Last week I counted down my favorite Finn Hudson performances from ‘Glee’; this week I’ll be discussing duets between our “hot male lead and the stunning young ingenue that everyone roots for”. Finn and Rachel were were an item from the very beginning, despite their many differences, and their many musical performances snapped and crackled with electricity. Of all the things I will miss because of Cory Monteith’s passing, Finchel duets are right there at the top of the list. He may not have been Lea Michele’s vocal equal, but 4 seasons’ worth of ridiculous chemistry more than made up for it. And now, on with the music:
1. “Don’t Stop Believin’”
Here it is kids, the song that launched a cultural phenomenon, and inspired the hopeless romantics in the audience to make noises that only dogs can hear. It’s Finn who brings this song to the glee club in the first place, and he’s the one who starts it out; Rachel follows him like she was born to do it. Many of the visual cliches present in future Finchel duets (spinning camera work, hands reaching out to each other, meaningful looks, the couple literally dancing around each other) first appear in this performance.
2. “No Air”
This is the first song the pair sings together after the Cheerios join New Directions to spy for Sue – and so that Quinn can keep an eye on her boyfriend. She’s certainly not missing what the rest of the audience can see a mile away: Finn and Rachel singing a clearly romantic ballad to each other like they really, really mean it. Worth a watch just for Quinn’s priceless reaction bitch-face as she has to sway in the background.
For the first time in this song, Finn and Rachel perform by themselves in the choir room. They’ve been named co-captains of the New Directions, and Rachel is over the moon about the prospect of sharing a yearbook photo with him as a result. She starts this song with him as a way to “teach him how to smile” for the photo, and it ends up being one of their most charmingly adorable numbers together.
4. “Open Your Heart/Borderline”
This mash-up is one of the first songs that Finn and Rachel sing that specifically addresses their own relationship issues with each other. She seems to have tired of pursuing him only to be rejected, and he’s upset that she’s dating the former captain of their chief competition, Vocal Adrenaline. Oh, and there’s also that pesky bit where they lied to each other about whether they’d slept with anybody yet – it ends up coming back to bite them later on.
Easily my favorite performance on this list, and not just because I’m a sucker for power ballads. It sums up the emotional roller-coaster journey that Finn and Rachel took in the first season of ‘Glee’, going from uneasy allies to friends, and finally, officially dating. It also starts with the shortest (and best) backstage conversation between them: Rachel tells him to “break a leg”, and he replies simply, “I love you”. Pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Finchel right there.
6. “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”
In the second season, our dynamic duo are rehearsing for a duet assignment for glee club and just generally having an insanely good time. The lyrics of this song also foreshadow the painful breakup that’s coming down the pike for them when Rachel finds out that Finn really did sleep with Santana in the previous school year and she decides to make out with Puck to get even.
7. “Last Christmas”
Normally I refuse to even talk about Christmas music unless it’s after Thanksgiving and before New Year’s Day, but for this list (and this song) I have to make an exception. Rachel and Finn perform this song while trying to find a Christmas tree to replace the one that Sue had stolen from the glee club. Rachel is once again pursuing Finn, trying to make amends for having made out with Puck in retaliation for finding out that Finn had lied to her about sleeping with Santana. Lea and Cory both do adorably angst-y quite well, especially in song.
As in the first season, the second season finale features a Finchel duet that allows the couple to work out yet more relationship issues. This one is an original song that was clearly meant to sounds like Finn and Rachel had actually written it about each other. As simple and trite as the words and music are, they work – and they do an excellent job of fading into the background to allow the audience to enjoy what Finn later calls “the Superman of kisses” on a New York stage.
9. “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”
Once thing that should be apparent after looking at this list of songs is that the best performances result from our star-crossed lovers being apart and one or both of them wanting to get back together. Although the couple spent nearly all of season 3 without fighting or breaking up, Finn didn’t get quite the answer he was expecting when he asked Rachel to marry him. In fact, he didn’t really get any answer at first, so this was his reaction. He tells her that she “hears him better when he’s not talking,” and her acceptance of his proposal proves it.
10. “Roots Before Branches”
Grab the tissues and get ready to ugly cry, kids, ‘cause this is the hardest performance to watch on the whole list. The song itself starts as a duet and ends up as one of Rachel’s more heartfelt solos. In this way it mirrors what’s going on personally for her and Finn at the end of season 3. She’s been accepted to NYADA, Kurt hasn’t, and Finn doesn’t have any college plans at all. In an effort to make sure that she doesn’t derail her own plans on his account, he “sets her free” and puts her on a train to New York instead of marrying her like he’d planned to. Cory’s untimely passing makes just that much harder to watch Finn tell Rachel that she’s going to go be a star without him.
11. “We’ve Got Tonight”
Finchel shippers the world over cheered at this lovely duet, sung at what was supposed to be Will and Emma’s wedding. It was preceded by a sweet conversation with Finn about how love is like a flower that may die for a little while, but comes back if you give it enough time and care. She indulges their “dangerous musical chemistry” and follows him back to his hotel room to reconnect with him physically as well. The only sad thing about this song is that it’s the final duet they’ll ever get to sing together. Listening to how Cory’s voice had become richer, more complex, and mature drives home again what a wicked shame it is that he left us so soon.