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Glee Season Premiere: Pushing It Real Good

The Glee kids are prepping for Regionals, but with only half of the required twelve participants (or, if you prefer — as funny-scary cheerleading coach Jane Lynch does — just “five and a half,— you know, the kid in the wheelchair”). They also need good songs, which — for charming leader Will Shuester, at least — means disco. But Will’s got bigger problems — he has to please his annoying wife, Terri, while slowly falling for obsessive-compulsive guidance counselor Emma. Of course, the requisite song-and-dance numbers do much of the storytelling. We’re rating them in the categories of Pizzazz (technical skill, inspiration), Relevance (to the plot), and Absurdity (the best Glee numbers are either LOL ridiculous or totally, movingly believable). Let’s dance!

Chic, “Le Freak”
Pizzazz: 3 (out of 10)
Relevance: 9
Absurdity: 6
This episode is all about communication — specifically, the lack of understanding between the kids and adults (parents just don’t understand!). The kids are sure their lives will end if they sing “Le Freak” at assembly. Mr. Schue? “Everybody LOVES disco!” The result: jazz hands, chaste hip-swiveling, and too little harmonizing. Still, it’s inevitably pretty funny to see the motley crew attack the song with such crazy enthusiasm. We’ll leave you with the words of queen-in-training Kurt: “It’s the song. It’s really gay.”

Kanye West, “Gold Digger”
Pizzazz: 9
Relevance: 9
Absurdity: 10
Mr. Schue gives in to the kids’ taste for “contemporary” music, which they leap into — especially Mercedes, who rips up Ray Charles’s intro as only a true diva can, and Rachel and Tina, whose melisma-licious harmonizing is spot-on. But teach has his own reason for choosing this one: Mrs. Shue, a gold digger herself. (Will: “I have some bad news.” Terri: “A wealthy relative died?”) And indeed, his dance moves must be seen to be believed. (Did he just brush a little dirt off his shoulder? Oh, yes, he did.) We won’t ask how he has the raps memorized, not to mention the carefully plotted choreography. Talent needs no explanation, people.

Salt-n-Pepa, “Push It”
Pizzazz: 10
Relevance: 7
Absurdity: 7
Rachel’s learning to give the audience what they want. (Sex, if you didn’t know.) Emma’s partly to thank: She catches the golden-voiced Tracey Flick attempting a yak, and when Rachel explains, “I guess I just don’t have a gag reflex,” Emma shares a bit of no doubt hard-earned wisdom: “One day, when you’re older, that’ll turn out to be a gift.” Rachel then goes all Spring Awakening on the celibacy club (and on Finn! Woot!), discoursing on the merits of sex education and blowing everyone’s mind by saying girls want it as much as boys do.

As for “Push It” itself: We’re pretty sure there’s no actual singing involved here (although the rhyme skills are mostly impressive, all things considered). At bottom, the earnest attempt at scandalous choreography (dry-humping, crawling across the stage) and Finn’s exceptionally awful rapping (the boy did just admit he has trouble singing and walking at the same time) add up to a highly amusing performance.

Dionne Warwick, “I Say a Little Prayer”
Pizzazz: 5
Relevance: 4
Absurdity: 4
Ho, hum. These three gals have strangely polished dance moves and pleasant (albeit thin) voices, but their audition has about as much glitz as Amber von Tussle brings in Hairspray — and hey, the same steps too! We knew the Cheerios (as the cheerleaders are dubbed) would infiltrate the glee club somehow, and it’s totally believable that Quinn would easily slide into the role of teacher’s pawn (thinking she’s totally going to get her boyfriend back from the clutches of Rachel), but the song choice is a little obvious for a trio of supposedly Jesus-loving girls.

Rihanna, “Take a Bow”
Pizzazz: 9
Relevance: 8
Absurdity: 4
What girl doesn’t know the “It’s not you, it’s me” defense? Rachel would absolutely think her romantic troubles qualify as major stage drama, so cue the episode’s most Broadway-esque number. Spotlight! Mournful eyes! She’d clearly sing into a hairbrush and imagine Mercedes and Tina as her backup singers. We think Rachel’s take on Rihanna’s kiss-off to an unfaithful ex actually works better as a sad soliloquy — we can see it in a rock musical, actually. Plus, we’ll take Lea Michele’s lovely voice over Ri-Ri’s robo-drone (at least on a ballad ... Rihanna can keep “Disturbia”) any day. We can’t wait to see when, perhaps next week, she gets the musical answer to a truly great question: “What’s a 'luftballoon'?”

Photo: Carin Baer/Fox