Joy divi­sion

Amy Wine­house has tweeted her de­light. Ri­hanna re­duced her rates. Madonna hits dom­i­nate a forth­com­ing episode. Wel­come to the Glee Ef­fect. With the se­ries now show­ing on TV3, the Ir­ish charts are fall­ing prey to its charms. Brian Boyd on the best thing to

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

OW COOL is Glee? It’s funny shit. Re­minds me of school. Wicked that they did Re­hab. Sounds the nuts. Thanks Glee.” Even Amy Wine­house has been moved to tweet about the hit US TV se­ries Glee. The pro­gramme – which is set in a high-school and in­cludes mu­si­cal per­for­mances of con­tem­po­rary hits – has been the best thing to hap­pen to the be­lea­guered mu­sic in­dus­try since the ar­rival of iTunes.

Wine­house’s Re­hab – her own ver­sion and the Glee cover of the song – shot back into the charts af­ter it was fea­tured on the show. Sales are still grow­ing.

With the pro­gramme now show­ing on a num­ber of chan­nels this side of the At­lantic, in­clud­ing TV3, the Ir­ish charts are duly re­flect­ing the much-talked-about “Glee Ef­fect”. Last week’s sin­gles charts saw five Glee cast songs in the top 50, while the first al­bum release from the show, Glee The Mu­sic: Vol­ume 1, has just en­tered the top 30 and is ex­pected to rise to the num­ber-one slot the next few weeks.

The peo­ple be­hind the show re­port that they now spend most of their day field­ing calls from fa­mous mu­si­cians des­per­ate for the Glee cast to cover one of their songs in a forth­com­ing episode. Rhi­anna of­fered her Take A Bow sin­gle to the pro­duc­ers at a re­duced li­cens­ing rate; Billy Joel has been of­fer­ing opin­ions on which songs of his could be used, while Madonna granted the show the rights to her en­tire back cat­a­logue. As a re­sult, an up­com­ing episode will fea­ture just Madonna songs.

The show has been run­ning for a few months longer in the US than it has been here, and the Bill­board charts are now dom­i­nated by Glee cast record­ings. There were 25 Glee en­tries on the Bill­board sin­gles chart in 2009, with the pro­gramme’s big­gest hit com­ing with their cover of Jour­ney’s Don’t Stop Be­lievin’ (see Revovler, p32).

Both the Glee ver­sion of the song and the Jour­ney orig­i­nal can cur­rently be found in the top-10 sin­gles charts around the world. And Ri­hanna was re­warded hand­somely for of­fer­ing Take A Bow at a bar­gain price – her ver­sion of the song had a 189 per cent sales in­crease af­ter it was used in the show.

The idea be­hind the show was to con­nect up the old-fash­ioned Glee Club (af­ter-school a capella singing groups which are still a prom­i­nent fea­ture of US schools) and the con­tem­po­rary ap­petite for song and per­for­mance as ev­i­denced by the cul­tural dom­i­nance of such TV shows as The X Fac­tor and Amer­i­can Idol.

Set in an Ohio high school, Glee draws di­rectly on the per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of the show’s cre­ator, Ryan Mur­phy, who was a prom­i­nent mem­ber of his own school’s Glee Club. He wanted the show to re­flect how he found a sense a place and pur­pose in his school’s singing group.

“There’s so much on the air right now about peo­ple with guns or sci-fi or lawyers run­ning around,” Mur­phy said. “This is a dif­fer­ent genre; there’s noth­ing like it on the air at the net­works or on ca­ble. Ev­ery­thing’s so dark in the world right now – that’s why Amer­i­can Idol works; it’s pure es­capism.”

To avoid any un­help­ful com­par­isons with High School Mu­si­cal phe­nom­e­non, Mur­phy struc­tured the show so that it would ap­peal as much to adults as to chil­dren. The premise is boil­er­plate sim­ple: a teacher at the school is de­ter­mined is to re­store the Glee Club to its for­mer glory, but finds him­self in con­flict with the school’s foot­ball team. The drama plays off the stereotypes of sports play­ers be­ing cool and ath­letic and cheer­lead­ers be­ing top of the fe­male high school tree, while Glee singers are geeky and un­ap­peal­ing.

The singing group on the show is a rain­bow coali­tion of mis­fits who are fre­quently scorned and bul­lied by the school’s jocks and cheer­lead­ers. Com­bin­ing the very worst type of clichéd per­son­al­ity traits with dark hu­mour and camp touches, the show is a frothy romp with a so­cial “mes­sage”. And when­ever the go­ing gets a bit rough, all the cast have to do is to burst into song.

By suc­cess­fully play­ing with the ev­er­green teen no­tions of alien­ation, iden­tity and es­cape through mu­sic, the show ma­nip­u­lates emo­tion at ev­ery turn and an un­der­dog nar­ra­tive pro­vides dra­matic move­ment.

What’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary about Glee, though, is its use of me­dia in­te­gra­tion. The songs fea­tured in any given episode of the pro­gramme be­come avail­able later that same night on iTunes – it’s like buy­ing the artist’s CD in the lobby on the way out of the gig. This form of syn­chro­ni­sa­tion means you’ll be see­ing a Glee stran­gle­hold on the Ir­ish charts in the com­ing weeks. Al­ready, ra­dio sta­tions are adding the new Glee cast song to their sched­ules – without know­ing in ad­vance what that song is.

This sales master­plan was set up by the Fox Net­work (which broad­casts the show). Once it had the pi­lot ready last year, Fox

Glee’s Glee Club – Kurt Hum­mel (Chris Colfer), Ar­tie Abrams (Kevin McHale), Mercedes Jones (Am­ber Ri­ley), Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Tina Co­hen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), Finn Hud­son (Cory Mon­teith)

In Glee: Amy Wine­house Glee Fee: Ri­hanna Glee wannabe: Billy Joel Glee leg­end: Madonna

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