- - Monday, August 8, 2011

Glee

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Columbia

★★1/2

It’s official. TV is the new radio.

Nowadays, you’re just as likely to hear new music on television - whether it’s a Phoenix song advertising the newest iPod, a folk singer crooning his way through a “Grey’s Anatomy” montage or an up-and-coming diva singing for her supper on a reality show - as the FM dial.

Aspiring rock stars don’t need to send their demos to disc jockeys anymore. They just audition for a TV show.

No program personifies the phenomenon more than “Glee,” which began life as a 60-minute pilot before spiraling into a pop-music juggernaut. Filled with Broadway veterans and a handful of newcomers, the cast of “Glee” has charted more songs on the Billboard 100 than any other group in history, including the Beatles.

“Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” is the latest addition to the catalog. The soundtrack, which accompanies the film of the same name, is the fourth “Glee” album to appear this year. It’s also proof of the show’s unique popularity; very few, if any, TV programs have earned the silver-screen treatment after just two seasons.

Filmed during the cast’s 2011 North American tour, the “Glee” movie features concert footage of the cast members singing their way through some of the show’s biggest hits. The soundtrack is essentially the same thing, stripped of the film’s quirky video montages but full of performances that split the difference between musical theater and pop music.

It’s not hard to tell who’s singing what - by now, most Gleeks have learned to distinguish their favorite characters by voice alone - but it is hard to figure out what is live and what is prerecorded.

That is the biggest problem with “Glee”: You never know what’s real. The show’s regular soundtracks tend to lean heavily on Auto-Tune, a process that electronically combs out the quirks and botched notes in a singer’s voice. On this live album, the cast members get help from backing tapes, and some songs sound as though the lead vocal is being piped in from a studio recording.

Doctored or not, though, these “Glee” albums are proof that television can still produce pop stars. Compare the show’s two-year run with, say, the previous two years of “American Idol.” “Glee” is by far the bigger exporter of album sales and hit songs, having sold more than 20 million singles before this year even started.

But is that enough? TV may be the new radio, and “Glee” may be the king of TV - but when it comes to concert albums, this one is about as authentic as Kiss’ “Alive.” Gleeks deserve better.

The Voice

The Voice: Season 1 - The Highlights

Universal Republic

★★★

If “Glee” is the musical king of prime time, then “The Voice” has its eye on the crown.

The show, which refreshes the “American Idol” template for an audience that has grown tired of the same old thing, releases its first album this week. “The Voice: Season 1 - The Highlights” is exactly what its title suggests: a collection of songs from the show, all of them featured here in their full studio versions rather than live performances.

The show’s champion, Javier Colon, gets top billing. He kicks off the disc with his cover of “Time After Time,” replacing the ‘80s synths with an acoustic coffeehouse arrangement. He’s a solid singer - the guy kicked off his career as the vocalist of the Derek Trucks Band, after all - but he is upstaged by the show’s runner-up, Dia Frampton, whose voice flits between an ethereal croon and a powerful alt-rock belt. Her version of “Losing my Religion” is closer to the original, but she makes it her own, slowing the pace a smidge and adding some atmospheric keyboards to the mix.

“The Voice” has a long way to go if it wants to replace “American Idol,” which has a decade’s worth of history on its side. Judging by this compilation, though, “The Voice” seems to have a better eye for finding artists who sound as good on record as they do onstage.

Luke Bryan

Tailgates and Tanlines

Capitol Records

Those who want to avoid TV altogether could do far worse than Luke Bryan’s newest release, “Tailgates and Tanlines,” which combines crossover country with soft-spoken ballads. He plays the part of a good ol’ boy, singing songs about the kinds of small Southern towns that exist only in Norman Rockwell paintings. The worst songs pander to the lowest country denominator; the best ones, though, are too lighthearted to do much damage.

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