Top 20 Glee Performances

by Brock Koller

With Glee ending its 6 year run, I decided it deserved an encore of sorts. True, the show sometimes lost its way and seemed to just be surreal at times for surreal sake, but the heart of the show - that anybody can be a somebody - lasted throughout its entire run. Plus, there were some good tunes sprinkled in with all the teen angst and adult melodrama. 

So, how was this list created? Well, with my ever fading memory and the help of Wikipedia's List of songs on Glee page, I dwindled down the hundreds of songs to the 20 that either made me run to iTunes, made an impact on the show, or was just plain good. And this by no means is a list in order to the best performance ever! This is more of an inventory of great performances and songs from season to season.  Of course, all of this is subjective, so make your own list, too. And while you're at it, make a list of your top 20 Batman villains because I feel that will be a future blog post. (Go Clayface!) 

So here is Write This Down's Top 20 Glee Songs of All Time:


1.  "Don't Stop Believin" - Journey  - Pilot 

This was the song that started it all. Actually, there were a few songs before this one in the pilot episode, but this is the one that showed what Glee could bring to the table. And it gave us Glee's mantra. 


2. "Gold Digger" - Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx - Showmance

Mr. Schue's attempts to stay hip may not come off as well as he plans at times, but in this performance, he showed he got the chops to stay current and show the New Directions a move or two.

3. "Imagine" - John Lennon - Hairography

Perhaps the most important song in all of music performed in one of the most impactful ways.

4. "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - Dreamgirls - Sectionals

This was the song that truly put Mercedes and Amber Riley on the map. It showed what remarkable singers the show truly had. 

5. "Run Joey Run" - David Geddes - Bad Reputation 

So while Glee categorized the original song as a bad song - it actually reached #4 on the Billboard charts back in 1975.  While the lyrics are a bit much, Glee had fun with the song along with Rachel's music video and in the end a show about a group of singing kids is all about fun - and slushies to the face.


6. "Losing My Religion" - R.E.M. - Grilled Cheesus

While Finn may have had better solos, this one is the one I remember. Partly, because this is one of my favorite songs. Cory Monteith did a superb rendition of it, trying to keep the R.E.M. tone in his voice. "Trying to keep..."

7. Teenage Dream - Katy Perry - Never Been Kissed

Adding a new member to the cast of any show can be a daunting task for a showrunner. But the character of Blaine fit right into the Glee mythos.  With his version of this Katy Perry hit, there was no question that Blaine was here to stay.

8. "Start Me Up/ Living On A Prayer" - The Rolling Stone/Bon Jovi - Never Been Kissed

Yes, Glee perfected the art of the mashup and there were mashups prior to this one in Episode 6 of Season 2, but none took on two rock greats at the same time - performed powerfully by the ladies of New Directions. The combination of Jagger and Jovi meshed so well, you'd think it was a real song. Well, almost. 

9. "Singing in the Rain/ Umbrella" - Gene Kelly/ Rihanna featuring Jay-Z - The Substitute

So without any hesitation we get our second mashup on the list. And this one is totally different in sound than the last one. This takes a classic musical number and pairs it with a recent pop/R&B hit. Two songs from different genres, but with a similar topic of precipitation are woven incredibly into a  slip-sliding performance by Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Morrison.

10. "When I Get You Alone" - Robin Thicke - Silly Love Songs

While some shows that involve singing keep the songs bound within the confines of reality - either on a stage or in a recording studio - Glee was not afraid to have their characters singing in hallways, parks, and libraries. Or even The Gap. This song is on the list - yes, because Darren Criss can sing well - but mainly because it takes place in THE GAP!! Only on Glee.

11. "Loser Like Me" - Original Song

Glee took on all kinds of songs from every genre, but could it successfully accomplish what it never had before? Could it create its own original tune and make it good? This song proved Glee was much more than an updated drama version of Say What? Karaoke.


12. "Smooth Criminal" - Michael Jackson - Michael

There's a lot to like about this performance. Santana in her all business MJ look. The fact The Flash himself is singing on Glee. The intense cellists and their cello duel. The infinite number of chairs in the room. And it's a Michael Jackson song. Only negative - and YouTube commenters agree - it's way too short.


13. "Forever Young" - Rod Stewart - Goodbye

This song epitomizes Glee's legacy. We all yearn for those younger years and there was no more appropriate time for this Stewart classic than at the end of Season 3 when everything about Glee was about to change. After this song, all our favorite characters grew up.

14. "Roots Before Branches" - Room For Two - Goodbye

While this song was created by the Executive Music Producer on Glee and not a famous rock or pop star, it was effective. The New Directions were sending Rachel off to New York and Glee's world was changing. This song followed one of Glee's strongest scenes as Finn told Rachel she had to go.  It was the final song where Glee was the Glee we knew.


15. "Don't Speak" - No Doubt - The Break Up

Sometimes on Glee, the songs didn't really fit the episodes. They tried to make lyrics match the story, but it would feel like a stretch. This was not one of those times. Both of Glee's top couples were in shambles and they knew the writing was on the wall. On top of the great performances by all four singers, the editing added an extra touch of that separation feeling to this memorable break up scene.

16. "This Is The New Year" - A Great Big World - Naked

It is on a rare occasion that Glee showcased a band - let alone a pop band - that was not well known to Top 40 stations, but here we were. A Great Big World was introduced to a huge audience when their song was performed in this episode. Months later they signed with Epic Records.  Besides the impact this song had on A Great Big World, it was also in a way the show's watershed moment - saying it was a new year. Yes, on the show, but metaphorically for the show, too. Would it continue its success with new faces and new settings? This song was Glee taking a stand saying it's a new year and we have a lot left to offer. 

17. "Girl on Fire" - Alicia Keys - Diva

When Naya Rivera belts out 'This girl is on fire' in this soulful solo you knew it had to make this list.


18. "Make You Feel My Love" - Adele - The Quarterback

When looking over the songs from Season 5, most didn't ring a bell. I tried to add a few more to the list, but really none stood out. Except one. Rachel Berry/Lea Michele's performance can be described in one word - real. This was real. Yes, it was a script and the words were on a page, but the performance was real. It was Glee saying goodbye to both the character of Finn and their friend Cory. While the song was perfect, it was in response to an unfortunate and horrible tragedy. A tragedy that showed how much this show, the characters, and the actors that portray them have affected the viewers at home.


19. "Tightrope" - Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi - Homecoming

20. "Mustang Sally" - Wilson Pickett - Homecoming

Will the Glee world exist once we lose the ability to watch it? Will the New Directions be singing for decades to come? Is there more talent out there besides the original group of Kurt, Rachel, Artie, and the rest? With these two performances in the second episode of Glee's final season, Samantha Marie Ware's Jane and Noah Guthrie's Roderick gave Gleeks a sigh of relief. It helped ease the pain to know the future of McKinley High's Glee club will be in good hands and strong voices. These two performances not only made believers out of viewers that the new class was worthy, but at the same time kind of bummed them out because fans won't be able to see the paths Jane, Roderick, and the newbies take. But at least Gleeks got to meet them for a short time and hear that they could sing to the caliber of the originals. 

Glee was certainly more than a show about singing. It was about people - all different types, colors, sizes, orientations, religions, looks, beliefs - and track suits. It was about believing, as corny as that sounds.

But the fun of it was that the characters would sing. Sometimes for show choir, sometimes for a concert, and sometimes just for the heck of it. Where else could you get that?

Glee never took itself too seriously, but it never steered away from serious issues. It was never preachy, but made sure to have a point and let you know it. 

It without a doubt has left its mark on pop culture and on television history. 

And THAT is what we will miss from Glee.