From "This Time" to "I Lived," the best of the musical's last two episodes
Twelve songs – ranging from the saccharine to the sublime – figured into the night’s two episodes, “2009” and “Dreams Come True.” Some provided character insight, some tugged at the heartstrings, and some were pure expressions of joy.
While the show was creatively as good as its been in a long time during its closing installment, some songs succeeded more than others. Below, our take on how each tune fared.
12. "Teach Your Children"
In his last official act as head of the New Directions, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) gathered glee clubbers past and present to thank them for being his students – but also for teaching him a few things. Sweetly symbolic but a little heavy-handed. On the bright side, he didn’t rap.
11. "I’m His Child"
Early in the flashback episode, Rachel (Lea Michele) visited Mercedes (Amber Riley) at church to size up her competition for the glee club’s prima donna. It’s no surprise that Mercedes sounded great on the gospel number, but her best of the night was yet to come.
10. "Daydream Believer"
In their 2020 flash forward, Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) visited an LGBT-friendly school and serenaded the adorable tykes with the Monkees’ 1968 hit. Adorable and effervescent are pretty par for the course for Klaine. Also, we were a little too mesmerized by their power-clashing suits to truly enjoy it.
9. "I Kissed a Girl"
Blue streaks in her hair and fire in her voice, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) dropped the stutter to simulteneously audition for New Directions and titillate her bestie-and-soon-to-be-boyfriend Artie (Kevin McHale) with Katy Perry‘s ode to curiosity. Still, the best words Mr. Schue could summon for the performance were “Edgy” and “Angry.” We love you Tina, but there’s a reason nearly everyone else had to leave before you got any solos.
8. "Mr. Cellophane"
With the added value that the Chicago tune was Colfer’s real-life audition number, this musical-theater mainstay nicely summed up not only how Kurt – still very much in the closet – was feeling but also how joining the glee club could help him find his identity by nurturing his talent.
When it comes to Artie solos, nothing will ever beat "Dancing with Myself," but this Ginuwine jam came close. Throughout the series, McHale brought swagger to Artie whether he was in or out the wheelchair, and his audition number proved it once and for all.
6. "The Winner Takes It All"
Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) admitted defeat nearly as rarely as she performed on Glee. This duet with Will had both those things. Lynch and Morrison both sounded so fantastic it’s hard to believe Glee never had an all-ABBA episode.
5. "Someday We’ll Be Together"
Mercedes at her powerhouse best. The 1969 Supremes song gave Riley a spotlight worthy of the emotion she’s able to exude with her voice. The other New Directions could only stand in awe and let her shine.
Vintage Kurt and Rachel. True Gleeks had to relish this Wicked duet, a nod to Colfer and Michele’s season 1 face-off to "Defying Gravity." Though there was a bit of playful ribbing between them in the performance, the song mostly displayed the bond that would develop between them as the series went on and as they learned they worked best in harmony rather than competition.
3. "This Time"
Criss told Entertainment Weekly this original song is “a love note to all things Glee.” No one could be better to deliver that note than Michele, whose final solo on the series was up to the sky-high standard she set from day one. She’s always made it look easy. It’s not.
2. "I Lived"
No matter how scattered any given episode could be, Glee consistently found a way of redeeming itself with its final number. In addition to One Republic mastermind Ryan Tedder’s anthemic lyrics about experiencing life to the fullest, the series-closing performance brought together every generation of Gleek. We can understand why Lynch told PEOPLE the final days of filming were “tough to get through.” From the irrepressible jubilance to the sheer scope of the reunion, it was impossible not to reach for the tissues.
1. "Don’t Stop Believin’"
The Journey track was, is and will always be the definitive Glee song. The pilot performance featured cast member Cory Monteith, who tragically died between seasons 4 and 5, and served as a sob-inducing reminder of the emotion Glee inspired in its best days. The series finale managed to recapture much of that magic, and the well-placed homage to a lost family member – which easily could have felt heavy-handed or macabre – played perfectly.
RELATED: Read the full recap and our round-up of the finale’s best cameos and callbacks.