Darren Criss was the best thing to happen to Glee’s second season. After making a big splash with “Teenage Dream” -- his first solo for the show, not to mention the first performance by his fictional high-school choir, the Dalton Warblers -- he became a semi-permanent cast member, showing up in the rest of the season’s episodes and enjoying more solos than most of the show’s leading males. Most of those solos are included on this soundtrack, which focuses on performances by the Warblers instead of the New Directions. In reality, the Dalton Warblers are voiced by the Beelzebubs, one of the country’s premiere collegiate a cappella groups, and the group’s smart, inventive arrangements make the album far more interesting than your standard Glee release. Criss sings lead on all but one song, crooning R&B hits one minute and pop anthems the next. Put a Glee regular like Cory Monteith in front of the Beelzebubs and you’ll see a major disparity in talent; put Criss in his place and you’ll realize how versatile a vocalist he really is, with a strong, chameleon-like tenor that’s capable of pulling off earnest ballads (Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know”) and hip-hop tunes about female empowerment (Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills”). Chris Colfer, bless his heart, doesn’t sound nearly as confident on “Blackbird,” but that doesn’t matter. This is the Darren Criss show, and it makes a strong case for keeping his character around for another year.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey