“Simply saying the word out loud makes me feel powerful, even in voiceover,” Sue says as she writes in her journal emblazoned with the Material Girl’s name. It’s a great setup to the most anticipated hour in television in recent memory.
While it’s a bit far-fetched that Sue of all people would be inspired by the massively successful pop star – I always imagined she’d reach back in history and use Hitler or another dictator as her muse for all things evil – I loved how she was used as the anchor for an episode chock-full of tracks.
It was a simple plot really: her obsession with Madge leads her to demand that the school pump her idol’s greatest hits over the intercom system — quite loudly — during the school day (I wish my high school was that cool, and I even went to the best performing arts school).
Figgins, keeping in mind that little sexual blackmail looming over his head, gives in to her request that he blast her “delicious hooks” for the students – and mainly Sue and her Cheerios to get inspired by. But once the power of Madonna takes over McKinley High, it was hard to escape. So let’s grade the music, shall we?“Faster than the speeding light she’s flying”
We get a taste of the Cheerios in action, something we don’t get too often. The girls – and guys on killer stilts – do a rousing routine to “Ray of Light.” Sue, wanting her Cheerios to be nothing short of perfection, calls it a “sloppy freak show.” Really, I’m no expert, but based on the hundreds of hours I’ve logged watching “Bring It On,” I thought the routine was quite excellent, though those stilts got a bit distracting, even for me. It was enough to inspire Will to steal the idea of using Madonna as a source of inspiration when he challenges the kids of New Directions to come up with a number from her vast catalog – uh FYI, Finn, Pantera is not the guy version of Madonna. B-
"Come on girls, do you believe in love"
There are no words to describe my elation as Rachel launched into “Express Yourself.” Rachel, who I must point out has found a stronger confidence in herself – thanks in part to this new romance with Jesse, even if he is just itching to get inside her cookie jar. The song is kicked up a notch when she is joined by the girls in brightly colored “va-va-voom” bustier corsets and yes, fingerwaves. The girls', or should I say divas', fierceness was jaw-droopingly spectacular as they put the boys in place. Oh, how I’d pay just to be one of the spotlights or even a strand of hair. Is it possible to top this? A+
"Set me free, open your heart"
Finn and Rachel. I’m beginning to enjoy this little tug-of-war the two are displaying. It’s a classic case of wanting what you can’t have. Now that Rachel has moved onto Jesse, Finn wants to get back in, despite the distractions and overt come-ons from Santana (comparing Rachel to a cat in heat was every bit as naughty and hilarious as the show could slide in under the radar). The two offer up a mash-up of “Boarderline” and “Open Your Heart,” two songs I would have never pictured together. I live for duets between these two but I wanted to strangle the producers for having them romp in the hallway amid students dressed up as Madonna – that was a bit more cheese than necessary, don’t you think? I loved the subtle references at the beginning (Brittany’s bow, Santana’s glove) but full-on garb from different videos that weren’t even referenced was a bit much. B
"Strike a pose"
“Mercedes is black, I’m gay – we make culture,” Kurt assures Sue as they pitch a way to help her find her inner confidence (she finally breaks down her hate of Will’s hair, and again it’s based on her own issues) – and ask for a collaboration with the Cheerios. While Sue taking on “Vogue” was sure to be the moment fans were certain to talk about for days, Fox completely ruined the surprise by showing it a week early, leaving nothing for the episode. You can tell producers wanted this to be the highlight for viewers as it has the most lavish treatment, and it is one of those moments that you hear the judges talk about on "American Idol." It fits so well in the episode, but I still can't get over Fox letting this air earlier. Doesn’t change the fact that Sue absolutely went to work on this number – Kurt and Mercedes, I see you in the background getting your shine. A+
"Touched for the very first time"
Madonna is the epitome of strength, independence and confidence. But let’s be honest, it’s hard to think about her without thinking about s-e-x. She’s never been one to shy away from the topic and has always demonstrated her power to control her sexiness and her own body. Those themes were pulled into the episode with Rachel, Emma and Finn taking control of their bodies – with a bit of coaxing – and deciding to give up the big V. One of the most artistic offerings of the episode, obviously second to "Vogue," showed all three couples (Jesse, Will and Santana, respectively, are the would be V-card takers) indulging in “Like A Virgin.” While my cheeks were turning red at all the hotness -- as I promised the other week, Emma turned up the heat -- I have to applaud the writers for tackling high school sex in a more realistic way, minus the whole duet vibe. Finn and Rachel (though her nightgown so Amish-y it was a turn off, no offense to our Amish readers) faced a great deal of pressure from their partners and they didn’t offer a caricature of the topic. As opposed to jumping all "After School Special" deep in taking on the consequences of teenage sex, they let it be what it really is -- a decision that only both partners should make. Kudos to the girls for staying true to themselves and deciding they weren’t ready. Sorry Finn, I can’t “justify your love” … but I had to clutch my pearls as I watched he and Rachel lie to one another. A
"Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock"
By the time I heard the blaring intro horns of one of Madonna’s most recent smash hits, “4 Minutes,” I was already outta my seat dancing. And I imagine so were you. While I assumed the resident Justin Timberlake of McKinley -- Will -- would take on the Justin Timberlake-assisted cut, I was surprised and excited to see it as a duet with Kurt and Mercedes. Backed by the Cheerios, which they’ve now joined, it was an in-your-face sassy kiss-off that proved these two deserve more solo time in New Directions. Threatened by Jesse being in the mix, they stuck it to Will big time by getting the shot they deserve, and in the process made the Cheerios look pretty darn good. Yet another highlight in an already jampacked episode. A+
"But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like"
As my faithful Gleek Show Tracker readers know, I’ve mentioned before that this is one of my favorite Madonna songs, and I was floored to see it made the cut for the episode. Of course I had my reservations as to who’d sing it – given its more soulful undertones, yes of course I assumed Mercedes, which was foolish. But I realized the boys hadn’t gotten a taste of the Material Girl, though how would they dig into this track? Thankfully, they kept the soulfulness there – and please, please, please someone, I’m begging you, more Artie -- his solo got a few rewinds and the full track is heavy on his vocals! Though Puck was against taking on Madonna, it's hard to ignore that the boys sounded incredible. And hey, they got a much-needed lesson out of it all. A
"I hear you call my name"
Sorry if you’re Madonna’ed out - though we doubt it - but of course there is the ending group number. New Directions takes on “Like A Prayer,” and brings out the gospel roots of the song with a very necessary choir – impressive given they are a small team compared to Vocal Adrenaline. It was the perfect way to end the episode. My main complaint is given they squeezed in an impressive number of selections, some, including this one, fell short. I wanted much more of the group number. Guess that’s what the soundtrack is for. CI’m sure my fellow Gleeks will agree and disagree with my grades. So I hope you weigh in. Were there songs you wanted the kids to take on instead? Was the episode worth the wait? What did you think of our grades?