Kieran Moore – Sometimes one of the best things about writing this article is that I get to make little discoveries. As I’ve said in the past, my knowledge of recent Sesame Street is limited because the show no longer airs here in the UK. So when researching Muppeteers that are mostly associated with that show I get to find out about some of the newer characters that I may have missed. While looking into the songs of Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, I got to meet Abby Cadabby and I think she might just be one of the most charming Muppets ever (but more of that later). First, let me just say Leslie can sing and sing well, there are some real powerhouse vocals on this list. Second, this has been one of the toughest lists to put in order – not since my very first chart for Jim Henson, have I had this much trouble ordering the songs. Even as I write this introduction I’m still unsure about where the top 3 songs will fall. And that’s testament to just how good all of Leslie’s performances are. So let’s get on with it!
UPDATE: When this article was first published it included the “The Coffee Song” from Muppets Tonight in 2nd place (link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu_LMJCifig). And then something amazing happened! Leslie’s husband Paul Rudolph, who was also the music co-ordinator on Muppets Tonight (and current Music Director – Vocals on Sesame Street) got in touch to tell us “The Coffee Song” from Muppets Tonight was actually sung by the stage manager at the time, Mavis Davis, she is credited as an “additional performer” in the credit roll, and she was never listed as vocalist for the song.
So although Leslie is doing the puppetry, as it’s not her vocals I have now deemed “The Coffee Song” ineligible for the chart. Interestingly, what this now means is that since the chart has a gap I get to move things up a place and include the song that just missed out on a spot in the top 10 previously which by coincidence happens to be “Guess The Seasons” with music written by Paul Rudolph. It’s a funny old world!
10. Guess the Seasons Song – Abby Cadabby, Zoe, and Rosita from Sesame Street
It’s impossible to sit still to this song! As I sit and type I can’t help but do some awesome chair dancing. It seems weird to describe a song as “jaunty”, but that exactly what this is. It also makes me smile a lot, but then that’s the magic of Sesame Street. This brings me nicely to the magic of Abby Cadabby who seems to have the same ability. Doesn’t she look adorable in her earmuffs? With the lyrics shared out so equally there aren’t a lot of opportunities to shine vocally, although obviously the singing is top-notch, but what I’m enchanted by is Leslie’s puppetry. The way Abby dances and expresses herself is mesmerizing and I can’t take my eyes off of her. She’s so into the music she can’t help but dance. I know how she feels!
9. Sit Down and Dance – Edi from Animal Jam
This is such a fun song! Who doesn’t love a song with actions, especially when it has a great Latin-influenced beat? I’ll admit that I wasn’t as familiar with Animal Jam as I could have been, but I spent lots of time watching clips last night on YouTube and I think it’s a great show. Leslie does a fantastic job with Edi. It’s a super puppet with those great gangly limbs and Leslie really makes the most of them. Her enthusiastic vocals are just a joy to listen to as well. I love the fact that Edi sounds like a Zebra without resorting to obvious neighs and whinnies. It’s almost undefinable, but when you listen to the little giggles and nuances of the voice you absolutely believe that this is a young Zebra singing. Brilliant!
8. Two Friends of Two – Abby Cadabby and Elmo from Sesame Street
So here’s our first Abby Cadabby song on the chart and it’s a duet with Elmo. I think they work great together. To be honest I often find Elmo annoying, the sickly sweet voice, the referring to yourself in the third person, the being ubiquitous… Abby on the other hand I find to be incredibly charming. Vocally there isn’t much of a difference between the two – they’re both high-pitched and childlike and yet I find Leslie imbues Abby with a quality that just makes we want to be her friend. This song is another example of what Sesame does best – it’s entertaining and educational and just plain fun. Oh, and it has great harmonies – what more could you ask for?
7. I Love Words – Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street
This is musically great! I really dig the slow intro and how it builds to the up tempo main body of the song and then how it’s slowed down again to allow the viewer to join in. And what about that big jazzy finish? I defy you not to shimmy! I’d have loved it to get even quicker for a verse or two to make it a real tongue-twister! Is anyone else getting a Vanellope von Schweetz vibe from this? Has Sarah Silverman ever said where her inspiration for her performance in Wreck-it Ralph came from? There are certainly some similarities. Leslie performs this song with gusto; she must be having a ball here.
6. Hurray-Hurrah for Broccoli – Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street
There are a few kids I know who could benefit from listening to this song. It’s such a common problem for parents it’s good to see television tackling the issues that really matter! I’m at track 7 on my countdown and I’m already in danger of turning into a broken record. Fun song? Check! Sung brilliantly? Check! Makes me want to give Abby a hug? Check! She’s just adorable here. Leslie is once again on fine form with a great vocal that actually has more subtle inflection than first listen would suggest. And let’s take a moment to mention Abby’s laugh – it could be one of the most annoying laughs in history in less-skilled hands, but Leslie makes it so cute it’s infectious. Watching Abby just makes me smile. This could be the happiest top 10 ever.
