jessica tholmer
March 20, 2015 6:00 am

I know I’m part of a small group here, but I am still a die-hard, devoted, all-in Glee fan. I am a loyalist and I owe a lot to Glee, which is why tonight’s finale is actually a really big deal for me. Let me tell you why.

I found Glee in a hopeless place. It was during the last few months of a very long and tumultuous relationship; the first time that I ever let myself get to such a vulnerable place with another person. I loved him, and when he left me, as sad as it may sound, I turned to Glee. You know how sometimes the right show can just pick you up and put you back together?

I had already gotten swept up in the show before my breakup, but once the split happened, I leaned on the characters, the plot lines, the necessary and welcome distraction. Glee lifted me up and helped through so much, and even though the series also broke my heart (again and again), I will always love it.

To somehow commemorate the ending of a show that means so SO much to me, I’ve gathered my very favorite Glee performances. (In no particular order.) And yes, it was hard to not choose all Rachel Berry songs.

Thanks for everything Glee. You will be so very missed.

“Shake it Out,” Santana, Mercedes, Tina (Originally Florence + the Machine)

Often, the songs on Glee are made even more powerful because of the reasons they choose to sing them. The girls sing “Shake It Out” to Beiste when they find out her husband is abusing her. Of course the song was going to be emotional, but the way this already perfect song is split into a three-part harmony is somehow even more powerful.

“No One is Alone,” Rachel, Kurt, Sam, Blaine (Originally from Into the Woods)

Though Season 5 is definitely not the best season of Glee, there were quite a few standout episodes. One of those episodes is when Kurt and Rachel’s friend gets beat up one night in a hate crime in New York City. After the attack, the group goes to the candlelit vigil to honor the cause of acceptance. Even reading the lyrics to “No One is Alone” is enough to get me emotional, but hearing Rachel’s soulful voice reminding everyone that no is alone is too much for me. I also always approve of three or more of the original cast singing together, at any time.

“Rumor Has It/Someone Like You,” Santana, Mercedes, et. al. (Originally Adele)

Glee has long been known for seriously innovative mashups. The original New Directions mashed up two of Adele’s best songs and not only is the performance awesomely choreographed and performed it’s also so emotionally on point. Santana and Brittany are the focal point of the emotions in this song, as Santana comes to grips with coming out of the closet and being with Brittany for real. (Don’t worry, they are married now in the show.) 

“Wide Awake,” Kitty, Jake, Blaine, Unique (Originally Katy Perry)

In a very forgotten part of season 5, the New Directions were made up of a slew of really strong characters — but all of that collapsed after Finn / Monteith’s passing. In the midst of attempting to make viewers care about the new New Directions, we got this gem of a cover. Kitty shined in this ensemble, reminding us why she was a character to care about. Jake was clearly the best voice, and though he was a brief character with a connection to Puck, I was quickly convinced that “Wide Awake” was a song done best via cover.

“Teenage Dream,” Blaine (Originally Katy Perry)

Though this song is originally covered early on by Blaine and The Warblers, it is revisited in season 4, arguably the best season of Glee. Blaine visits Kurt and Rachel in New York and performs an incredibly stripped-down, emotionally-charged version of the song he initially sang to Kurt before they were Klaine. The song and performance is even more touching because the gents are going through a hard transition time and Blaine had just kissed another man (and not told Kurt yet). All of that back story is unnecessary though — all you need to see is Blaine playing the piano and crying while he sings to the man he has always been in love with. Chills, chills, chills.

As a sidenote, I think “The Break-Up” is the best episode in Glee‘s entirety.

“Mine,” Santana (Originally Taylor Swift)

Speaking of “The Break-Up,” Santana serenades Brittany with the very non-1989 era Taylor Swift song as a way of breaking up with her. Though “Mine” has quite a bit of hope in it, it worked very well for a breakup, reminding Brittany that she was the only solid in Santana’s life, but things just weren’t working right then. Santana is one of my favorite characters because obviously, but mostly because her voice is unique and incredible and can always make me cry. She slows down the usually upbeat song and gives it an entirely new meaning. And breaks hearts at the same time. (And extra kudos for gender modification in the lyrics, which Glee was always very good at doing.)

“How Will I Know,” Mercedes, Rachel, Santana, Kurt (Originally Whitney Houston)

The first episode that aired after Whitney Houston died was not all about Houston, though that episode would come later. The creators of Glee did the world a favor however, and worked a Whitney song into the beginning of the episode to honor the diva. It worked, and it worked very well. On a mostly-Mercedes led song, the four best voices of the New Directions walk around the school harmonizing to one of Whitney’s best songs. The slowed-down version was the perfect homage to someone that deserves to be honored every single day.

“Keep Holding On,” Finn, Rachel, Quinn / Puck (Originally Avril Lavigne)

The reason “Keep Holding On” works its way onto this list is because A) I love this song and B) the re-use of the performance was incredible. Originally, in the early days, the New Directions sing “Keep Holding On” kind of to / for Quinn when everything is a mess (pregnant teenager, etc). The original performance is wonderful because Rachel and Quinn have a lot of tension, but they settle it during this song.

When Puck sings it to Quinn years later, it is not only an homage to Finn, but it is a reminder that they are all there for her, still. Then and always. (Which is what Glee is all about!)

“We’ve Got Tonight,” Finn, Rachel (Originally Bob Seger)

Unofficially, this was the last duet between Finn and Rachel, which automatically makes it incredibly special. Even before I knew that was going to be the case however, there was something different about this song. Before they sing, Finn tells Rachel, “We are endgame. I know that, and you know that.”

Their duet chemistry was always impeccable, and the words just resonated. First of all, who hasn’t been there, and second of all, Finn and Rachel. Their duets were a gift to us, and this was their last one.

“Make You Feel My Love,” Rachel (Originally Bob Dylan / Adele / Everyone)

First of all, every single performance during “The Quarterback” was worthy of this list, but there is no way Rachel’s song to her onscreen and real life boyfriend was not going to make it. She starts her speech by saying, “Nobody treat me with kid gloves, okay?” and continues into her speech about how much she loved Finn, and how the first time she ever had somebody to sing with, she and Finn sang this song in her car. It is a hard thing to watch, because it isn’t really a television show at that point. “The Quarterback” is such a solid glimpse into what the real human beings were going through at the time. I will always and forever love Lea Michele for having not only the courage, but the determination to continue their show. Watching her / Rachel sing, “Make You Feel My Love” to her late boyfriend was such a tragic gift to the people who knew them through the show.

He was her person, and I will always be grateful for the glimpse into what their real, raw love looked like.

And for the record, all of the performances of “Don’t Stop Believin'” are my favorite, and I never got sick of them. That song will always be Glee to me, no matter how many Journey fans that upsets.

Thanks for the memories, Glee. You always made this small town girl feel like she was much more than her lonely world. You will be missed.

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