Kieran Moore – Wow! Just wow! I’m in shock! You won’t believe song number 9!
Now I’ve got your attention with my Buzzfeed/clickbait opener I can tell you exactly why I’m in shock (and it’s not just number 9). It’s because the songs on today’s list really are amazing! I know I shouldn’t be too surprised, after all these are Sesame Street songs, but I was genuinely impressed at just how good this list is. Again, that shouldn’t be headline news; but what grabbed me here (aside from the general quality) was how quickly Sesame Street got to this point. If season 1 was inventing its own genre and season 2 was refining it, season 3 took all of those achievements and turned them into the show we know and love today.
It’s incredible just how quickly these talented artists, educators and creative teams got into their groove. The songs on this list are diverse, emotional, fun and educational; but above all they’re brilliant! (And you really won’t believe song 9…)
10 – Starfish
Even in a list filled with fantastic songs, there was still a lot of competition for 10th place. Honorable mentions must go to: Kangaroo Blues, Handclap Scat, J Friends and Dee Dee Dee. Any one of them could have been in this position on another day. That said, there’s something utterly charming about this song – and that’s why it stood out from the crowd. Whether it’s Joe Raposo’s soothing lyrics and melody (that make this feel like a companion piece to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”), or the sweet performance from a sadly unnamed singer I’m not sure; but when combined with the hypnotic visuals of real life starfish, I’ve just found myself completely enchanted. Next time I need help sleeping I won’t dance myself to sleep I’ll listen to this!
9 – Habanera
I said you wouldn’t believe number 9! This feels like a fever dream I had once – only weirder. If you’ve never seen this clip I urge you to stop whatever you’re doing (milking a cow, driving a truck, saving orphans from a burning building) and watch it immediately. Then pick your jaw up off the floor. Reading the comments on YouTube, I see that this sketch scared quite a lot of kids back in the day and I can totally understand why. The electronic soundtrack – a staple of low budget Sci-Fi flicks is a big part of it. Seeing a faceless orange come to life and slowly get weird, staring eyes and a piercing voice probably had much to do with it too! On the flipside, I think this is so bizarre it almost goes full circle and becomes strangely serene and possibly even relaxing (if you’re happy to give in to the things that haunt you in the night). The fact that this exists at all was almost enough to get it to number 1, but sanity prevailed!
8 – Chicken or the Egg
We’ve had one already today, but this is another fine example of a Sesame Street real-life documentary sequence. They were a staple of the show from the very start, but in season 3 these segments really came into their own. I’ve already mentioned Kangaroo Blues, but clips like “Peanut Butter”, “Whale Brushing Teeth” and “Weaver Bird” are all worthy of a mention at this point. As well as being educational, these tend to be gentler moments that help balance out the zanier Muppet skits. As much as we love them, a full hour of those sketches would be too much, so we owe these films a real debt of gratitude. That said, this particular piece pulls the old switcheroo by starting off slowly and then going full on farmyard frenzy. The idea of showing kids where their food comes from is a great one and if you’re going to do it, it might as well be like this.
7 – ¡Bienvenidos! (Welcome!)
Season 3 of Sesame Street saw its human cast grow quite a bit. Amongst those new additions were Luis and Maria who allowed the show to expand its lessons of Spanish language and culture. As a kid in jolly-old-England I’d always seen this focus as interesting from a multi-cultural point of view, but after visiting LA a few years ago I now understand just how important these lessons are for kids in large urban areas. Sesame Street really was a show that took care of a broad range of educational needs and taught vital life lessons. And all that means we get to enjoy this friendly duet from Luis and Bob. Luis Delgado and Bob McGrath are both accomplished singers and they work so well together. It’s impossible to be miserable to this song – in fact I’m considering making it my alarm sound. How can you have a bad day when this wakes you up?
