Kieran Moore – Well, this is an unexpected treat! Thanks to the magic of the internet and website deadlines this chart was compiled before it was announced that Robin the Frog would be making his debut on ABC’s “The Muppets” in the episode “Little Green Lie” (check listings for details)! I’ve wanted to write about everyone’s second favorite frog (sorry Gil) for a while now and I can’t believe the “unbelievable coincidence” that has led to these events happening in the same week!
I’m probably being a little unkind in saying that Robin is everyone’s second favorite frog – I’m sure there are Muppet fans that would list him ahead of his Uncle Kermit. He’s certainly something of a cult figure. I was lucky enough to see “Muppets Most Wanted” several times at a movie theater (including once at the London premiere) and on every occasion Robin’s “very brief cameo” got a huge response. There is certainly a lot of love for our fine flippered friend. And interestingly enough friendship is the theme of our first song so let’s jump right in, make a splash and explore the top 10 songs of Robin the Frog…
10 – Friendship – Robin, Kermit, Molly and Melville – The Muppet Show
This is a great song to start with as it highlights Robin’s relationship with his Uncle Kermit. I have five nephews myself and as someone who was never close to his own uncles I really appreciate that relationship from the other side now. As an Uncle I get to find the thing I have in common which each of my nephews and then expand it and do cool stuff and have mini adventures. Thankfully I have a nephew (and niece) that adore the Muppets so having fun with them is easy. I guess in the context of Kermit’s 3465 siblings (who presumably have about 3466 kids themselves) his relationship with Robin in particular is especially special. Of course there’s no doubting the fact that to Robin Kermit is his coolest uncle, but that works both ways. Robin is obviously Kermit’s coolest nephew in return!
9 – I Will Survive – Robin & Monster Chorus – Muppet Monster Adventure
It’s a strange thing that happens occasionally. In the same way that you might win “Best Actor”, but then not be awarded “Best Actor in an Action Movie” at the same ceremony this song is actually a previous number one yet finds itself way down at number nine here. By way of explanation, it’s simply that as much as I love this song (and I do) I feel that when looking at the character of Robin there are eight songs that are more representative of him and who he is. This song does show off his pluckiness to great effect though. When you listen to the lyrics despite its main “can do” message it’s actually pretty funny. Although the Muppets don’t need an excuse to be hilarious maybe they felt the need to tone down the scarier elements of the song with humor. This is after all a young child (however resilient) being threatened by monsters!
8 – Over the Rainbow – Robin – The Muppet Show
Three songs in and I still haven’t mentioned Jerry Nelson! I feel slightly ashamed… Now is the perfect time to repent though as this song (despite looking lovely) really is all about the vocals. Jerry is one of my favorite singers (Muppet-based or otherwise) and his voice shines here. It’s got just the right amount of purity and innocence for Robin, yet it’s big and soaring when it needs to be. Those high notes are so perfect they do something insane to my insides. As a singer I can attest that only someone very skilled would be able to hit them the way he does. It’s easy to belt them out, but to sing them in such a soft and light manner makes me stand up and applaud. This is also a fantastic performance from an acting point of view. I’m suddenly having to remind myself why this is only number eight!
7 – Octopus’ Garden – Robin, Kermit, Miss Piggy and Sea Creatures – The Muppet Show
I’ve used the word fun a couple of times already and though you might not believe it I don’t like to keep repeating myself; here I simply have no choice – this song is plain fun. From the novelty of seeing these characters “underwater” to the comedy of Animal chasing a very nasty looking piscine predator, the whole thing is designed to make you smile. Robin and Kermit swimming (presumably on wires in the context of the show) really makes this number standout and Miss Piggy makes a great double for Esther Williams as a musical mermaid. Despite its origins with The Beatles I learned Octopus’ Garden at school and it’s often seen as a children’s song so I guess it’s appropriate the Robin is performing here. Aside from Kermit and Robin (and to a lesser extent Floyd and Dr. Teeth) I can’t think of any other obvious pairings between Jerry Nelson and Jim Henson characters which is a shame as they work brilliantly together here.
6 – I’m Nineteen – Sir Robin the Brave and Princess Melora – The Frog Prince (song starts at 2:11)
It seems kind of strange to us now that Robin would be singing a love duet with a 19 year old, but it’s important to remember this isn’t Robin as we know and love him today – here he’s the froggy version of Sir Robin the Brave (Sir Robin the Terrible Lip-Syncer was taken). Sir Robin as we see at the start of The Frog Prince is a young adult (so we can all heave a sigh of relief) who has been wickedly turned into an amphibious form by the evil witch Taminella. If you haven’t seen the full show I heartily recommend you do. This is Robin’s debut performance and Jerry Nelson is almost imperceptibly playing the character as older, if you listen carefully you can just about hear it in this song. Trudy Young as Melora has a great rapport with Robin so you really do root for this couple as the show progresses. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to record the part where they’re singing almost identical lyrics at the same time!
