“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.”
Billboard put Glee in the spotlight, and on the cover, of the May 8, 2010, issue, nearly a year after the Fox series’ cast made its chart debut. Ten years ago today, on June 6, 2009, the troupe’s covers of Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Amy Winehouse‘s “Rehab” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at Nos. 4 and 98, respectively (the former with a hefty 177,000 downloads sold in the tracking week, according to Nielsen Music). The songs appeared in the first Glee episode, which aired on May 19, 2009.
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 released 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 chart.)
On the Hot 100 dated Feb. 26, 2011, not even two years into the show’s run, the Glee Cast passed Presley’s longstanding record for the most appearances. (Drake, now 14 entries from matching the current mark, made his Hot 100 debut two weeks before the Glee Cast’s, with “Best I Ever Had” on the May 23, 2009-dated tally.)
“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, mused 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), the Glee ensemble scored 31 Billboard 200 album chart entries, 14 of which hit the top 10, including three No. 1s. Its to-date album sales stand at 8 million, according to Nielsen Music.
Meanwhile, the Glee Cast 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, Jane 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.
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-, 5,000 people.
“It happened really fast.”