-trash and Sam is pretty bad. Extra points for fitting the word ?Trouty? in the verse though.
693. Gold Digger
This begins the long history of Will Schuester using rehearsal time to show off his subpar talent instead of doing anything useful. Mercedes is great, but the arrangement is VERY Kidz Bop. When they said ?No we ?aint seen her!? I needed to stop to take a break and catch my breath. Still, there are moments where the non-Will parts come together, saving this from a bottom 10 rating.
694. One Love/People Get Ready
Glee doing Bob Marley sounds like a setup for a punchline more than a reasonable creative decision. Also they are busking at a high school. They are REALLY lucky to choose this song as the steel drum club was practicing. It feels like they are colonizing the song, and they aren?t even doing a good job at that.
695. Push It
This is tricky, because this song is definitely bad on purpose. But it also isn?t THAT funny. It goes on for too long. Artie?s interlude is absolutely awful. The idea that this is? sexy? Seems like a stretch. Finn?s rapping is another particularly rough spot.
696. Everybody Talks
This is a weird one. Just listen to it, the tone is terrible, it?s almost like they are missing notes WITH AUTOTUNE. This isn?t Jake or Kitty?s fault, there are just around 3 or 4 moments where the song sounds terrible. These seem like fixable problems. Do another take.
697. The Thong Song
Will?s laugh at the beginning of this song should be punished by life imprisonment. This whole thing is very awkward. There?s no reason the song should stop or why they might?ve fallen, but it mercifully cuts the song short.
698. A Little Less Conversation
The revelation that Will Schuester didn?t actually know Spanish is absolutely terrible. His Spanish in this song is terrible, and any song that is JUST Will making students uncomfortable is pretty sad. They kind of acknowledge that what Will did was bad, but he should?ve been fired.
699. American Boy
This is one of the most baffling song selections in Glee history. Blaine is trying to win the support of a wealthy benefactor who likes Blaine, but not Kurt. Blaine decides he loves Kurt more than anything and refuses to perform without him, and they get ready to do a duet.
Then they do the R&B/Hip-Hop duet of American Boy by Estelle and Kanye West. Blaine can?t rap. The song is kind of in Kurt?s range, but not comfortably. This had potential to be a really cool moment, and instead Blaine and Kurt destroy a perfectly good song. No one asked how a gay teen lounge singer would cover this song, but now we know.
700. Gangnam Style
For some reason they told the audience that the New Directions would be performing Gangnam Style at competition a couple episodes before, so I was dreading it. It still was worse than I thought it would be. Tina is purposefully annoying, the dancing is bad and dumb, and THIS IS THE NUMBER THEY HAD MARLEY FAINT AFTER. THERE IS A TONE PROBLEM!
701. The Chipmunk Song
The vocals are purposefully annoying and the plot to this episode made no sense. The eye candy can?t save this. There?s not a ton to say. It?s just very bad and very dumb and never should have happened.
702. Black or White
After the Warblers physically assault and nearly blind Blaine, the New Directions have them over for a nice kumbaya moment where they all sing Michael Jackson. It?s a very Kidz Bop arrangement at a time that made NO SENSE. Artie?s rap is bad, particularly because he is talking about race relations with a pretty clear and bad blaccent. They do a cheeky impersonation of the music video to end the song, which is fine. They win the Warblers (who previously assaulted their teammate) over.
703. Fly/I Believe I Can Fly
Half of this song is insufferable rapping and overproduced vocals, and the other half is by R Kelly so it feels a LOT less inspiring than it used to be. The fake crowd cheering after Blaine?s verse is insufferable. You also don?t get to mock Nicki Minaj with Sue?s terrible performance, then do a song by her about how she?s treated unfairly.
704. What Does the Fox Say?
Nothing about this makes sense. The puppets make no sense. The noises are deeply discomforting, as is the auto-tune. The jungle makes no sense. They don?t seem to know if they are making a joke or covering the song straight up, so they do both. The original song is at least a little silly and unique. This is sad. I originally had this ranked a bit higher but upon re-listening moved it lower. This is likely the only Glee song I will never listen to again.
705. ?I Still Believe/Superbass?
At the beginning of this scene, we see Ryder, who is being catfished by a fellow member of the glee club, a fact that comes to light during a school shooting in two episodes. This has nothing to do with the scene but it?s worth a reminder.
Blaine and Sue are arguing about? something and decide to have a diva-off to decide who wins for? reasons. Blaine is emulating Mariah Carey and does a perfectly capable performance of ?I Still Believe?. However, his dead-in-the-soul eyes suggest he may have some idea of what?s about to happen.
Sue has been channeling Nicki Minaj, consistently mocking the triple platinum artist. She then proceeds to do one of the worst covers I have ever seen, open mics included. The whole thing is over the top and? maybe bad on purpose? But It?s hard to tell.
They change the line ?He might sell dope? to ?He might be broke?, which is basically the opposite of the original point of the line and also very lame. Blaine tries to come in with a pitiful mash up attempt, but this is the Sue show now.
The glee club claps as if this is the best thing they?ve ever seen.