5 – Someone to Watch Over Me – Robin – The Muppet Show
In a similar fashion to “Over the Rainbow” this song really is all about Jerry Nelson and his phenomenal voice. In fact I could pretty much copy and paste my earlier write up – as much of what I want to say has been covered already. Jerry is pitch perfect – not just in terms of tuning, but also in the way he adds emphasis and meaning to the lyrics. Speaking of which a little judicious editing has taken place with the words for this song to tone down its romantic emphasis and I think it works much better for a character of Robin’s age that way. Everything from Rowlf’s piano playing to Robin’s heartfelt delivery is perfect. In the world of wacky connections, Miss Piggy sang this on “Dolly”, Dolly Parton’s mid 80’s variety show. Interestingly she also sang our number 10 song “Friendship” in the same episode!
4 – Bless Us All – Tiny Tim, Bob, Emily, Peter, Belinda and Betina Cratchit – Muppet Christmas Carol
Muppet Christmas Carol has the power to reduce me to tears every time. And it’s not always in the same place; however this song is probably a fairly safe bet if you want to start a sweepstake. I just love this song – Paul Williams strikes again and tugs on the old heartstrings in a way that few others can. Once Kermit was cast as Bob Cratchit I guess it was a no brainer that Robin would be Tiny Tim (though I would like to see Big Mean Carl’s screen test as a DVD extra someday…) Having Tiny Tim portrayed by a character with Robin’s history makes what happens in “Christmas-Yet-To-Come” an even tougher watch. Did they really just kill off Robin? Even in a fantasy sequence that’s pretty bleak. Thankfully it all turns out right in the end and at least Kermit gets to see what a frog “on tiny crutches” looks like!
3 – When the River Meets the Sea – Robin, Kermit and Jimmy Fallon – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
When the River Meets the Sea is one of my favorite Muppet songs and I’ve featured it several times before – including once in this more obscure version for my Matt Vogel chart. Of course there is the definitive Robin/John Denver performance from “A Christmas Together”, but I decided to pick this version to represent the song because it allows me to discuss Matt and his take on Robin. As a general rule Matt has taken over the vast majority of Jerry Nelson’s characters and has been doing incredible things with them. Sadly his appearances as Robin have been few and far between, but with his imminent debut on “The Muppets” we’re finally going to learn more about Matt’s version of this fantastic frog. I’m really hoping that Robin sticks around, but from the synopsis of episode 14 it seems that he hasn’t been in Kermit’s life much recently (and certainly hasn’t been online much!) so I don’t know if that will happen. Flippers crossed…
2 – Two Lost Souls – Robin and Sweetums – The Muppet Show
I’ve literally just realized I’ve done it again! The number in the song title coincides with its chart position! I swear it isn’t on purpose! Sweetums is another character who made his debut on “The Frog Prince” (as Taminella’s hench-ogre). In fact it’s her pet name for him that went on to become the title we know him by now – until I watched the special I just thought they were being ironic! Because of their heritage it makes perfect sense for them to be appearing together here regardless of any obvious humor that is derived from their sizes. There have been some incredible songs on this list, but the main reason this stands out is Robin’s obvious rapport with Sweetums. This reflects Jerry’s great working relationship with Richard Hunt (who is performing Sweetums here). They are incredible together. Visually this is a treat to watch as they hide Jerry brilliantly. It’s a true Muppet classic.
1 – Halfway Down the Stairs – Robin – The Muppet Show
And speaking of a true Muppet classic, this song surely rivals Rainbow Connection, Bein’ Green and Mahna Mahna for recognisability within the non-Muppet fan community. Especially here in the UK where it actually hit number seven in the singles chart in 1977. I’d be interested to know if number seven is actually The Muppets’ highest ever chart position for a mainstream single release. I guess there’s a chance something from Sesame Street could have beaten it. Anyway, you don’t need me to tell you how amazing this song is you can hear it for yourself. Jerry is perhaps at his most pure and youthful as Robin sings of not being sure exactly where he fits in. There’s a beautiful stillness to this song that is impossible to ignore. It makes this piece irresistible and I’d be surprised to meet somebody who wasn’t utterly captivated by this the moment Robin starts singing. It’s spellbinding.
Ordinarily “spellbinding” would be a perfect way to finish a chart about a character that came about because of a witch’s curse, but to illustrate the point further I hope you’ll indulge me and take a look at the song at number 11 too. That song is “Leave Me Some Magic” and it missed out on tenth place by just half a point. I can’t wait to see Robin on the new show and hopefully his return will encourage a few of the viewers that felt the show was leaving behind its roots to tune in again. In the meantime I want to thank Robin for bringing the magic, wonder and innocence of childhood to the Muppets. In a world that can get bogged down by the trials of adulthood it’s good to see things from a youthful perspective once in a while. Thank You.