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A Glee Star’s Playlist

Kevin McHale discusses the show’s final episode and his favorite tunes

“I didn’t grow up thinking [singing] was something I could do,” says triple threat actor, singer and dancer Kevin McHale. “When you’re a little kid and you’re watching music videos, seeing the famous singers, you don’t think they’re normal people.” Little did the now 26-year-old know, he’d go on to play the role of Artie Abrams on the hit musical television show, Glee

Now in its final season, the Fox series, which premiered back in 2009, will air its last episode on March 20. “What I think they’ve done is really try and get back to basics and incorporate characters that people loved at the beginning,” says McHale on what viewers can expect from the show’s send-off. “Glee club and the friends those characters made are home base. Because we brought back so many oldies this year, you’ll see just what this journey meant to all of these characters.” 

Exactly what has the journey meant to McHale? When asked about his favorite performance on the show, McHale says, “Selfishly, it was Safety Dance, which was my first dream sequence where I got to get up and dance.” It was the first and only episode directed by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon. “I got to surprise my mom and sister by having them come to the mall where we were doing it. There was this huge flash mob in the middle of an actual mall,” he says.

But this is not the last you’ll see of McHale. The singer-slash-actor is starring alongside Dustin Hoffmann, Josh Lucas and Kathy Bates in Francois Girard’s drama Boychoir. “It was terrifying, but they were just so welcoming,” McHale says of working with such an all-star cast. “I met Dustin on my first day. We had to learn how to conduct choirs. That was a very surreal experience standing in this beautiful chapel, learning how to conduct next to Dustin Hoffman.” 

And while he has his hands full with future projects, he’ll remember the show he’s spent the better part of a decade working on. On what he’ll miss the most about filming Glee, McHale first and foremost names the show’s crew. “They are family and it’ll be tough not seeing them every day,” he says. “I’ve always had this feeling of oh my god, I get to film a TV show for my job! But at the end of a 22-episode run and working on something for ten months straight, you lose sight of that. When you have a hiatus, you’re like ‘that’s pretty awesome that I am getting to do what I love.’ I get to show up and hang out on set with cameras. As simple as that sounds, it’s the dream.” 

Below, McHale shares some of his favorite tunes of the moment. “I’m not ashamed to say that I love pop music. I’m a kid of the ‘90s. I really respect someone who can make a great pop song. I’m also obsessed with R&B and love alternative rock in a way that it can change a vibe of an entire room. Well, that and Motown.” 

“King” by Years & Years
“I didn’t realize I had seen the lead singer of Years and Years in so many films. “King” is their newest song and I think it’s their best. I’m going to the U.K. in a couple weeks and I am going to try my hardest to see them live. I just kind of became obsessed with them. I think 2015 will be a huge year for them, hopefully.”

 “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney
“I will admit it, I love Kanye and obviously Paul McCartney, too. The song’s not perfect, but the more I listen to it, the more I want to hear it. It just happened to turn into a jam that I can’t get enough of. I play it several times every day right now.”

“Silver Lining” by Jazmine Sullivan
“Silver Lining may be my favorite song from Jazmine Sullivan’s new album. She can turn any average line or lyric into the most heartbreaking thing because her voice has this depth that I’ve never heard before. I think this her best album. I’ve kind of worn it out very quickly. It’s just so good or maybe I’m just a sucker for her voice.”

“Truffle Butter” by Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne
“I feel like rap can be so funny. Sometimes people don’t see it from that perspective and I really feel like they are missing out because the lyrics for “Truffle Butter” are so ridiculous—it’s hilarious. I feel like it’s almost stand-up put to rhyme in a beat. And what “Truffle Butter” actually means is horrifying. I just love it.”

“Feel Right” by Mark Ronson ft. Mystikal
“This one by Mark Ronson and Mystikal does exactly what the title says and I feel all types of things. I saw it on SNL for the first time. It’s just so James Brown and funky.”

“Betray My Heart” by D’Angelo
“He’s speaking an alien language, but it’s beautiful and I just want to hear more of it. The musicianship on this album is incredible. Each song is not an average song with verse, chorus, verse—they have more vibe and it’s really great to listen to.”

“Jealous” by Labrinth
“I think is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a very long time. His voice is incredible. The piano, his voice, the writing and the melodies are beautiful. The song he had with Emeli Sande—that was the first I’d ever really heard of him.”

“Stockholm Syndrome” by One Direction
“I was shocked that I loved this album as much as I did. I think it’s probably because they are finding themselves as artists, had more control over this album and wrote more than they’ve ever written. They’re not boy band songs whatsoever. They sound more like a pop-rock band, which I think goes well with how they perform anyways. I’ve never been a huge fan of theirs before, but I think almost every single song on this album is great.”

“Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier
“He’s awesome. It’s one of those things that I’m just so dumbfounded when someone can sound like they’ve been through so much and have so much soul in their voice. The story he tells is great. It’s one of my favorites.”

“Against All Odds” by Phil Collins
“This is my new favorite. I was in a Thai restaurant a couple of weeks ago and an instrumental Thai version of this came on and I was like ‘What is this song? I haven’t heard it in so long.’ It made me appreciate it and gave whole new life to it. I immediately bought it on iTunes and haven’t stopped listening to it since.”