5. Because We’re Friends – Abby, Zoe and Rosita from Sesame Street
Sesame Street is full of great friendships, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and Snuffy, Oscar and Slimey… and with the addition of so many new female characters in recent years (or recent years for a long-running show like Sesame Street) it was inevitable that we’d end up with a gang of girls who were firm friends as well. With three younger characters this is the song on my list that gets closest to annoying cutesy kiddiness and yet the friendship angle gets it passed that and makes it sweet rather than cloying. I’m going to go out on limb and say that I think Abby is the best singer of the three. This is no comment on the performers, but the characters themselves. I think she has the sweeter, more tuneful voice. I’m not very familiar with Rosita, but I’m also a big fan of Zoe and the way these three girls work together is a joy to behold.
4. I Can Sing – Abby Cadabby and Elmo from Sesame Street
Outside of Christmas repeats I think this is the first song to appear on two of my charts and certainly the first song to appear in two different incarnations. This is an updated version of the Louise Gold/Jerry Nelson classic and it works almost as well here. I say almost because I think the differences between Louisey and Herry Monster are more pronounced than they are between Abby and Elmo. Either way, this is a super song that celebrates differences and embraces them and what’s not to love about that? Musically, there’s a lot to enjoy here too. The different styles blend well and combine to just make me happy. Again, there are some great harmonies and Leslie excels here!
3. Kids with Wings – Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street
This is another song that celebrates diversity which is not only one of Sesame Street’s main objective’s, but also one of the key features of the character of Abby (she was purposely designed to look slightly different to the usual Sesame Street crew to help illustrate that she was from elsewhere originally.) On first listen I thought this song was a bit sickly and was in a lower chart position, but it just charmed me so much that it leapt up the list and was kind of responsible for changing Abby from a Muppet I like to a Muppet I love. The “Tra la las” are just so endearing. Making Oscar a foil for this upbeat song is comedy gold and he works well against the happy character of Abby. Leslie’s performance is like a big old cuddly hug. I’m also a sucker for moments of sweetness between Muppets and kids and the hug and kiss that Abby gets at the end of the song are the cherry on the cake for me.
2. Springin’ – Edi from Animal Jam
I just love this song. It’s like a John Denver song had babies with some 80’s power chords and this was the result. As a song, this is by far my favorite song on the list. One of my biggest disappointments with Fraggle Rock songs is that they’re usually too short and this is a proper song with a proper running time. It has a very Henson-esque feel with its message of earth and music and in other life this could be a Cantus song very easily. It’s a shame it hasn’t been used in other forms as I think it could work in and out of the context of the show. Perhaps Abby could perform it on Sesame Street? Leslie once again shows us just how good she is at not just singing, but performing and characterization. It’s another song where just a word or two can convey so much about the character and in this instance even when they’re not on screen. Bravo!
1. My Own Fairy Tale – Abby Cadabby from Abby in Wonderland
I’m struggling to explain to myself why this song is number 1 (which is an issue as I’m supposed to be writing about it here). “Springin” is my favorite song musically and yet I keep coming back to this simply sweet song from Abby Cadabby. It’s no good, she’s worked her magic – I’m enthralled. What can I say? I think Abby’s great. The theme of wanting to be bigger surely resonates with all the kids who listen to this song, but the theme of wanting more is universal. This shows so many facets of Abby’s personality I guess it sums her up quite nicely. It’s endearing and cute; it’s a little bit feisty yet full of wonder; it’s magical and heartfelt. I suppose that’s why it’s at number 1. Leslie is just superb in this song. Every word is pitched perfectly. You could dissect each phrase and it would be delivered faultlessly, but that would do a disservice to the whole. Despite the fact that on paper she’s the kind of character I might avoid, Abby is going on my MILM list (Muppets I’d Like to Meet) and that is purely down to Leslie’s portrayal.
To sum up and try to define the indefinable, I guess the prevailing word seems to be heart. Thank you Leslie for melting my heart. It was fairly gooey in the first place (hey, I’m a Muppets fan after all), but you’ve given me a whole new appreciation for purple Zebras and above all you’ve made me fall in love with a pink fairy. Yes, heart’s definitely the right word here. Your performances have heart whether they’re extolling the virtues of broccoli or singing about friendship and diversity. As a listener/viewer that just means so much. That sense of heart talks to me – I care because you care. Writing this list has truly made me happy (and I was in an Oscar mood earlier today believe it or not) so thank you Leslie. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org