Just Emma here again! We all want to keep up with the latest and greatest music news. But sometimes, it’s great to look back on all of the fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) events in music that got us to where we are now. Today, I’m gonna talk about one specific event from this day in music history.
On May 19th, 2009, Glee debuted. Glee tells the story of a high school glee club: their loves, their losses, and their endless repertoire of new songs that a real glee club would never have time to learn.
At this point, it may be difficult to remember, but Glee was a cultural juggernaut at the time. I was a rabid viewer up until I decided that they jumped the shark when their episode that addressed texting and driving was treated with little to no actual consequence. I’m now as ashamed of that period in my life as I am of a similar era in which I read the Twilight series ravenously. I’m not the type of person to throw around the term “cringe,” but if you try to rewatch this show having enjoyed it at a younger age, you will feel the cringe. I’d rather rewatch Power Rangers because at least I was four at the time I enjoyed that and not a full-grown woman.
During the first few seasons, Glee was a force to be reckoned with. The very first episode featured a cover of “Don’t Stop Believing,” which landed higher on the charts than the original and even brought the original back into the charts. Many alternative bands received what I (and I’m sure others) called the “Glee bump.” Tegan and Sara and fun. are two groups I can specifically think of immediately because I was at their shows in 2012 and boy were they packed with a ton of “Gleeks.” Many artists were actually hopeful that they would get “the Glee bump,” even legendary artists like Paul McCartney and Billy Joel.
On one hand, I am really glad that Glee was able to broaden the musical horizons of many young people, some as young as middle school. Lots of indie artists popped up in the charts during the run of Glee, and it was no coincidence.
Creator Ryan Murphy knew exactly how powerful he was in popular culture at the time, often lashing out against artists who refused to have their music on the show. Guns ‘n’ Roses and Kings of Leon became targets. After The Foo Fighters turned down the “opportunity,” Dave Grohl fired back at Murphy via The Hollywood Reporter, saying: “It’s every band’s right, you shouldn’t have to do f***ing Glee.” Soon after, Murphy apologized for his feud with Kings of Leon, presumably knowing better than to keep arguing with rock dad and all-around good guy Dave Grohl.
His ego still seemed to assure him that he was justified when he engaged in other questionable decisions like completely stealing Jonathan Coulton’s arrangement, melody, and instrumentation for a pop version of “Baby Got Back” without a request for permission or credit. Coulton acknowledged that he couldn’t take credit for writing the original song, but felt as though a show that prided itself on introducing emerging artists to the masses could have at least given him a plug for the use of what was clearly his work. People associated with Glee even went so far as to contact Coulton’s people, stating that they were well within their rights and that Coulton should be thankful for the exposure- despite not crediting him so that people would know who he was.
Eventually, popular interest in Glee tapered out. Gleeks graduated high school and college, got real jobs, and more sophisticated taste in music than what was essentially adult Kidz Bop. It is very tough to rewatch old episodes, but some of that is just because of how much everything has changed in fourteen years. Murphy moved on to American Horror Story (a series I also enjoyed, but which is sometimes hard to rewatch) and the stars moved on to other projects, often in musical theater (although I was very glad to see Harry Shum Jr. as the pupil of Raccacoonie in Everything Everywhere All at Once). I’m sure there are people who still unironically watch and enjoy Glee– and more power to them! People must be watching since Hulu and Disney+ both feature streams of the show.
But at the end of the day, just remember that this is the day when the world of pop culture changed just a little bit.
Written by: Emma Sedam
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