As “Glee” episodes go, last night’s “Never Been Kissed” was more plot-driven than music-driven, which makes sense considering the timely topic of bullying and the much-needed theme of acceptance. But it still managed to be a "Teenage Dream."
Overall, it was kind of disappointing musically – built around two ill-conceived mash-ups that didn’t really work. “Start Me Up/Livin’ on a Prayer” didn’t work, in part because just singing, “Start me up!” a lot doesn’t make it a mash-up and when they dropped a verse in, it felt totally out of place. “Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind” was slightly better, though the juxtaposition seemed more for plot purposes than musical ones.
The clumsiness seemed that much more obvious considering the elegant way the a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” both advanced the plot -- Kurt gets a boyfriend! -- and improved the original. (The sly way Puck and Artie turned Bob Marley’s anthem of acceptance and unity “One Love (People Get Ready)” into a way to make some quick cash was actually even more clever.)
The “Glee” version of “Teenage Dream” removes the annoying bits of Perry’s original – her breathy/whiny delivery on the opening verse, her odd phrasing in the chorus, the AutoTune – and keeps the focus on the undeniable pop melody. Yes, it’s true, “Glee” made me actually like “Teenage Dream.”
And it seems the Gleeks are equally charmed. The “Glee” version of “Teenage Dream” is currently No. 1 on iTunes. “Start Me Up/Livin’ on a Prayer” is No. 4, while “Stop! In the Name of Love/Free Your Mind” is No. 9 and “One Love” is at No. 12.