Kieran Moore – Hey! You know Kermit? The world’s most famous frog… And Miss Piggy? The world’s most famous pig… And Gonzo? The world’s most famous whatever… Well feel free to forget them for the next however long it takes you to read this. For the first time in possibly forever, none of them appear in a chart they are technically eligible for. Honestly, it true. You can tip this list upside down and shake it about and still you’ll never find a Fozzie or a Scooter or a Rowlf. Back in 2003, apart from a few guest spots here and there, you had to look pretty hard to find the core Muppet gang just about anywhere. It was like a felt and fur version of Where’s Waldo? There have been years before this with very little Muppet Show character presence, but even then Kermit usually makes a very brief cameo.
You’d think all that might have made this week’s chart a little difficult, but actually I’ve had no problem finding songs. Sesame Street continued apace and a brand new show took over from Bear in the Big Blue House to add some furry animal fun. So let’s get on – that’s quite enough “Waffle” from me…
10 – Jam It – Animal Jam
Of all the more obscure Henson kids shows I think Animal Jam might be my favorite. It has so much going for it, starting with a fun curriculum that focuses on motion and movement (as is seen in this song). Second, I love the music from this show. It runs through so many genres it feels a bit like Fraggle Rock in that sense – in fact this country rock number reminds me a little of “Fraggle Rock Rock” in places. I also really dig the colors and art direction on display here. The characters are brilliantly designed, are fun to look at and, because they need to for the show, move so well. Bozark for example is all floppy limbs and trunk and he undulates around the set with a real kinetic energy. Finally, for me the thing that makes this production so good are the performances. Rickey Boyd is portraying Waffle the Cow-Monkey here and I adore his voice. Rickey is an underrated Muppet performer who’s appeared in everything from The Jim Henson Hour to Abby in Wonderland.
9 – I Soaks Up the Sun – Sesame Street
We’re continuing on with our rock-lite theme with this Sheryl Crow parody song. Here Ms. Crow is singing all about her friend the letter “I” and how much he enjoys the sun. It’s a well used device that Sesame Street takes words like “I” and “You” in song lyrics and turns them into letters, but that doesn’t diminish its charm. Tracks like What Makes U Useful and Don’t Know Y are comedy gold. Sheryl is as good here as she always is. I don’t know if I’ll ever disassociate her with All I Wanna Do, but that’s the curse of having a big hit I suppose. It’s fun seeing the Muppet monsters in their summer beachwear – I particularly like Zoe’s hat!
8 – I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon – Sesame Street
You don’t need me to tell you how great this song is. Every time I hear it, it tugs on my heartstrings a little more. This version might not quite hit the same emotional level as Ernie’s, but it’s still pretty awesome. Bob, Rosita and Telly sound delightful together and I love their harmonies which, try as he might, are something Ernie could just never manage on his own! Well done to Bob McGrath, Martin P. Robinson and Carmen Osbahr for this beautiful rendition. This version is sadly truncated and comes from an episode that opens with a Karaoke night which features lots of shortened versions of classic Sesame songs. I contemplated putting some of them in this list, as they are generally pretty good, but they were mostly a little too scant. The whole sequence is online though and well worth checking out if you have the time.
7 – If I Were the Letter B – Sesame Street
Letters of the alphabet are certainly doing well in this chart so far! “B” in particular seems to be faring better than some, as it appeared prominently in last week’s chart too. As well as being about letters, this is also another fun parody song; in this case aping If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof. The original is a great song and this is just as good. At risk of sounding like a broken record, I also like the staging of this. It’s bright and colorful and the farmyard animals add a lot of warmth and humor. I wrote a while ago about how versatile Kevin Clash is as a performer – he’s equally adept at playing cutesy and hard as nails, but I never would have guessed this was him if I hadn’t have read it on Muppet Wiki. I just couldn’t place the voice so expected it to be someone more obscure singing this – I was very pleasantly surprised.
6 – Brothers and Sisters – Sesame Street
I find it pretty impossible to resist this song as I’m one of seven siblings so I know all about large families and the relationships between brothers and sisters. It’s hard to define really, but I guess it’s the shared experiences that you all have. You’ll never find someone who you can hate and love in equal measure at the same time quite like a sibling! This song is pulling double duty here as it’s representing not just this fine tune, but also I’ll Show You the World which I sadly can’t find online. Both appear in the episode(s) of Sesame Street where Curly Bear is born and tackle similar issues in very different ways. Stephanie D’Abruzzo and John Tartaglia sing beautifully together, which is just as well as they starred together in 2003 in the original Broadway production of Avenue Q. I guess this is slightly less edgy, but no less fun.
