TV on the Radio: Feeling the Glee

Forget The Kids From Fame, Grange Hill asking you to ‘just say no’, or Zac Efron prancing around a basketball court. The class of 2010 is a different kind of animal and the lesson is only just beginning.

There is no denying the resounding success achieved by the latest fad television craze ‘Glee’. Chronicling the hardships of a group of surprisingly attractive, social-status misfits and their desire to perform. This has all the usual elements that ensure a hit: multiple loveable protagonists, spiteful yet hilarious antagonists and heaps of chiselled cheek bones, tights abs, and sculpted physiques, plus a couple of ugly ones to make us feel better. However it is the soundtrack that has made ‘Glee’ such an international phenomenon. With their unique brand of over-produced, auto-tuned harmony rich renditions of various contemporary classics the ‘Cast of Glee’ has stormed the charts both sides of the Atlantic. At the time of writing there are currently five singles in the UK Top 75, two of which sit in the top ten.

It seems many moons ago now that made-for-TV band the Monkees first made their debut on American screens, since then original programming has been an excellent way to make a quick dollar in the charts. Afforded the luxury of building a back story surrounding each member of a band allowing audiences to relate to new artists much faster than if musicians were to arrive through more usual means.

In a lot of ways this formula for success can be seen in the Cowell mastermind of X-Factor. From very early on certain artists have their sob-stories broadcast to the nation with a change in positivity towards the end of each segment often echoed in the backing music with a shift from minor to major keys.

The triumphs of ‘reality’ television have allowed for a lot of artist manipulation disguised as viewer democracy. Performers with little or no real talent other than the ability to execute karaoke are moulded over the course of several weeks for a public who vote on a nationwide popularity contest rather than anything truly based on vocal prowess.

The flipside of this argument is that those which choose to be drawn in by the instant celebrity facade of such programming claim that the charts are made by what people enjoy the most and therefore X-Factor is the perfect outlet to relay a multitude of choices to the public.

Is this democracy at work or the decline of individuality and virtuosity in the art of composing? Is there any master-craft or undeniable talent being employed here? In much the same way that no-one would claim a microwaveable dinner to be Michelin star food can any person truly believe that X-Factor singles are gleaming examples of good music?

As with X-Factor, stars whose sales may have taken a dip in recent years are queuing up and banging down the doors of producers to be featured in the next series of Glee. There is really little by way of surprise to see Madonna and J.Lo already linked with guest appearances, Mariah Carey is presumably also not too far behind. The appeal of such a program is easy to understand, with a week in week out story involving mild peril which invariably turns out well for the good guys finished off with an upbeat number – this is a recipe for success.

Despite the pockets of Hollywood’s money-makers ringing, the major winners from this entire event are surely once-forgotten, 80’s Hair metal group Journey. They have seen their one time minor hit transformed from cult favourite to international anthem of the drunk, lonely girl almost over night. The appeal hasn’t just ended there, with every clique from the cool kids to the rock misfits finding something to love in the decadence of the un-inventive, overly emotional nostalgia of a four-minute affirmation; leading the track to peak at number 2 for the cast version and a top ten finish for the original in the UK charts.

Granted Journey hasn’t just got Glee to thank, with the likes of Scrubs and Family Guy originally boosting the number albeit with sneering intent. The release of Journey’s greatest hits is almost laughable with even the TV advertisement struggling to play anything except for the infernal piano intro now so indelibly scorched into so many ears.

Glee has made such an impact on the music industry it surely won’t be long before a succession of spin-offs and copycats fill the airwaves. The original series is not without its highlights and is certainly very watchable, but with the extreme rise of revenue it is hard to imagine a small snippet of original programming won’t now have lost its way instead heading hell bent on taking over the charts.

‘Real’ music may just have been dealt a fatal blow and Television is the box it’s going to be buried in.

One Response to “TV on the Radio: Feeling the Glee”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Excellent. I hate glee, it makes my eyes and ears bleed, a fate I thought was once reserved for special ops interrogators.

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