Glee has made a tradition of paying tribute to music icons like Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson through hour-long episodes devoted to their music and legacies. Tuesday night, the Fox musical series remembered Whitney Houston with an episode that featured seven of her classic hits, juxtaposing the characters' fears about graduating high school and having to say goodbye against their mourning over Houston's death two months ago. The show opened with an a cappella version of "How Will I Know" (Watch the video below.), and also included hits like "I Have Nothing" and "Saving All My Love For You." Glee already received raves for a fortuitously timed cover of "I Will Always Love You" that aired days after Houston's death, leaving some critics to wonder if a tribute episode was necessary. Did the episode impress?
It was nearly perfect: The quality of the performances never wavered says Lauren Hoffman at New York, from the "beautifully arranged and tastefully performed" "How Will I Know" opening to the radiant rendition of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," which was bolstered by a phenomenal dance turn by Heather Morris as Brittany. Blaine's "It's Not Right, But It's OK" was immensely satisfying, and, more importantly, furthered the plot. By the "My Love Is Your Love" finale, fans who have recently been unimpressed with the show were reminded that "when the music is good, when the characters seem like high-school kids, when it's goofy and fun," Glee is still amazing.
"Glee recap: The Whitney tribute"
It was too much: Glee's biggest fault is its lack of restraint, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post. "When it can easily tap its audience lightly with a mallet, it often opts to whack us with a sledgehammer." The show's Whitney Houston homage should have stopped at that "emotional, appropriate, and near-perfect" cover of "I Will Always Love You" that aired months ago. The most affecting moments in the pretty average episode were actually the non-musical scenes about saying goodbye, making one wonder if the Houston focus was even necessary.
"Glee by the musical numbers: The Whitney Houston tribute"
It was a mixed bag: Though the theme of the episode felt more contrived than past tribute hours, the cast did an impressive job covering Houston's music, says Kate Stanhope at TV Guide. The stripped-down "How Will I Know" opening was haunting, while the new arrangements of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody and "So Emotional" harkened to the "Glee of yesteryear when half the fun was listening to how the musical had changed and freshened up established hits." But Blaine's recreation of the "It's Not Right, But It's OK" clip was just plain weird — as was that strange, icky locker shrine to the pop diva.
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