Kieran Moore – Now that my yearly charts have made it to a time in which I remember the Muppets as an adult fan (truthfully that happened a decade ago) I find myself viewing each 12 month period in a different light to the rose-tinted era that was the 80s. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t still imbibing in Muppet Kool-Aid during this period – just that I found myself viewing each project in relation to the real life backstage shenanigans that were also happening.
By 2006, Disney had owned the Muppets for a while and we fans were gearing up for big things. While it might still take a while to get a new movie or TV show, there were plenty of personal appearances and smaller things to enjoy in the meantime. Over on Sesame Street, changes such as hot topics and new characters were also making their presence felt. In fact, while we’re on the subject…
10 – The Welcome Song – Sesame Street
Nowadays it’s hard to imagine a time when Abby Cadabby wasn’t on Sesame Street. She’s such a huge part of the show now and, dare I say it, for youngsters there’s a good chance she’s the show’s current number 2 star (after Elmo of course). It’s wonderful that with Abby, Rosita, Zoe and Prairie Dawn we now have such strong female characters on Sesame Street. This song introduces Abby to her fairytale contemporaries in a wonderful way. I’m sometimes a bit unsure about Abby being the daughter of an actual fairytale character rather than just a random fairy. There’s something in my head that says fairytales are pure fantasy and Sesame Street is simply a different version of our world. It’s splitting hairs I guess, but I think there’s a subtle difference. Of course, this is on purpose as Abby is intentionally very different from the other Muppet characters so she can represent someone from a different “culture” and not be just another Muppet monster.
9 – It Feels Good When You Sing a Song – Sesame Street
Does anyone else hear a glimmer of I Hope That Something Better Comes Along in those first few piano notes John Legend plays? There are certainly other similarities between the two pieces. This classic song first appeared on Sesame Street in the early 80s where it was sung by David and Olivia to cheer the latter up when she was having a bad day. Here John uses it for the exact same purpose with Hoots. This track bowls along in an up tempo jazz style that certainly wouldn’t sound out of place at Birdland. Both John Legend and Kevin Clash have incredible singing voices and they’re given a chance to really showcase what they can do with this song. Despite the rehearsal that must have gone into this they sound so relaxed it feels impromptu. That’s something only the best performers can do.
8 – The Ding-Along Song – Sesame Street
Sesame Street is killing it today! There are several types of Sesame Street song; some will teach you the alphabet or basic maths, others life skills such as how to eat healthily and some are purely for the joy of music. This is very much the latter and joy is absolutely the correct word to use. This is joyous to listen to. I suppose it could be a spiritual sequel to the Honker-Duckie-Dinger Jamboree, but it definitely has enough about it to stand on its own two feet. I love the country hoedown feel this has, while the bells make it sound a little Christmassy. It’s performed with gusto by Steve Whitmire – you can tell he’s revelling in the silliness. As the final joke of this sketch proves, now you’ve heard this you’ll be humming it all night!
7 – ‘Zat You, Santa Claus? – A Green and Red Christmas
As we’ve seen, Sesame Street was producing some great musical moments in 2006. On the face of it the Muppets were lagging behind by only releasing a single album, but never be bogged down by statistics. What we fans actually knew was this album, A Green and Red Christmas, represented a huge change in the Muppets and one that would lay the groundwork for everything that’s happened since. This is the moment we got confirmation that Disney weren’t just going to let Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo carry the franchise and instead we would be getting classic characters and fan favorites back very soon. Not only do we have the fantastic (and I mean that) Bill Barretta performing here as Dr. Teeth, we also got recasts for Rowlf and Floyd on this album too. On first listen it took a while to get used to the changes, but 12 years on these are very much the characters we know and love today.
6 – It Takes a Street – Sesame Street
I thought it took at least a village, but what do I know? This song about community could be Sesame Street’s manifesto really. Once again Hoots is back in the frame as he sings and plays whilst watching the action unfold below. Speaking of which, I really like this scene with Sesame Street full of people going about their daily lives. It’s quite unusual to see actual hustle and bustle in their neighborhood, so this makes a nice change. The street seems alive and vibrant and the tracking shot of Elmo on his tricycle is beautiful. This feels real. Which is perfect as from there we see Sesame Street connect to real life streets around the world. It’s a neat touch to show how small communities combine to make larger ones and it fits the ethos of the show perfectly.
