Jazz Hands Confidential
Or, How I Learned to Loosen Up and Love the Song
By Jared Peterson
So for most of high school and college I sang in an a cappella group.
Sorry. You didn’t deserve that. It’s just I’m kind of sensitive about it. It doesn’t come up often, but when it does, for some reason it feels like a dirty secret—somewhere between “I voted for Nader” and “I voted for Sanjaya” (not earth-shattering, but still…). Watching the new Glee movie—which, I should say, is pretty good on the whole—I was compelled to look at my queasy reactions, both to show and to that whole a cappella choir chapter of my life.
My extracurricular singing career ran the gamut from a small classical choral group to a red-white-and-blue clad show choir (about which I still have PTSD-style flashbacks) to a college a cappella outfit that performed jazz standards and revamped pop songs in formal wear. I’m proud of, but also deeply self-conscious about, my time with those groups—part of it, I’m sure, emanates from some strand of withering, Midwestern humility in my DNA, and the unspoken aversion to enjoying oneself in public.
Now I’m not a regular Glee viewer; I’ve seen maybe 5 episodes. (One was the “Rocky Horror” episode, which made me want to puke, then call child protective services, then puke again). The truth is, it pains me to watch. The rub is this: On the one hand, like many people, I find the idea of people stopping what they’re doing to perform cheesy musical numbers to be mildly ridiculous. On the other, I totally get why people like it. I like it, and that conflicts with my sense of myself of being above it all.
Looking back on tune-carrying days, I’m realizing that singing—and sticking with singing—was one of the purest things I did with my formative years, if only because, aside from the satisfaction of the thing itself, there was absolutely no upside to it. There was no pay, no extra credit, no groupies (at least not at my school, though I hear some Ivy League groups manage to get some). I sang because I liked it. There was no way to do it and be above it. So I just did it.
Glee’s big theme is losers accepting their loserdom. Its characters are outcasts for various reasons, but their unifying trait is that they love something uncool. And, of course, it helps that that uncool thing is actually (if so often secretly) universally enjoyed. Singing is fun, dude. People sing in church and in the car and at bars on karaoke night because it feels good.
I really think Glee: The 3D Concert Movie can be fun for regular, non-Gleek audiences. You don’t have to accept its premise or know the show (as Rocky Hadadi hinted in her review, it might even be better if you don’t). At the core, it’s basically a bunch of really talented kids having a really good time doing something they love.