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Best Performances on Glee from the beginning: Ranking 20-11 (Plus Honorable Mentions)

I need something to do this weekend and who doesn’t love lists and ranking? I’m going to be counting down the Top 20 best performances/covers from the show Glee. 10 today and 10 more tomorrow. Share your lists and let me know what you think of mine.

20. Naya Rivera – “Mine” – “The Break Up” (4.04)
The most recent entry on the list. It might end up being higher on a future list, but it needs to sit a little bit longer. Naya Rivera had been absent for much of the season up to this point and she came back strong. There didn’t need to be any choreographer or staging, she sat her ass in that chair and poured her heart and soul out without being over dramatic.

19. Matthew Morrison, Gwyneth Paltrow & New Directions – “Singin’ in the Rain”/”Umbrella” – “The Substitute” (2.07)
This was mostly memorable because of the choreography and the water on the stage, not so much for the vocals or the arrangement. It was a fun performance and Gwyneth Paltrow really surprised everyone with her musical ability. She might be making another appearance on this list…

18. Chris Colfer, Darren Criss & Dalton Academy Warblers – “Animal” – “Sexy” (2.15)
With the previous entry, I noted it for the unique choreography. This is the opposite situation. I thought the staging of this was a little ridiculous. The bubbles and everyone having a PG-rated type rave. It didn’t make much sense, but I love the song by itself. It’s one of the most listened to songs on my iPod. I love the Warblers in the background and Criss & Colfer’s chemistry in the verses.

17. Amber Riley, Naya Rivera & Jenna Ushkowitz – “Shake It Out” – “Choke” (3.18)
This was a beautiful version of the Florence + the Machine song. Not all of the new arrangements on song always work, but the stripped down versions usually stand out and this was one of those cases. Riley & Ushkowitz are usually underused so it was nice to see them get a spotlight moment and Naya Rivera always knocks everything out of the park.

16. Darren Criss – “Cough Syrup” – “On My Way” (3.14)
I had actually never heard the original version of the song by Young the Giant, but that original version has become one of my favorite songs and it’s thanks to this version by Darren Criss. A great vocal from him but it worked really well when it was background for the scene for Max Adler’s character tries to kill himself. It makes the song even more haunting when it was cut between Criss performing and the suicide attempt of Karofsky.

15. New Directions – “Don’t Stop Believin'” – “Pilot” (1.01)
The introduction to the series. The final number of the pilot episode. It really cemented that this show was going to do some special things. Looking back, it’s one of the more simple numbers that the show has done and I wish Ryan Murphy and company would realize that every number doesn’t need to be over-the-top theatrical. A lot of the simpler ones focusing on characters and the actors’ voices are much more effective. Look back to the pilot for inspiration.

14. Jonathan Groff & Vocal Adrenaline – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – “Journey” (1.22)
Jonathan Groff starred with Lea Michele on Broadway in Spring Awakening* and he got a guest arc at the end of the first season. His character was slightly annoying, but he got some great musical numbers and “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the pinnacle of his appearances on the show. Well choreographed and fantastic vocals from Groff made this one to remember.

13. New Directions [Graduating Members] – “You Get What You Give” – “Goodbye” (3.22)
Not many people mention this performance from the third season finale, but it was just a simple performance where the graduating seniors said goodbye to the underclassmen. The song choice was unexpected but the actors seemed excited by it. And I loved the ending where the seniors switched spots with the underclassmen in their seats. They were passing the torch to them. It was a little corny and not very subtle, but it was an earned moment and was actually very sweet without being overly manipulative.

12. Amber Riley, Naya Rivera & The Troubletones – “Rumour Has It”/”Someone Like You” – “Mash Off” (3.06)
It’s hard to take on an Adele song and do it successfully. Gwyneth tried to do “Turning Tables” in one episode and it wasn’t very good. But Glee* did one of their infamous mash-ups and pulled it off brilliantly. It helped that the two strongest vocalists, Riley & Rivera, did the heavy lifting and made it memorable. The staging was great too. Naya Rivera never looked better either.

11. Gwyneth Paltrow & New Directions – “Forget You” – “The Substitute” (2.07)
Cee-Lo Green had to change the lyrics to “Fuck You” to make it more radio friendly and it didn’t match the original. There’s something about the power behind “Fuck You” that makes it work. But Gwyneth did her version of “Forget You” on Glee*. It toned it down in terms of the production and meaning, but it suited Gwyneth and her character perfectly. I would much rather hear this sanitized version of the song that Cee-Lo’s radio version. But let’s be perfectly clear here, the unedited “Fuck You” is still tops.

New Directions – “Like a Prayer” – “The Power of Madonna” (1.15)
Chris Colfer – “Rose’s Turn” – “Laryngitis” (1.18)
Idina Menzel & Lea Michele – “I Dreamed a Dream” – “Dream On” (1.19)
New Directions – “To Sir, with Love” – “Journey” (1.22)
New Directions – “Loser Like Me” – “Original Song” (2.16)
Dianna Agron & Lea Michele – “I Feel Pretty”/”Unpretty” – “Born This Way” (2.18)
Idina Menzel, Naya Rivera & New Directions – “Constant Craving” – “I Kissed a Girl” (3.07)
Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Amber Riley & Naya Rivera – “How Will I Know” – “Dance with Somebody” (3.17)
Lea Michele – “Roots Before Branches” – “Goodbye” (3.22)
Darren Criss – “Teenage Dream” (Acoustic Piano Version) – “The Break-Up” (4.04)