‘Glee’ CD Review: Po(m)p and Circumstance-Themed ‘Graduation’

The song selection on "Glee's" set of valedictory songs isn't bad, though you're better off using the track list as a guide to download original versions for your own graduation party

Lest they take over Dick Clark’s old title as the “world’s oldest teenagers,” some of the “Glee” kids are finally graduating (from high school, if not the series). Lea Michele and cohorts will exit William McKinley High in May 22’s tassel-tossing season finale, but first comes this week’s release of “Glee: The Graduation Album,” a complete set of celebratory and/or valedictory songs.

Well, nearly complete. Unfortunately, these aging young ‘uns never get around to “My Way.” But the grads do cover sentimental life-lesson anthems ranging from Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” to Madonna’s “I’ll Remember,” with a puckish time out for Puck to revive a token rocker, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”

The song selection is, by and large, not bad, for a po(m)p-and-circumstance collection. If you’re planning a graduation party yourself, this particular “Glee” album is useful … as a tracklist guide for going to iTunes and downloading the versions by the original artists.

The intention sometimes seems to be to fool you into believing you are hearing the original, so “Edge of Glory” starts off with one of the New Directions lasses doing a pitch-perfect Lady Gaga imitation. The glorious slavishness continues with Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” as the McKinley High backing band somehow manages to perfectly capture Bruce’s calliope-synth and snare drum sounds, circa 1984… and on a public-school budget!

Even a cover of the irresistible “You Get What You Give” — by the 1998 one-hit wonder New Radicals — takes pains to find a chorus boy who sounds exactly like now-obscure original singer Gregg Alexander. The famous last verse has been altered, though. “Glee” may push the teen-sexuality envelope on TV, but “we’ll kick your ass in” has to be changed to “we’ll kick you down, yeah”… go figure.

The show’s covers are more fun when they depart in some dramatic way from the original hits, either via an arrangement choice or unusual pick of vocalist, but “Glee” has never been particularly interested in musical adventurousness. So “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” has both Finn and Blaine doing their best Billie Joe over an acoustic-guitar-and-strings setup that’s indistinguishable from Green Day’s instrumental track.

But father figure Matthew Morrison, for his part, sounds like neither Bob Dylan nor Rod Stewart when he covers everyone’s favorite wistful-daddy song, “Forever Young,” even if his capable show-tune take won’t make you forget anyone’s more gravelly version.

And at least Michele won’t be mistaken for Mraz when she contributes a chick-rock rendition of “I Won’t Give Up,” which picks up some welcome choral steam in the bridge. Along the same lines, Lea/Rachel also does Beyonce’s “I Was Here” before departing for New York, in a sideways plot that may or may develop into “Smash II” next season.

Who knows? If the series somehow holds on for a few decades, maybe Rachel can graduate from Beyonce’s “I Was Here” to its inevitable sequel, Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.”