Genius. Icon. Innovator. Inspiration. Before I go any further, I need to mention that I am a HUGE Madonna fan who has probably at some point used every single glossy adjective that we heard on “The Power of Madonna” episode of “Glee.” In other words, this show was ‘like a dream to me,’ and my objectivity in this recap will be ‘borderline’ at best. But if you can ‘open your heart’ we’ll make it through the wilderness and get ‘into the groove’ quicker then a ‘ray of light.’ And just like a prayer, I will take you there. So let’s get into the material, girl (or boy).
According to Sue Sylvester, “Madonna is the most powerful woman to ever walk the face of the earth.” As the most powerful woman at McKinley High School, Sue demands to blast Madonna’s Greatest Hits through the PA system throughout the day. (I’m watching with a friend who assures me that this is not something that ever went on at her Ohio high school.) To get the Cheerios ready for Nationals, Sue is giving out WWMD (What Would Madonna Do?) Bracelets, doing away with last names, and planning inspirational tributes to her hero.
Over at the losers table, Mr Schuester sees that the Glee girls are seriously in need of some power and empowerment. Rachel’s feeling not-so-hypothetical pressure to cash in her V-card, even though she likes her virgin status. Pregnant Quinn, Lead Hag Mercedes, and Wheelchair Pushover Tina are all having boy troubles of their own. Taking a cue from Sue and the Cheerios after witnessing their amusingly bizarre “Ray of Light” routine on stilts, Will gives the glee kids a new assignment – come up with a Madonna number. (Second time this episode I wished I had attended/could attend this fictional H.S.) The guys are reluctant but Madonna’s message is all about equality, regardless of gender, so get ready to “Express Yourself.” The Glee Girls show the boys how it’s done with an on-stage performance of the female empowerment anthem, taking on a masculine look a la Madonna, and making it clear that they ‘won’t go for second best.’ Despite Rachel laying the anger on a little too thick, there’s a genuine girl power quality to the number and it’s fun to see the ladies take the spotlight as a group.
Soon the halls of McKinley are burning up with Madonna fever, starting with Santana and Brittany’s awesome “Desperately Seeking Susan” homage. Brittany encourages Santana to make a play for Finn’s virginity since “Madonna like wrote a song about it.” In the spirit of WWMD, Santana propositions Finn, telling him to forget about Rachel since she’s like a cat in heat (‘Express Yourself’ reference, for Madonna nerds) and still dating Jesse from Vocal Adrenaline. Rachel cops to the second half of that claim, and asks Finn for his friendship and trust at this crossroad in their relationship. With that they “rehearse” a “Borderline/Open Your Heart” mash-up. From the inspired pairing of two of Madonna’s greatest hits to the amazing parade of Madonnas from all eras in the hallways, this number was terrific. Plot-wise, it totally worked to express Rachel and Finn’s emotional states and the ever-changing status of their relationship.
Things cool off after this and “Frozen” plays through the PA system as Sue attacks Will for stealing her Madonna thunder. Perhaps empowered by the power of Madonna, Will actually stands up to Sue and even gets a zinger in about her hair. “By the way, how’s the Florence Henderson look working out for you?” Sue retreats in a rage, a point noted by Kurt and Mercedes when they offer her a new look and a leading role in their multimedia Madonna project. Obviously, the ‘Vogue’ video. It’s a solid tribute to the original Madonna piece that might have been more fun had we not already seen it last week.
Immediately following is something all shiny and new. It’s a six-way performance of “Like a Virgin” that still manages to be the most innocent interpretation of the song I’ve ever seen or heard. Flipping between three bedrooms, we see Finn, Rachel, and Emma as they prepare to be touched for the very first time. The number was well-executed in a tasteful, fully-clothed, lavender nightgown and T-shirt-on kind of way, and the innocence not particularly surprising since this is a family show and four of the six candidates for penetration are in high school.
We find out that Finn is the only one of the three to go from like a virgin to not a virgin. Will and Emma have decided to wait, hold off on dating until his divorce is final, and in the meantime start getting her some help for her OCD. And Jesse St James shows the lengths he’ll go to in his efforts to get Rachel to give it up.
Now a student at McKinley, Jesse joins New Directions, making things even more competitive for aspiring soloists. What happens next is that we see “future center square Kurt Hummel and his brassy hag Mercedes” tear the Madonna song, “4 Minutes to Save the World” a new one… as members of the Cheerios. A nice plot twist that will surely be explored in episodes to come.
But now it’s time to drive home the message of this show and find out if the Glee-men know ‘What it Feels Like for a Girl.’ The synth-y pop, all-male take on the song is inventive and interesting and I kind of wished it had gone on a little longer. But the lesson lands and the guys realize they need to respect all their glee-mates as individuals and make things right with the girls. Artie apologizes to Tina and they share a sweet first kiss. Finn apologizes to Rachel and tells her that he really liked her, and is sorry he screwed it up. I totally feel her teen heart ache as she repeats the words she’s always wanted to hear and realizes they have just been said at the wrong time. Jesse pops up with the comic relief, ready to face-off against Finn. “Sing off – the parking lot – 5:00 – be there.” Finn takes the high road and promises to stay away from Jesse’s girl and teach him the new Madonna number he put together.
Lea Michele takes center stage and sings “Life is a mystery…” and it’s amazing and leads into a joyful performance of “Like A Prayer” (the perfect pop song in my humble Madonna-loving opinion) with Rachel sharing lead vocals with Finn, Kurt, and Mercedes. Then, with the lyrics, “Let the Choir Sing” the curtain opens up to reveal a gospel choir. “Where’d they find those people… in Ohio?” my friend asks. We laugh at the hilarious, over the top moment, and then promptly hit the rewind button to watch the spectacular finale again. And again. It’s the Power of Madonna. We can’t resist.
Additional notes and quotes:
Brittany One-Liner of the Week: When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist.
Sue Insult of the Week: Hey William. I thought I smelled cookies wafting from the ovens of the little elves who live in your hair. In an episode that was heavy on hair teasing, this one wins.
Best self-aware, self-deprecating dialogue: To coax Rachel out of the bathroom, after the fantasy ‘Like a Virgin’ sequence Jesse says, “Just come out so we can talk. Or sing about it.”
Best Madonna references:
“It’s been the biggest dream of my career to pay homage to Madonna, the woman most responsible for my take no prisoners demeanor and my subconscious tendency to always be desperately looking for someone named Susan.” – Sue Sylvester
“I’m going to Kabbalah. Is that too much?” – Kurt Hummel
And finally… given the number of Madonna hits still on the table, there could totally be another episode dedicated to the Material Girl. Perhaps next season the Glee club takes a ‘Holiday’ on ‘La Isla Bonita’ and maybe Rachel has a ‘Secret’ that keeps getting ‘Deeper and Deeper’ while Finn gets ‘Hung Up’ on a ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and Artie finds a ‘Substitute for Love’ and says ‘Sorry’ but ‘Don’t Cry for Me, (Argen)Tina’… and of course by the end ‘Music’ makes ‘Everybody’ come together and ‘Cherish’ the love as they all ‘Take A Bow.’ Just a thought…
Story by Elissa Farkas
Starpulse contributing writer