5 – Clean Up the Truck – Bear in the Big Blue House
What do Annie Wilkes, Rasputin and Bear have in common? None of them seem to stay down for very long! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written, “Well this is it – the last time we’ll see Bear on one of my yearly charts.” only for him to pop back up again like a furry Lazarus. This must be the last time, surely? Not that I’m complaining of course! I love me some Bear! This latest stab at chart supremacy comes courtesy of Disney (who at this point own the Bear franchise) finally showing 8 unaired episodes that were recorded several years earlier. As much as I like this song (and I really do), I must admit it’s a bit of a placeholder as I struggled to find online clips of anything from this final, final run of episodes. Ideally I’d have liked to include a song that features Bear and said a proper “goodbye” to the character. This track, however, is a lot of fun and continues the Latin feel much of the music from “Bear” had so I guess it’s fitting anyway.
4 – I’m Your Mommy Now – Sesame Street
Taken another way the title of this song could be really sinister! Instead, here it’s a lovely piece about what it’s like to finally be a parent. As someone it’s never happened to, I can only assume this song hits all the right emotional notes. It certainly hits all the right musical ones! This sounds so “Sesame Street” I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me this was a Joe Raposo number. It makes me happy to know that even in 2006, 30+ years after the show debuted, they hold on to that signature sound. It’s timeless and classy. Ardent ‘Street fans will know that this isn’t the first time the show covered adoption, having previously included a storyline in which Miles is adopted by Gordon and Susan. It’s an important aspect of family life that very much deserves to be looked at and explained on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come around again at some point.
3 – Zucchini – Sesame Street
If anyone can show me a better song about zucchinis I’ll be mightily impressed! I love this song so much it has featured at least twice before on my charts, sadly it has never made it past third place though. Still, that’s not bad for a pretty obscure song from a Sesame Street parody strand. Also, I don’t know if I should spoil things just yet, but this is today’s highest ranking Sesame Street number – which is also impressive when you consider how many great songs there were in 2006. Joey Mazzarino sings this “West Side Story” inspired track all about a boy’s love for a vegetable. It’s a moving tale of how prejudice can be beaten by even the simplest squash. I say it every time and I still can’t get over it so I’ll say it again – doesn’t Joey sound like Billy Crystal here? It’s uncanny.
2 – Run, Run Rudolph – A Green and Red Christmas
A few weeks ago I wrote how Little Saint Nick was my least favorite Dr. Teeth Christmas song. Now, I’m pleased to present what might possibly be the song at the opposite end of the scale. This absolutely rocks! In fact the only thing that stops it from being perfect is the lack of vocals from Janice. Having her provide harmonies would have meant the whole of the Mayhem was back. Thankfully, this track is chock full of virtuoso guitar playing so I take solace in the knowledge that she is there rocking out in the studio – spaghetti hair flailing about, a few stray strands sticking to the inside of her mouth before being deftly batted away with a quick head flick. Bill Barretta is once again proving his worth and showing just why he is the Muppet legend we know him to be. Also, why is the title/award Muppet Legend not a real thing? That’s a huge oversight. This track makes me deliriously happy and I guess at the end of the day there isn’t much more to say than that!
1 – A Red and Green Christmas – A Green and Red Christmas
I just love these Christmas lights videos! I also love this song. I think both Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson sound amazing. Piggy’s singing is beautiful and I love her harmonies at the end. This song could almost be pinpointed as the moment the Kermit/Miss Piggy relationship began to bloom and turn into something bigger. I think you could draw a direct line from this song to both movies, the recent TV series, and even the model shoot video that dropped last month. All have a thread of the couple’s relationship running through them. It also places a less cynical slant on the pair, which is something I’m currently enjoying. Kermit and Piggy are a couple who have ups and downs, but ultimately belong together. I didn’t always get that previously, but do now. The way this song weaves and combines is absolutely wonderful and songwriters Ed Mitchell and Tom Armbruster are to be commended. A Green and Red Christmas is a fun album that I really enjoy. It won a well-deserved Grammy and is ripe for a second volume if anyone’s listening.
After all that amazing Sesame Street music, I feel bad having Muppet songs take the top 2 places, but I have to call it as I see it. One thing I definitely can see is that 2006 was a prolific year for Muppet music. As I head into my final decade of yearly charts, this list has me very hopeful for the future – let’s hope 2007 can keep it up! In the meantime, thank you to everyone who worked with the Muppets in 2006. Y’all were busy! Thank You.
Join me next time as Sesame Street gets Blunt, Disney’s California Adventure gets extra Muppety and Elmo gets Festive…