“I would’ve joined in with a kick-ass harmony, but the dude was naked.”

Since Cory Monteith’s sudden and tragic passing in July, I’ve been bingeing on the music of ‘Glee’ to make myself feel better. And because I’m a compulsive list-maker, I’ve also been putting together an iTunes playlist comprised of just Finn’s songs. In the course of making that playlist, I decided to pick out my ten favorites and turn them into a column. ‘Glee’ will be returning for its 5th season on September 26th, so for the next 3 Thursdays, I’ll be presenting the best of Finn Hudson – his musical performances alone, his duets with Rachel, and his finest non-musical moments throughout his four seasons on the show. Cory wasn’t the strongest vocalist amongst the Broadway babies and pop powerhouses in the cast, and his rhythmic gifts didn’t extend to his two left feet. He was, however, an undeniably talented performer with a far-better than average voice and impressive acting range. He, and the Finn Hudson he made us love, will be sorely missed. Now, without further ado, the list:

1. “Can’t Fight This Feelin’”

This is the first time the ‘Glee’ audience really gets to see that Finn is more than just a reluctant (albeit complicit) dim-bulb jock/bully. His earnest air-drumming and singing into his bar of soap echoes Rachel’s own use of a hairbrush as microphone in her MySpace videos. It also didn’t hurt that Cory Monteith was naked and dripping in the shower for the entirety of the scene, and his vocal performance was wholly credible as “high school good”.

 2. “I’ll Stand By You”

Quinn’s unplanned pregnancy and its ripple effects carried much of the emotional heft of the first half of season one. Nowhere was this more deliciously apparent than with Finn’s wrenching performance of The Pretenders’ lovely ballad. It also marks another development in the Finn/Kurt “brothership”, as it was Kurt who recommended that Finn sing the song to his unborn child. As ridiculously over-the-top as it sounds to imagine a teenager singing to a sonogram on his MacBook, Cory made this song raw and real and all-too believable.

3. “Jessie’s Girl”

‘Glee’ got a little more lighthearted in the second half of season 1, beginning its continued indulgence in teen relationship roulette amongst the members of New Directions. This performance shows Finn and Rachel in an “off-again” phase of their “will they or won’t they?” courtship. It also marks the first time that Finn realizes he may have competition for her affections, as well as the first inkling that he’s not going to give those affections up without a fight. Cory’s voice was particularly suited for classic rock songs and it shows.

4. “Losing My Religion”

Finn’s accidental creation of a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the face of Christ is the catalyst for a showdown – Kurt and Sue vs Finn, the glee club and God! Finn sings this REM classic to express his crisis of faith after Kurt’s father suffers a heart attack and things that Finn have prayed for come to him in ways he didn’t expect or intend. Critics complained that the song’s arrangement was too karaoke and that Cory’s voice didn’t quite reach all the notes. After having listened back to both REM’s original and Finn’s cover, it occurs to me that the half-step up that the ‘Glee’ track takes is enough to give Cory’s vocals a young, vulnerable quality that communicates much about Finn’s state of mind at then end of this episode.

5. “Just The Way You Are”

This Bruno Mars hit is quite possibly my favorite Finn performance of the entire series, and not just for the musical portion. Listening to it is a form of auditory Prozac, to be sure, but this song is really best enjoyed by watching the entire performance. Although I’ve included a YouTube link to the full performance here, it doesn’t include what I think is one of the best parts of the whole thing – Finn’s “best man” speech before he starts singing.  I’ll let him speak for himself now: “...In Glee Club, uh, whenever two of us got together, we got a nickname. Rachel and I are Finchel. Rachel and Puck were Puckleberry. And today, a new union was formed. Furt. You and me, man. We’re brothers from another mother. And quite frankly, no one else has shown me as much as you about what it means to be a man. And over the past few weeks, uh, some stuff’s gone down. And I haven’t manned up like I should’ve. From now on? No matter what it costs me, I got your back. Okay? Even if it means getting a Slushie in the face every now and then…”

6. “I Gotta Be Me”

http://videa.hu/videok/zene/ive-gotta-be-me-finn-glee-mike-chang-ShbHMsVytVBRiBO5

I love the fact that after the whole “let’s torture Kurt” bullying passion play that consumed the middle of ‘Glee’s’ second season, Finn is still innocent enough to think that his biggest problem is that he can’t dance. Or at least, that’s the one he decides on after Mr. Schue encourages the members of New Directions to print one flaw on a t-shirt to wear during a performance of “Born This Way”.  Although media critics didn’t necessarily buy that Finn would have chosen this old-school Frank Sinatra classic on his own, I think the slightly self-centered optimism of the lyrics perfectly encapsulates who Finn Hudson was at that point in his life.

7. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”

This is bound to be one of the more controversial picks on my list, bound up as it is in the season 3 story arc about Santana’s coming out journey and the part that Finn played in it. Many critics were (I think) unfairly hard on Finn for “outing” her in a mostly-empty high school hallway, while conveniently forgetting how unstintingly vicious Santana had been for the duration of the series – and how she herself threatened to out Dave Karofsky unless he promised to apologize to Kurt for being a homophobic bully. Some of them also called this performance “creepy” and “off-center”. I was skeptical at first myself, since Cyndi Lauper’s original is one of my favorite pop confections, but the warmth and sincerity of Cory’s vocal delivery won me over.

8. “The Scientist”

This isn’t technically a Finn solo, as he ends up performing it (at least in his own head) with Rachel, Kurt, Blaine, Santana, Brittany, Mr. Schue, and Emma – all halves of the most shipped couples on the show (Finchel, Klaine, Brittana, and Wemma).  It’s typically Rachel who ends up singing out her grief in any given situation, and Finn doesn’t get as much credit for being emotionally introspective, so this song feels like that much more of a sucker punch to the gut. He begins and ends the song in the McKinley auditorium, where he kissed Rachel for the first time, asked her to marry him and ultimately lost her for the last time. The devastation on Finn’s face lingers long after the stage fades to black.

9. “Jukebox Hero”

This song served as both an introduction for the newest member of the New Directions (Ryder) and a preview of Finn’s new direction as a mentor and educator in the mold of Will Schuester. It also harked back to the flashback performance (in the pilot episode) of “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” by Finn’s mom’s douchey boyfriend – the guy who first convinced him that he had a voice he ought to be using. The tuning appears to have been dropped a step or two to accommodate Blake Jenner’s voice, but it still shows Finn at his fun-loving, crazy-drumming, classic-rocking, people-understanding best.

10. “Don’t Dream It’s Over”

For the first time in the series’ run, the New Directions actually, officially disband – they’ve been disqualified from Sectionals and Sue has commandeered the choir room and auditorium. Finn is understandably distraught, having taken over as interim director of the club in Mr. Schue’s absence. After clearing the choir room of the New Directions’ trophies (and literally wrestling their Nationals trophy out of Sue’s clutches), he gets a phone call from Rachel. She wants to hear his voice after her Winter Showcase victory, but ends up consoling Finn about glee club instead. This prompts him to invite the entire club to the only spot they can rehearse – the steps outside McKinley High on a Friday night. He shows up to sing and finds only Marley at first. It ends as a bittersweet group number that demonstrates just how much Finn has come to love not only music as an abstract, but also its power to educate and inspire.

 

About Jennifer

I’m a wife and a mother and a geek and girl, and I enjoy all those things immensely. If I had to boil myself down to a particular phrase, the one I’d use would be “rational romantic mystic cynical idealist”. (All credit for that to Neil Peart of Rush….)