Kieran Moore – In my head I kind of remember the noughties as a very fallow period for the Muppets. Disney took their time to do much with Kermit and Co. and they’re still pre-The Muppets (2011), which in my mind is when the guys properly hit their renaissance. At least that’s how I remember it going down. The truth is, it was nothing like that – the Muppets might not have been filling theaters or starring in their own show, but they were still pretty busy. You could even argue their real renaissance started in 2008 with their viral videos. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Sesame Street was also going great guns and producing some top-quality work. The show felt sparkly and new and had established a vibrancy that was really standing out. They also had a stunning array of talented guest stars showing up to sing and dance, but once again I’m getting ahead of myself…
10 – I’ve Got Shoes for You! – Sesame Street
Muppet Wiki doesn’t list a title for this track so I’ve gone with the above name as it’s repeated several times and I like the pun! This is exactly the kind of Sesame Street number I was referring to in my opening – it’s bold, bright, brash and has a real confidence about it. That could make it sound annoying, but remember this is a show that’s nearing its 40th anniversary and is comfortable in its own skin – songs like this are the embodiment of that sense of self-assuredness. Neil Patrick Harris is a genuine Muppet and puppet enthusiast and it’s lovely to see fans get to come and play. We know he can sing and dance based on his other work, so his performance here is every bit as polished as you’d expect. His energy really sells what is ultimately a very goofy piece.
9 – Habanera – Muppet Viral Videos
As I mentioned earlier, 2008 saw the launch of the “Muppet Viral Videos”. These very clever short subjects took regularly used online tropes and Muppetized them – for example, the “Dog on a Skateboard” strand. Despite using a new medium, the most popular of these were the musical numbers that felt like they were straight out of the old Muppet Show era. Habanera is exactly that – taking the Leprechaun Bros. (Animal, Beaker and The Swedish Chef) and transplanting their act to a new setting and style of music. Speaking of the setting, I really like the backstage vibe of this. It feels like the guys have recorded it in a moment of downtime from a bigger production as a treat for us fans. Who knows? Maybe they did! We see this trio together all the time now, but this was the video that kick-started their revival – it has a lot to answer for!
8 – 1,2,3,4, – Sesame Street
This song has been the bridesmaid a couple of times before where my charts are concerned as although it’s been close it’s never broken into the top 10 before. I’m glad I can put that right now. In other, lesser years it would probably have been top 5. I really like the laidback feel of this song and as a Muppet fan how can I not love anything that features a banjo? Exactly, it’s impossible. I must admit before her cameo in The Muppets (2011) I didn’t really know who Leslie Feist was – even though this clip predates that. I was sort of aware of the original version of this song, but couldn’t have told you who sung it. Looking at her discography, I see 1,2,3,4, is her only UK chart entry to date so I semi-excuse myself. This song is such an obvious choice for Sesame Street to pick up on, I’ve decided if I’m ever a recording artist I’m going to release a song called 4,3,2,1, in a ploy to get on the show.
7 – The Firefly Song – Sesame Street
For all my talk of bold, bright Sesame Street this feels like the exact opposite. It’s a quiet, simple number with solo guitar and (mostly) solo voice. It’s set at night so the colours are muted and there’s a still quietness about this piece. Perhaps that’s why it stands out so much. It’s so different from a lot of what Sesame Street was about back then it’s nice to see the show having these serene, peaceful moments. Luis, or should I say Emilio Delgado, sings this with a real authenticity – it’s lovely to hear his voice so clearly. With a teeny-tiny running time and some pretty incredible songs not making today’s list this track certainly feels like an underdog here, but it’s well and truly earned its place.
6 – Wandering Through Wonderland – Abby in Wonderland
Abby Cadabby really did have a meteoric rise to fame – going in just two short years from new character to fronting her own special. I guess being pink and girly was part of the reason that little girls latched on to her, but Abby’s sense of fun and zest for life were surely also huge factors. Not that you’ll see them here. This is a very introspective piece for two very small Muppets to sing. In anyone else’s hands it could perhaps even be a bit depressing, but Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and Kevin Clash are talented enough to make it moving whilst keeping it sweet. They sound great together. On paper, Elmo and Abby could be a match made in hell as they out-cloy each other, but in actual fact they compliment each other beautifully.
5 – I’m the Letter “T” – Sesame Street
I’ll admit this song probably does get a bit of uplift on my charts as I like the original version (Hey There Delilah) so much. I don’t think that should take away from just how good this is though. As we’ve seen with 1,2,3,4, above, Sesame Street loves to take a pop hit and repurpose it into something educational. Instead of taking the song itself as the starting point here though they’ve gone lateral and taken the band name “Plain White T’s” and used it as the inspiration to teach us all about our favorite “t” sound. To be honest, they could be singing about garbage dumps and I’d think this was a beautiful piece of music. It’s simple and gentle, yet big when it needs to be. It’s also somehow strangely hypnotic.
