‘Smash’, ‘Glee’ or ‘The Voice’: Who Did The Best Job on ‘Rumor Has It’?

Katharine McPhee in "Smash" (Patrick Harbron/NBC)

Katharine McPhee in "Smash" (Patrick Harbron/NBC)

Judging by the number of albums she’s sold and all the Grammys she’s won, there’s more than a few of us out there who love listening to Adele. Of course, that kind of popularity leads to a problem: every show that uses popular music as a centerpiece or backdrop wants to use Adele’s music, either because of its emotional resonance or because it’s “hip”-sounding.

While we’d like the trend to stop, trying to hold back the tide of Adele is like trying to bail out your clogged bathtub with a teaspoon, so we might as well just embrace it.

With that in mind… Last night on “Smash,” Katharine McPhee‘s character Karen took to a bar stage with her new frenemies who have joined her in the chorus of the “Marilyn” musical but are loyal to Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty). What song did they choose do dance to? You guessed it — “Rumor Has It” by Adele. At first, Karen and her frenemies dance to Adele’s original track. But halfway through, the music cuts out and McPhee starts singing the song’s plaintive bridge, and then it concludes with McPhee singing the chorus to a decidedly disco-like beat:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Smash/143113/2202909338/Rumor-Has-It/embed 580 476]

As much as we like to hear McPhee belt it out on this show, we would have been content with her dancing to the original track. McPhee’s got a great voice, but it just doesn’t compare to the power Adele brings to the song, and it showed when things switched from Adele to McPhee. The disco track backing her at the end didn’t help.

Instead of competing with Adele’s strong pipes, the key to tackling the song is to bring your own style to it, as rookie singer Mathai did when she sang the song during the blind audition round of “The Voice”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/The-Voice/141730/2199554791/Mathai-s-%22Rumor-Has-It%22/embed 580 476]

There’s a reason why Mathai got three of the four judges to turn their chairs; she couldn’t match Adele note for note, so she played the song in a bit more of an understated and coquettish manner, emphasizing the playful smokiness in her voice. When the boys turned their chairs and saw how flirtatious she was, it only made them even more enthusiastic.

But let’s not forget that “Glee” covered “Rumor Has It” in November, with the Troubletones singing it in the episode “Mash Off.” For a show that has never found a great song it couldn’t ruin by mashing it together with another song, they actually did a pretty good job of combining “Rumor” with another Adele hit, “Someone Like You”:

[iframe http://www.youtube.com/embed/-_uchIyNIvc 580 325]

It helps that both songs are a) from the same artist and b) convey similar messages of pain and rejection. And the show also gets credit for eschewing the Broadway-tuned singing of Lea Michele here and giving the song to two of their more passionate singers, Amber Riley and Naya Rivera. As usual, much of the song’s guts are Auto-Tuned out, but there’s a connection between emotion and song that the “Smash” version just doesn’t have.

So, even though it’s unfair to compare the performance of a nervous singer who is singing live to two performances from veterans that have gone through a lot of post-production magic, we’re going to do it anyway. Why? Because, in all honesty, we prefer Mathai’s version to the other two; she grabbed it and made it her own, rather than try to replicate the original, which was written and sung under some very trying circumstances.

Here’s the final order:

1) Mathai on “The Voice”

2) Rivera/Riley on “Glee”

3) McPhee on “Smash”

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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