Music

Chart Rewind: In 2009, the ‘Glee’ Cast Took New Directions to Hot 100 History

Glee was in the spotlight, and on the cover, of the May 8, 2010-dated Billboard, nearly a year after the Fox series’ cast made its chart debut. Wrote Ann Donahue that issue, “Still in its first season, the program has sucked in young fans with its inventive mix of musical-theater brio, pop-chart savvy and outsider empathy.”

On the Billboard Hot 100 dated June 6, 2009, the troupe’s covers of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” entered at Nos. 4 and 98, respectively, the former with a hefty 177,000 downloads sold in the U.S. in the tracking week, according to Luminate. The songs appeared in the first Glee episode, which aired on May 19, 2009.

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The Glee Cast rocketed to a record 207 Hot 100 entries (through its last, a cover of the Bob Dylan-penned “To Make You Feel My Love” in October 2013), as Fox and Columbia Records unveiled a strategy of releasing multiple songs, with a focus on pop and Broadway favorites, digitally after each new Glee episode. (Notably, with the songs essentially serving as souvenirs, and almost all devoid of radio airplay, 173 of the 207 titles spent a single week on the Hot 100.) Between May 2010 and March 2012, the act logged 15 weeks each with five debuts; four weeks each with six arrivals; and two weeks each with seven.

On the Hot 100 dated Feb. 26, 2011, not even two years into the show’s run, the Glee Cast passed Elvis Presley’s longstanding record for the most appearances to that point. Through June 8, 2024-dated list, only Drake (332) and Taylor Swift (263) have made more visits.

GLEE
Glee

“I remember I talked to [executive producer] Dante Di Loreto and [co-creator] Ryan Murphy and said, ‘If all works well, we should see records in the top 10 and we should sell albums,’” Geoff Bywater, then-head of the music department at 20th Century Fox Television, said in the 2010 Glee cover story. “‘And, if all that works, we should do a tour.’”

Any such doubts were extinguished over the show’s nearly-six-year run (through March 20, 2015). In addition to its Hot 100 haul (a sum that includes three top 10s, with “Believin’ ” its highest charting hit – it even outperformed the No. 9 peak in 1981 of Journey’s classic original), the Glee ensemble scored 31 Billboard 200 album chart entries, 14 of which hit the top 10, including three No. 1s. Its to-date U.S. album sales stand at 8 million.

Along with its trademark mix of heart (often in touching scenes between Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter) and humor (almost any line by Lynch; Potter, too), the series was a magnet for revered pop hits, as the Glee Cast charted on the Hot 100 with versions of 58 No. 1s, from its update of Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” in September 2009 through Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” in May 2012. Also among leaders that the collective returned to the chart were songs by Adele, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Prince, Queen, Britney Spears and Usher.

As Glee’s reach surged, the show welcomed high-profile guests and the cast charted Hot 100 hits with Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Martin, Idina Menzel, Olivia Newton-John and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Matthew Morrison and Gwyneth Paltrow on 'GLEE.'
Matthew Morrison and Gwyneth Paltrow on Glee.

To date, the Glee Cast’s songs have sold 48.3 million downloads in the U.S. – and drawn 3.8 billion official U.S. streams.

Meanwhile, the Glee performers grossed $45.9 million, according to Billboard Boxscore, over 53 tour dates, all in 2010-11, highlighted by a seven-show run at London’s O2 Arena in which all 103,513 tickets sold out.

The series also received 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning four. Among series regulars, Lynch was honored for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series and Murphy won for outstanding directing for a comedy series, while stars Chris Colfer, Dot-Marie Jones, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison and Mike O’Malley earned nominations.

Apart from Glee billings, Michele hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in March 2014 with her LP Louder, a high among cast members on their own, after Morrison had reached No. 24 in May 2011 with his self-titled set.

Fifteen years after its premiere, the show’s fandom endures, in part on platforms that didn’t exist when it originally aired. After reaching No. 93 on the Hot 100 in May 2010, the cast’s “Rose’s Turn,” sung by Colfer, bounded to No. 3 on the TikTok Billboard Top 50 this March.

Fan fervor among “Gleeks” was evident from the start, Bywater recalled in 2010. “We saw it in the in-stores we did in the beginning of the project. We did a Hot Topic tour right after the pilot, and there were 3-, 4-, 500 people. Within a couple of months, we were talking 1,500 people outside the Borders in New York.

“It happened really fast.”

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