4 – Ode to Joy – Muppet Viral Videos
Never has the expression “from the sublime to the ridiculous” been so apt. This is the definition of ridiculousness. Ode to Joy is another of 2008’s viral videos and probably battles with Bohemian Rhapsody as the most successful of the genre. As with Habanera this could be a direct lift from The Muppet Show, specifically the Mac Davis episode where Beaker gets cloned several times. This video was nominated for and won a prestigious Webby award. The fact that it was a “People’s Voice” award makes it doubly satisfying. We’ve always known the Muppets were cool, but it’s awesome to see that validated against the noisy backdrop of the internet. Steve Whitmire is in fine voice here. I’m always impressed that he and Richard Hunt were able to hit those high notes without the aid of a safety net!
3 – Bop to the Top – Studio DC: Almost Live
I feel like I have to come out all guns a-blazing to defend this choice, but I totally stand by it. First, let’s talk about Studio DC itself. Yes, it does feel a bit flimsy and the humor leaves a bit to be desired, but the performances are very, very good. I would argue that if you went back 30 something years and had an episode of The Muppet Show where the guests were “The Stars of The Disney Channel” (in a similar vein to the Star Wars episode) we would see these performances differently. Is Miley Cyrus being backed by The Electric Mayhem so different from when Elton John did it? Is this duet any less valid than when Kermit sang with Liza Minnelli? Speaking of this song, I’ll admit I enjoyed the first two High School Musical movies (I never saw the third) and think the songs are great. Ashley Tisdale, Kermit and Miss Piggy spark off each other so well; I just find this clip irresistible.
2 – I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus – A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
I must admit I tussled over whether to make this song number one as I really do think it’s beautiful. However, it was number one barely a month ago on one of my Christmas charts and although I don’t generally take that kind of thing into account there is so much Muppet music that deserves recognition I do like to share the love if I can. There’s probably not much to add here that I didn’t already say as part of my Dave Goelz Christmas Chart, but I’ll try. Ain’t Gonzo a sweetheart? I think you’ll have to go a long way to find a more spiritual, soulful Muppet. It blows my mind to think there were drafts of The Muppet Movie where Gonzo didn’t sing I’m Going to Go Back There Someday. (Though I admit, I’d give my right arm to hear Richard Hunt’s take on it as Scooter.) I sometimes wonder – because the track wasn’t always his, did I’m Going to Go Back There Someday solidify Gonzo’s status as an introspective dreamer? Would he be the same character we know and love without that moment? Both songs were written by Paul Williams and it’s easy to see the similarities.
1 – This Is Me – Studio DC: Almost Live
Ok, so I wasn’t surprised that a song from Studio DC was number one, but honestly when I started ranking tracks I thought it was going to be Bop to the Top. This track really did come out of nowhere. I can’t even claim to be a Camp Rock fan as I’ve never seen it – perhaps that helped! This is a solid pop-rock ballad though and is massively singalongable. It might be music by numbers, but so often the best of it is. Demi Lovato is a woman I truly couldn’t pick out of a line up, but she’s impressed me here with her performance and likeable personality. Then of course, there’s Beaker. The idea of him stepping into the breach is perfect. We know the Muppets believe the show must go on, but does anyone really suffer for that fact the way Beaker does? The way he pulls this off with such panache is a beautiful thing to behold. Beaker has had a wonderful week here and it’s interesting to see the character blossom from being Bunsen’s sidekick to fully-fledged cult hero. He truly deserves to be number one!
I don’t usually do this, but with so many good songs I thought you might be curious as to where some of the missing pieces fell, so here are the songs from 11-20:
20: That’s Just the Way We Roll – Studio DC
19: My Best Christmas Yet – Letters to Santa
18: Dance Me if You Can – Studio DC
17: Doin’ the Bear – Sesame Street
16: Pre-School Musical – Sesame Street
15: It’s All About Heart – Letters to Santa
14: Classical Chicken – Muppet Viral Videos
13: G.N.O. – Studio DC
12: Delivering Christmas – Letters to Santa
11: Stars and Stripes Forever – Muppet Viral Videos
So that’s 2008 comprehensively dealt with. I hope you’ll agree it’s been a fantastic year for Muppet music. So it only remains for me to say my traditional thank you to everyone whose work is on display, as well as to those whose work isn’t. You all are wonderful! Thank You!
Join me next time as dinosaurs get the train, Sesame Street gets a lifetime achievement award and Kermit and Piggy get a day by giving one…