There are currently 258Glee songs in iTunes' digital library. That's roughly 15 albums worth of material produced over six seasons of the musical comedy, which comes to a close Friday (8/7c, Fox). It's hard to pinpoint when that music first crept into my life. Was it when the pilot debuted after American Idol? Or when I was assigned to cover the cast's Hot Topic tour three months later? Whenever it was, one thing is certain: The voices of Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison, Naya Rivera, Darren Criss and the rest of the New Directions have been a part of my life — or at least the soundtrack to it — ever since.
It wasn't a deep, dark secret. I went to Best Buy every week when new album was released so that I could have the physical copies of the CDs. I still remember being able to hit the back of my head against the wall of the since-demised Gibson Amphitheatre during the first Glee concert tour. When I was single and trying to get a date on OKCupid.com, I talked about how I enjoyed driving around the City of Angels with the windows down and blasting Glee. Spoiler alert: That will not help convince someone to buy you coffee/a drink/dinner. My editor-in-chief once joked when I needed help identifying a group at the Grammys that I only knew music if it was A) by Bruce Springsteen - I'm from New Jersey - or B) if it had been covered on Glee. I did not argue with him.
And now I have to let it go. Or do I?
For me personally, Glee always been the perfect combination of two distinct worlds. My parents have been divorced for most of my life. In my mother's house, the music was always tunes from such Broadway musicals as Annie, Sound of Music, Oklahoma. On my dad's stereo, it was strictly oldies from the '50s and '60s: The Beatles, The Supremes, Sam Cooke and more. I'm pretty sure I didn't listen to any so-called "current" music until I was 10 and every mall in Jersey had "Kiss From a Rose" on repeat. So, while other Glee fans were excited about a new arrangement of Britney Spears' "Toxic" - don't get me wrong, I was too - it was really hearing those slightly updated snapshots of my youth that made the music of Glee so important to me. And thank goodness for the song choices that focused on everything in between. Had it not been for Glee, I probably wouldn't have known any of Fleetwood Mac's catalog in time for the concert I took my boyfriend to for his birthday. Now, if I hear Santana and Brittany sing "Landslide" after a long day, I tear up. No ifs ands or buts about it.
I've spent the last few weeks listening to the Glee music station on Pandora Radio with the clear mindset that these are the last few weeks of the show, so these are the last few weeks to really enjoy the musical stylings of Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, Blaine, etc. But if anything, I've found the opposite is true. Sure, Glee and I have had our fair share of disagreements. Most of the new kids were not weird or kooky enough for my taste. Kurt's eventual fall from Glee's most interesting character to it's most dull was disappointing. And some of the music has rubbed me the wrong way too. (See: Basically everything from the first half in Season 5, particularly "Wrecking Ball," "Gangnam Style," "Blurred Lines" and "The Fox"). But because of the characters of Glee, and my steadfast emotional investment in their roller-coaster storylines, I would still pick a Glee cover over the original any day of the week.
Every time I hear the Glee version of "Like a Virgin," I remember being shocked and delighted to know that the mean cheerleader, aka Santana, could saaaang. The first time I heard fun.'s breakthrough hit "We Are Young," was on Glee, so something is missing when I can't hear Rachel and Mercedes belt their hearts out. And "I Want to Hold Your Hand"? Yes, it's one of the most iconic Beatles hits of all times, but I can still close my eyes and picture Kurt tearily singing in the choir room to his sick dad, hospitalized from a shocking heart attack. Sniffle.
Sure, pop stars and rap stars and rock stars are great, but their fans don't get to experience every single emotional up and down - even from the most social media-savvy singers - the way viewers do with TV characters. This loyalty is also the reason why there are multiple Nashville albums in my car, why I have the Smash soundtrack on my iPod and why I could only wait two days before buying the first Empire CD. But you never forget your first, and Glee will always be my gateway drug.
The ridiculous character developments and plot twists of Glee will soon be gone, but the music will last far beyond Friday's finale for the true fans of the show. For that reason, and so many others, I guarantee you'll still be able to catch me driving around town with the windows listening to Glee on full blast for many years to come. Don't forget to say hello.
Glee's finale airs Friday at 8/7c on Fox.
VIDEO: Watch Sue's best burns against Schue