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Glee caught ‘borrowing’ Jonathan Coulton cover

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My abusive relationship with “Glee” finally came to an end last week when the show decided use Jonathan Coulton’s cover of “Baby Got Back” without asking permission nor crediting him.

Even those who, like me, were born after 1992 know at least the first few lines of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s staple of the ‘90s: “Baby Got Back.” And, as “Glee” is wont to do with songs that people like, last week, they covered the song in the episode “Sadie Hawkins.”

To be specific, they covered Jonathan Coulton’s cover of “Baby Got Back,” which he released in 2005. Coulton created a melody to the rap song and turned it into a beautiful acoustic ballad accompanied by the mellow sound of the banjo. He completely and cleverly reinvented the song.

“Glee” did not cover this version. They stole it.

The arrangement is exactly the same, from the lyrics to the backing instrumentals. Coulton even posted on his website, “To my ears, it sounds like it actually uses the audio from my recording – not the vocalsrecording – not the vocals obviously, but the instruments sound EXTREMELY similar.”
A line that Coulton changed from the original — “Mix-a-Lot’s in trouble,” to “Johnny C’s in trouble,” — is also kept intact from his cover to “Glee’s.”

Coulton was contacted by lawyers from “Glee” to inform him that the show was within its rights to use his version of the song and that he should be happy for the exposure. (Remind me again how he’s getting exposure without “Glee” crediting him.) Of course, the lawyers didn’t bother contacting him until after the episode had aired. Coulton’s lawyers are still looking into the possibility that the show also stole the audio from the backing tracks of the song.
The legality of the issue aside, stealing the work of another artist is morally wrong. Thousands of viewers of “Glee” will now be praising the show’s work in creating such a innovative cover, unaware that the real mastermind behind the cover was Coulton.

My relationship with “Glee” has had its ups and downs. As a theatre kid in high school, I was ecstatic at the idea of a series about show choir.
I watched the pilot episode obsessively for months until the rest of the first season debuted. I could probably still quote most of that episode by heart.
From there, things have only plummeted into an abyss of sloppy writing and over-dramatic plotlines. This is anything but the fault of the actors on “Glee” — the undeniable charm and talent of the New Directions kids, including Darren Criss and Lea Michele, have been the only thing keeping this show from completely falling apart since the second season. Frankly, they’re better than this.

I’ve tried to continue liking “Glee” for a long time. I saw the movie in theatres. I have the CDs. But the show has lost its heart and I’ve found myself less and less satisfied with each episode.

I want to like “Glee,” but this more recent episode has proved that the show has become lazy in its song productions and disrespectful in its treatment of other musicians.

The cast of “Glee” performs Jonathan Coulton’s arrangement of “Baby Got Back” on last week’s episode. Photo courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company.

The cast of “Glee” performs Jonathan Coulton’s arrangement of “Baby Got Back” on last week’s episode. Photo courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company.

I am now confident that I am done with “Glee” for good.

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