"Back To Black". C-. She had the moves and the attitude down, which is typical for a Santana performance. But the voice ... as long as we're in "reality show judging" mode, then let me trot out one of my American Idol memes: if you're going to sing something by an iconic singer with a distinctive voice, then fairly or not, you'd better be prepared to be compared to that singer. How many times has someone on American Idol tried to show off by singing something by Mariah or Whitney and been shot down for not even coming close to living up to the original?
"Some People". B-. Continuing along those lines, I was watching this and thinking I it was very good but missing something that would put it over the top. Then Jesse hit the nail on the head with his comments, and everything was clear. Thanks Jesse, for being so good at being such a smug, evil creep (who happens to be right most of the time). Even by Kurt's own show tune standards, this was fairly by-the-numbers.
"Try a Little Tenderness". B. And again! Amber Riley can deliver on the big notes without a doubt, but how many singers have been able to duplicate Otis Reddings' raw, powerful delivery of this song? And Mercedes expects to be favourably compared to Otis if she doesn't practice? Good performance, but there's only one Otis.
"My Man". A-. This blew me away, but after criticizing three other performers who couldn't measure up to the original artists, I knew I had to track down the version from "Funny Girl". Yeah, Barbra's version is better (her emotional range is startling, she can go from practically crying one second to hitting a spectacular high note the next, and does it so naturally, so effortlessly) but Lea Michele's is also excellent. Far from aiming for a note for note copy of Barbra, she did a lot to make this song her own.
"Pure Imagination". N/R. This was really beautifully done and actually transcended trivialities like TV shows and assigning ratings to songs sung on TV shows. Part of me wants to be cynical and look at this as a way for Jane Lynch to campaign for an Emmy by crying on camera, but the whole scene seemed so *real* -- the tribute video to Sue's sister, the musical arrangement, the tears. Probably more so than any other performance on this series, you absolutely cannot separate the song from its context in the episode. I doubt I'd want to hear just the audio of this song ever again, but you can't watch the video and say that this wasn't an inspiring, touching, special moment for "Glee". I simply don't know how to grade a one-off performance at a funeral, even for a fictional character, so I won't try.