Say what you will about Glee, the hit musical dramedy on Fox—if nothing else, it’s a very accurate barometer of pop music trends. Sure, there was the obligatory Justin Bieber episode and the elaborate homage to Madonna, but the show does more than point out the obvious. Time and time again, Glee hones in on our collective nostalgia, reaching into pop music’s past and deftly plucking out the songs that resonate loudest.
Then, it meticulously reproduces these songs, auto-tunes them until the singers sound like robots, and inserts them into a highly-choreographed fantasy high school soap opera.
All this is to say that Glee should never have touched Joan Jett. My Joan! Around the same time that Glee covered Joan Jett’s version of “Do You Wanna Touch me? (Oh Yeah)”, I had just gotten my hands on a copy of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: Greatest Hits and was blissfully enmeshed in a love affair with leather-clad Joan and the goofy chorus of male backup singers that follow doggedly at her heels across two discs of guitar-smashing, gender-bending, face-melting rock n’ roll. What got me about Joan wasn’t so much her bad-girl charm or her hard-rock posturing, but her earnest, unabashed delivery. Only Joan could utter lyrics as cynical and unpoetic as those found in “Bad Reputation”—“The world’s in trouble, there’s no communication/And everyone can say what they wanna say/It never gets better anyway/So why should I care about a bad reputation anyway?”—and imbue them with such unironic joy.
Needless to say, I was shocked to discover that Glee had also laid claim to Joan, and what’s worse, had embodied her in the anemic, bleach-blond form of Gwyneth Paltrow.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. While the discovery of a new (or old) artist always feels like an intensely personal experience, it never truly is. Joan may have been new to me, but she wasn’t to the rest of the world. What’s more, a spate of recent projects had already served to remind us of her existence: 2006’s Sinner, the Blackhearts’ first studio album to be released in the U.S. since 1994; the 2010 film The Runaways, a biopic about the eponymous all-girl rock band fronted by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie; and the 2010 release of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: Greatest Hits.
Apparently, Joan Jett has been manufacturing her comeback for a while now. If the proof of her success must come in the form of a shiny, over-produced musical number on a TV show about a quintessentially American high school populated entirely by lip-synching teenagers—so be it.
…And now, for your viewing pleasure: the music video for “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Glee version, and the video of the original version, by Gary Glitter, former glam-rocker and convicted sex offender!
Here are a few things that make the Joan Jett video better than the others:
1. close-up of flexing pectoral muscles
2. sledgehammering a bass drum (a creative variation on the ubiquitous smashing-of-the-guitar)
3. Joan Jett