5 – ABC Hip Hop – Sesame Street
Since these charts began I’ve featured the alphabet in just about every musical genre imaginable from opera and madrigal to gospel and African chant. Today we’re adding hip hop to that list. The rhythms and tempos here are smooth and relaxed yet punchy and grabby at the same time and that really makes this something special. Olamide Faison as Miles has a wonderful, blues/gospel/RnB style voice and he makes this seem effortless. I almost feel a bit sorry for the Muppet performers who have to try and keep up with his runs. It’s not that they aren’t great singers themselves, but doing this sort of thing when you’re putting on a voice, particularly in a higher octave than you’re used to, can’t be easy. They just about get away with it!
4 – Warm It Up – Animal Jam
After a brief interlude we’re back with the Animal Jam bunch for this tropically-tinged song all about how animals keep warm. I guess the musical style makes sense in that context even if it looks odd against the frosty looking visuals on display. See what I was saying about musical styles in this show? The Henson Company do music so well. I swear my appreciation of different genres of music comes directly from my Muppet fandom – it has to. The three DJs that appear in Animal Jam are possibly some of the funniest Henson characters ever. They have such wonderful chemistry and I think that must be down to the performers working so well together behind the scenes. They are played by John Tartaglia (he’s getting everywhere today), John Kennedy and Andy Stone and they make a fantastic team.
3 – Mr Rogers Tribute – Daytime Emmy Awards
This is the point where I have to mention in the spirit of full disclosure that we didn’t have Mr. Rogers or his neighborhood in the UK (at least not as far as I’m aware), so I don’t really feel as connected to these songs as I probably could. However I don’t think that matters too much. Ultimately, we have the Sesame Street Muppets performing some wonderful songs in tribute to a beloved entertainer and really that’s enough either way. These pieces make me wish I did know Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood better as they offer fantastic messages in beautiful, eloquent ways. It seems as though the show must have been warm and uplifting and something truly special. I might not get a tear in my eye the same way I do watching tributes to Jim Henson, but these songs make me sure that someone out there does. This is simply lovely.
2 – Reach, Reach, Reach for the Stars – Animal Jam
This is such a great number! I just can’t stop myself from wanting to join in and reach, reach, reach for the stars whenever I listen to it. It has a smooth Latin feel that I want to say makes it a salsa number, but truthfully that’s a guess based on my zero knowledge of Latin American dancing. Maybe it’s a rumba or a cha cha cha or something else entirely. Either way, I want to sway my hips to it so it’s all good. This song is sung by DJ 3 who is performed by Andy Stone. Of the three performers that make up the DJs in Animal Jam Andy is sadly the least known to Muppet fans. He appeared in several productions around the turn of the century; including Muppets from Space, Elmo in Grouchland and Sesame Street; and on the strength of this song deserves to be much more recognized than he is. If this really is him singing (and I have to believe it is) he should have stuck around more. At least we have this song to soften the blow…
1 – Springin’ – Animal Jam
You may have noticed that all through my ruminations about Animal Jam I haven’t mentioned Edi or her performer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and that’s because I was saving all my praise for this moment. I adore this song. Two and a half years ago I wrote my Leslie Carrara-Rudolph chart and this song took second place. Not to diminish the song that took top spot, but I kind of regretted that this was number two almost as soon as it was posted. I just couldn’t get this tune out of my head and I find myself humming it at random times even now. It’s become one of my favorite Muppet songs. This is in part because of Leslie herself. I think she’s a phenomenal singer and performer who fills all of her characters with a wonderful spirit. Edi is no exception. On top of that I just plain love this song. As I mentioned a moment ago it has stuck with me and that’s the sign of an incredible piece of music. It has a wonderful message, powerful chords and a sing along chorus that is up there with the best of them. What’s not to love?
So there we have it. I think this chart has definitively proved that Kermit the Frog and his friends are completely unnecessary and we don’t really need them after all. I don’t think we’ve missed them here so perhaps we should just forget they ever existed? It worked for the powers that be with seasons 4 and 5 of The Muppet Show… Of course I’m joking, but it has been interesting to see that even without the gang’s input the quality hasn’t dipped. This is largely due to the creative geniuses behind Sesame Street and Animal Jam so I’m finishing off today by saying a massive “Thank You” to them for keeping the home fires burning. Thank You.
Join me in 2004 as Kermit finds a new home at the House of Mouse, Rosita finds new arms and Sesame Street celebrates their past by finding something new…