6 – Young, Gifted and Black
We’re carrying on the multicultural theme with this next piece. This anthemic song is a wonderful message of empowerment. As a white, British guy I’m probably not best placed to write about how this song might have affected its young viewers, but I can talk about how important messages like this are to all children – regardless of ethnicity. My Dad is a trained childcare professional and he always says children don’t see race until they are taught it. Sometimes those lessons are positive and sometime they’re not. If children are going to learn they are different from each other just because of the color of their skin I’m glad it can be done in a positive way with a song like this. Nina Simone is a Goddess and I could write reams about my love for her musicianship, but then you’d never find out what song number 5 is…
5 – P is My Favorite Letter
It’s a heck of a notion that we’re listing 10 Sesame Street songs and we’ve got all the way to number 5 before we get any real involvement from a Muppet! That’s pretty amazing, but it illustrates just how strong the show was as a whole. Of course, we’re Muppet fans here so now their songs will come thick and fast, but with another bias this list could be quite different and just as good. Can anyone else hear Roger Miller’s song style in this track? It was written by Jeff Moss, but if you’d said it was one of Roger’s I wouldn’t have been surprised. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll, and a big hunk of fun! Jim Henson, Frank oz and Jerry Nelson are clearly enjoying spitting out these quick fire lyrics and serving up some pretty sweet harmonies. Jerry in particular is knocking this out of the park (which begins with “P”!)
4 – C is for Cookie
It’ll give you an indication of how good the top 3 songs are when this classic number is only in 4th place! If you and a bunch of friends all got together and started singing Muppet songs randomly (it could happen), I don’t think it would be long before this track got an airing – especially if you’re of a certain age! This song clip has over 30 million views on YouTube which, although far from being at the top of the Sesame tree, places it above Rubber Duckie, Bein’ Green and I Love Trash. That’s a feat that shouldn’t be underestimated. Although Cookie Monster was well and truly ravenous for a baked good before this song debuted, I think it’s fair to say this moment really solidified his character in the minds of the public at large. Frank Oz is at his gruff best and with Joe Raposo has created a moment that will endure forever.
3 – What Do I Do When I’m Alone?
I love Grover. Especially when he’s being introspective and sweet as he is here. This piece is simple in terms of both song and staging, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Jeff Moss has written a beautiful track here that deserves to be known better. It might not be as big and anthemic as the aforementioned Bein’ Green, but I truly think this should be as associated with Grover as that song is with Kermit. The straightforward setting of this song allows everything to shine. Grover’s singing and performance is utterly captivating and makes me love him even more (if that’s possible). One of the best things about Grover is just how rounded his character is. He’s probably one of the most complex characters on the show and can be used just as well for comedy…
2 – The Question Song
Once again in these early Sesame Street charts, Grover has gotten close to hitting the top spot, but (spoiler) hasn’t quite made it. This is him at his Muppety best. By that I mean he’s doing the traditional Muppet thing of derailing what should be a sweet, sensible performance. It’ a well-worn trope, but it’s hilarious and this is one of the best examples. Frank Oz is on a roll on today’s chart, but you should never underestimate the “straight man” and in this case that’s Fran Brill. Frank can only be this funny because he’s playing off of a fellow performer who’s every bit as good. Every time I listen to this song it cracks me up. It’s so good in fact that only a track that name checks oatmeal and hardwearing flooring can beat it!
1 – La La La
You’ve just got to la la love this song! Partly because of how great it is, but also because this is officially Bert’s first proper appearance on one of these Sesame Street Season charts. Shocking, but true! Bert is a wonderful character and if I’m being honest I prefer him to Ernie. I always felt a bit bad for him having to put up with Ernie’s antics. It’s a good job we know they’re such firm friends otherwise I’d say Ernie is downright mean to Bert sometimes. I really la la like the way this song shows the differences in their personalities with Bert going for “Lump in my oatmeal” and Ernie choosing “Lights in the sky”. Speaking of “Lump in my oatmeal”, when Frank delivers that line I get goosebumps – it’s perfect. I also feel the need to defend the word linoleum – it might not be an exciting thing, but I think it’s actually quite a pretty word.
So that’s season 3 in a musical nutshell! We’ve learned about letters and animals, emotions and racial diversity. We’ve also seen where eggs are laid and been terrified by a singing orange. I don’t know about you, but I feel better for the whole experience! Season 3 of Sesame Street gave us a show that’s very quickly in its stride – I can’t wait to see what happens next! In the meantime I have to thank everyone whose work is on display here or contributed to this season in another way. Thank You. You made me laugh, you made me cry, you made me scared of fruit…