If you judged it by musical television programs, you would think there are really only a handful of popular songs these days. Maybe it's an issue of what's easiest to which to get the rights or maybe it's just producers being spread too thin and not having time to really research up and coming talent (but instead just reaching for whatever Ryan Seacrest is peddling), but I feel like I hear the same songs on every show, be it reality singing competition or actual scripted program. And yes, when I'm judging producers of scripted musical television programs, I can really only point to one (since there really only is one): glee. The show has kids that could sing a telephone book and make it beautiful and interesting and unique but so many times they choose to take on the current flavor of the month, and those are some big shoes to fill! When a song is all you hear on every "Top whatever" radio station countdown, you better damn well bring something new to it, lest run the risk of boring the audience. And the same can be doubly said for contestants on reality singing competitions. After all, they not only have the original songs to compete with, as well as the unknown factor of their own name and ability when first stepping in front of America, but now glee has done so many of the same songs first. But has glee done it better? The Voice may have only been on for two months, not two seasons, but immediately it seemed to have something to prove regarding that...
The Song: Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"
Contender #1: glee's acapella duet from Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff
Contender #2: The Voice's Vicci Martinez
Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Here comes the unpopular opinion: I absolutely abhorred the glee version and I am so glad that I have another version (well, besides John Legend's haunting acoustic) to download. Groff is too screamy, too Broadway rock, and though Michele flawlessly hits every note as usual, I just don't hear anything guttural about her performance. Martinez sings from the heart-- literally, pouring her soul into every song-- and this was the perfect way to be introduced to her style. Put it this way: there is no song that is more played out right now, but when putting together this article, I got so caught up in Martinez' version, I let it play all the way through.
The Song: Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are"
Contender #1: glee's Cory Monteith
Contender #2: The Voice's Tje Austin
Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: There is just something really sweet and innocent about the way Monteith sings this song. Especially because in the context of the show, he is doing it to pump up the confidence of a young man who not that long ago he called a very bad word. Sure, the context is unfair, but it is not the only thing that pushed him forward as the winner of this round. His breathy vocals lend themselves well to a song no one would have expected him to sing. On the flip side, the song seems tailor made for Austin's voice, so the fact that Monteith can step outside of his comfort zone and really pull this one out is what makes him the winner in my mind.
The Song: Cee Lo Green's "Forget You"
Contender #1: glee guest star Gwyneth Paltrow
Contender #2: Auditioning Nakia
Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Honestly both versions of this cover are so different I couldn't do anything but tie them. For one, I have never been a Paltrow fan...until she sang this song. There is something so inspiring about a woman who seems so conservative, reserved, and well, a bit haughty, having the balls to take on a gritty track like this. But then Nakia just really owned it, too. And he did it in front of the man who made it famous himself, so you know, talk about balls! Both voices were crystal clear, though tonally perfect in different ways, so I'm just happy to have them both to live side by side on my iPod.
The Song: "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine
Contender #1: glee's Amber Riley and Jenna Ushkowitz
Contender #2: The Voice's Vicci Martinez and a drumline
Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: glee had a slight advantage coming into it here because of the powerhouse duet. Two strong females, blending their voices in all the right spots and creating beautiful harmony and melody is hard to beat, but once again I have to give it to Martinez' raw energy and passion because she connects so emotionally to the words and the music that she makes you feel the song deep in your bones. I dare you not to get so caught up you clap along within the first four seconds!
The Song: "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
Contender #1: glee's cast, as led by Cory Monteith
Contender #2: The Voice's Dia Frampton
Made Possible by Pop Culture's Verdict: Frampton by a hair. Seriously, this one was tough! Monteith has the sexy gravel down here, and he digs down deep to get the right tone in this voice. But Frampton has an effortless way about her own style, and it just feels smoother and richer because it is so natural. Somehow she always manages to make songs her own, whether it's with twists on arrangements or simply little inflections you don't expect. She could be a sneak attack winner of the whole show!
And these are just a few! Weigh in with your opinions about these, plus Madonna's "Like A Prayer," The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You," Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, etc, in the comments below!