- - 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

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