The Glee star's body was recovered from a California lake on Monday

By Nicholas Rice
July 14, 2020 08:00 AM
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Since its premiere episode back in 2009, Glee struck a chord with audiences of all backgrounds and transported them to a world full of music and endless possibilities each week.

As the show progressed, fans of the FOX television series fell in love with Naya Rivera and her snarky yet lovable character, Santana Lopez. Originated as a minor antagonist, Rivera's Lopez became a quick fan favorite for her incredible vocal skills and ability to pack a punch with insults galore. And though she seemed like a heartless cheerleader on the outside, viewers eventually came to see a softer side as the seasons progressed, especially as she grappled with her sexual identity.

Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez

Over the years, Rivera consistently gave her all and performed a stunning array of musical covers on the show, from Amy Winehouse's "Valerie" to Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird." In remembrance of Rivera, who died at the age of 33 during a boating trip with her 4-year-old son, we’re looking back at her most incredible Glee performances.

1. 'Valerie' by The Zutons (Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse Version)

Arguably Rivera's most famous Glee cover, the songstress took center stage as Lopez at the group's sectional competition in season 2 to perform the track that Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse helped make famous, originally by English indie rock band The Zutons. With her sultry and raspy vocals front and center, Rivera illustrated that she was no longer a background character to overlook, but rather a vocal equal to her fellow castmates, including powerhouses Lea Michele and Amber Riley. Rivera later covered the song again in Glee's fifth season alongside her onscreen love interest, Heather Morris — who recently offered to help police in their search for Rivera.

2. 'The Boy Is Mine' by Brandy and Monica

On what would be her first of many duets with Riley, Rivera took on Brandy's part in "The Boy is Mine," as the duo's characters fought over the affection of Glee club bad boy Puck (Mark Salling). Riley urged fans to focus on finding Rivera in an impassioned Twitter post on Sunday, writing, "Show some respect. All our energy is going toward helping find Naya and praying for her safe return and for her family. No one owes anyone online a performance of grief. This is very real and devastating. Focus on Naya and her family. Not us," she added, referring to the Glee cast. "We don’t matter right now."

3. 'Songbird' by Fleetwood Mac

During Glee's Fleetwood Mac tribute episode, Rivera's character admitted her true feelings for her BFF and fellow Cheerios team member Brittany with a stunning rendition of "Songbird." Choosing not to sing the song in front of the rest of the New Directions because she was afraid of what they might say behind her back as she navigated her sexuality, Santana passionately tore down her walls before the woman she would later go on to marry in the show's last season.

4. 'Smooth Criminal' by Michael Jackson

After Santana decided to visit Dalton Academy to confront mean boy Sebastian (Grant Gustin) about what he did to New Directions member Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) during their Michael Jackson themed sing-off, they face off in a vocal battle, circling each other through a room of empty chairs. The scene also features 2CELLOS, a Croatian cello two-man band, whom Rivera later worked with outside of Glee on a cover of "Supermassive Black Hole."

5. 'Rumor Has It/Someone Like You' by Adele

Rivera teamed up with Riley to perform a mashup of two Adele hits from her 2011 album, 21. After many of the female members left New Directions to form their own all-girl singing group, Santana and Mercedes performed the number before Santana spotted Finn (Cory Monteith) whispering something to Rachel (Michele) that she believed was about her hidden sexuality. After the performance, she ran up to them in the audience, had an argument with Finn and slapped him in the face in what many Gleeks dubbed, "The slap heard around the world."

6. 'Girl on Fire' by Alicia Keys

During a pivotal moment in Santana's life when she was still discovering herself, she met up with Brittany — who she wasn't dating at the moment — to bid her farewell before moving to New York City. There, she headed to Kurt and Rachel's apartment to tell them she was moving in. The cover showed off Rivera's vocal prowess and ability to cover different genres with ease.

7. 'River Deep, Mountain High' by Ike & Tina Turner

During one of the show's many mashups, Rivera teamed up with Riley to perform the Ike & Tina Turner classic, "River Deep, Mountain High." With the pair grouped together and hoping to win a duet competition against the other Glee club members for a free dinner, Riley and Rivera proved once again to be a dynamic duo.

8. 'Mine' by Taylor Swift

In one of Rivera's most heartbreaking performances, she switched up Taylor Swift's 2010 single, "Mine", with a slower acoustic melody, belting the song out in front of Brittany before breaking up with her in season 4.  Brittany went on to date Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) before getting back with Santana later on.

9. 'Constant Craving' by k.d. lang

During the final few minutes of Santana's coming-out episode, Rivera tackled k.d. lang's "Constant Craving." With Idina Menzel and Chris Colfer featured on the song, Rivera effortlessly tackled the track, which won the Grammy Award for best female pop vocal performance back in 1993.

10. 'If I Die Young' by The Band Perry

Who knew that Rivera's cover of The Band Perry's heartbreaking hit would take on a whole new meaning years later. Sung during the Cory Monteith tribute episode of Glee, the performance left no eye dry during the hour, with Rivera's character breaking down before the end of the song as she came to grips with the death of her dear friend and co-star, who also tragically died young seven years to the day that Rivera's body was found.