These days it seems hardly a week goes by without some new story about a celebrity or musician either actively campaigning to get themselves/their music on the hit Fox series Glee, or loudly proclaiming that they want no part of this phenomenon. Without a doubt this wildly popular tv show about a high school show choir has become a pop culture touchstone, but it’s a little surprising that so many musicians are feeling the need to express negativity towards it. What is it about Glee that’s making these rockers so angry?
Right now, with competitions like “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”, the music clearances business is certainly booming. Yet, when I looked for information about the most obvious of these, American Idol, I could only find a few references in regard to why they didn’t show certain auditions. By contrast, with the fictional Glee, people are talking about it – a lot. The show’s creator Ryan Murphy said in the early days “people didn’t know what we were and asked to see pages [in advance], but I refused because I didn’t want to set precedent of them having any [artist] involvement. My favorite rejection was Bryan Adams. Coldplay and Bryan Adams were really the only rejections. But Coldplay called a week ago and said, ‘We’re sorry, you can have our catalog.’
That may have been a happy ending, but a few months after that quote is when things really blew up. Grammy award winning band Kings of Leon said no to Glee stating they’d been “over-promoting” their recent release, explaining “We could have sold out so much more. We turn stuff down constantly.” This statement begs the question, can a band that’s already sold millions of records sell out? According to the statistics – even an already massive artist like Britney Spears has benefited from the Glee treatment. Sales of her greatest hits album jumped 413% after Glee’s Britney episode so why the Kings were so quick to draw the line at merely licensing their songs to TV show Gossip Girl and commercials for Ford and Volkswagen seems puzzling. Had they really decided they had simply sold enough records?
Unfortunately, for viewers there was hardly enough time to roll their collective eyes before Glee creator Ryan Murphy hit back with a swift and scathing reaction. “F— you, Kings of Leon.” He shot back through The Hollywood Reporter “They’re self-centered assholes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It’s like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music.”
Before long we a landslide of rockers had their two cents to add – from Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters saying “f— [Murphy] for thinking anybody and everybody should want to do Glee.” While Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash let fans know he considered Glee “was worse than Grease” a statement which Murphy responded to with “Usually I find that people who make those comments, their careers are over; they’re uneducated and quite stupid.” But leave it to the Brits to have something civilized to say. When The Human League agreed to have “Don’t You Want Me” featured on the show, singer Phil Oakey talked about the brouhaha “The producer was a bit out of order with them. It’s their music. If they wanna ban it from being in there, I think they’ve got a right to ban it from being in there.”
When you consider the complete picture it seems hard to not think Oakey’s measured words have it right – songwriters should be able to maintain integrity by not allowing just anyone to cover their songs and further to be critical of Glee’s autotuned style which has been sometimes derided as sounding like the work of “soulless robots.” But why is Glee such a target? Does the level of discourse seem, um, a little over the top? Maybe that’s because everyone in this story needs to start being honest with themselves about what the real problem is – which isn’t Glee, it’s Ryan Murphy. This is a pity because it’s easy to believe in what Murphy says he’s trying to accomplish with Glee, but it’s hard to get behind this pompous bully as he hollers down musicians because really, isn’t hollering down band geeks the complete opposite of what Glee itself stands for?
KellyGirl is the proprietor of Kellygirl’s Pop Culture Palace