Kieran Moore – It’s become a bit of a cliché over the last few years to say that it’s been a rollercoaster year for the Muppets. So I won’t bother. Partly because of said cliché, but also because I don’t know if it’s true. Certainly they experienced huge highs, but I’m not sure (thankfully) they’ve also experienced the massive lows you would associate with the scariest ride in the theme park. To be perfectly honest, my year has had more in common with Space Mountain than Kermit’s has, but funnily enough both of our annual highs seem to have coincided…
So it is with great excitement that I buckle in to my seat, lean back, and get ready for the serious G-force that is this chart. As the runaway mine train of 2018 chugs off round the first bend it wouldn’t be that strange to feel a little nervous, but in the immortal words of Grover, this “sounds like an excellent idea”…
10 – London Calling – Croak-A-Pella – The Muppets Take the O2
This might be a very slight song, but it really appeals to me for a few reasons; first, it’s the perfect way to start off a chart about 2018. London did indeed come calling to the Muppets and they answered in the most amazing way ever. The O² shows were not just the highlight of my year – they are one if the highlights of my life. It’s almost impossible to convey how amazing it is to see and hear Kermit sing Rainbow Connection live and in person. That I got to do that three times in the company of people I love is a rare gift and I’ll never forget how precious that is. Who knows if more shows will follow, but I urge you to go and see the Muppets live if you ever get the chance. It changed my life. This song also appeals to me as I sing in an a cappella group and we’ve had a few moments like this (particularly) in our early years so I can appreciate just what Robin and Co. are going through!
9 – Family – Muppet Babies
2018 was the year the Muppet Babies burst back on to our screens and stole our hearts. You can argue until the internet has run out of words about whether the Muppets should be seen as a “kiddie” franchise, but the fact remains that when the quality of the output is as good as this it doesn’t really matter. The show is funny, smart and full of heart. It’s also the perfect way to introduce next-gen Muppet fans to their future favorite characters. How many of us are here in part because of the original Muppet Babies cartoon? Going back to my earlier point about the show being full of heart, this is a shining example of how the gift of friendship can lift your heart. What more do you need from the Muppets (in any incarnation)?
8 – Start Up Your Imagination – Muppet Babies
This song is a heck of a lot of fun. It reminds me of the start of an old “Road to…” movie where the main stars are boarding a train/bus/interstellar transportation portal to begin their adventure. I guess to a certain extent this kinds of acts in a similar manner by kicking off the Muppets’ motivation for having fun adventures too. As well as being a fun song, this piece shows off the great fuzzy and furry art style of Muppet Babies. I love that at no point here are they trying to hide that the Muppets are made of cloth and felt. Another thing to look out for are the photos of other Muppet Babies in the background – bringing joy to my heart we see Scooter and Skeeter (in a rare official appearance), as well as a Baby Swedish Chef that is so a thing the world needs more of.
7 – Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog and Maddie Poppe – American Idol
The performance that kicked off a slew of questions about how much Rainbow Connection is too much. I’ll leave you to reach your own conclusion because as mentioned earlier, the song was a highlight of my year so right now I feel a bit like Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean –
“How many more times do you want to hear Rainbow Connection?”
“At least once more, Kermit, as always.”
This is sweet, if maybe a little unremarkable in terms of arrangement. However, Maddie and Kermit sound great together and Matt Vogel (as Kermit) perfectly straddles that difficult line of letting the song and the reality show competitor shine at the same time. Anyone who watches these shows regularly knows how often the celebrity duet can be an absolute car crash as the more established performer runs all over the novice. That doesn’t happen here. This is Kermit’s only puppet-based performance today so I’ll quickly take the opportunity to praise Matt for his phenomenal work as Kermit. The Muppets were regular guests on UK TV this year to promote their shows and he and Eric Jacobson proved how wonderful they are in a live off the cuff setting. Kermit really is on safe hands. And my new year’s resolution is to make that the last time I make any reference to Matt as Kermit’s “new” performer…
6 – Daffodils – Charles Dance & Pepe the King Prawn – The Muppets Take the O2
Is this really a song? Maybe, maybe not. For the purposes of this chart it is though. After all, it has music and words that rhyme – if that isn’t a song, then what is? Also, it gives me an excuse to play this brilliant and hilarious clip from Friday night’s London show (the Saturday shows featured the same sketch, but with Anthony Head). Watching Pepe the King Prawn prick the pomposity of the kind of sketch only Sam Eagle would approve of was truly one of the funniest moments of the whole night. Bill Barretta was on fire during the O² shows and got all of the biggest laughs as Pepe, Rowlf and Bobo. Bobo in particular was side-splittingly funny as he looked for his car keys towards the end of each show. As a final thought on this sketch: how uncool are Pepe’s dancers? A nation of teenagers rolls its eyes…
5 – Hopalong Froggy and the Buckin’ Bronco – Muppet Babies
Fans of the original Muppet Babies will know that it wasn’t just the joy of imagination that was one of the calling cards of the show – it was also the use of movie tropes, styles and clips. In this song, Kermit is channelling his inner John Wayne and I’m loving his Western style. This type of music is a great way to tell a story – in that regard you could say that country and western is the purest form of folk music in the great American songbook. And Kermit is using that quality to fantastic effect as he tells us why is tricycle is currently riderless.
4 – Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner – Rowlf – The Muppets Take the O2
I’m not actually a Londoner, but I do love London town. And I love singing along with Rowlf and his canine pals. Watching this song was like witnessing a UK spot live and in person – it was such a thrill. Speaking of live and in person, not only was I able to reconnect with Kirk Thatcher over the weekend of the shows (he was gracious and kind even though he was working), I also got to meet a long-term internet friend for the first time. Thanks Rob, you were the icing on my already very tasty cake!
3 – I’ve Been Everywhere – Rowlf – The Muppets Take the O2
It’s a top five 1-2 for Rowlf on this list. I’ve already mentioned it once, but Bill Barretta was beyond fantastic all through these shows and this lyrical nightmare was easily one of his crowning achievements. It’s a true phenomenon (you can do the rest…) I can’t even begin to imagine how hard is is to sing something like this AND do it in character AND operate a puppet at the same time. Bill’s joy is evident during this whole clip. Between these shows and Happytime Murders he’s had an incredible year as a performer. This particular video is also a great way to see the Muppet performers’ craft in action. Being able to see how everything comes together by seeing the performers onstage and the “TV” version onscreen at the same time is a delight.
2 – I’ve Been There Buddy – Muppet Babies
From the very first time I heard this song it melted my heart. I don’t even know if I can put into words how this makes me feel and truly only the very best Muppet songs make me feel that way. It’s just beautiful. I love that a show for very young children is happy to say that sometimes we all feel bad and that’s ok. It’s really ok. It’s really, really ok. If you’d have told me 12 months ago that a song sung by Summer Penguin would only just miss out on being the number one song for the whole of 2018 I’m not sure I would have believed you. I had no preset prejudice against Summer, but I really didn’t expect the show to be quite as good as it is and I certainly didn’t expect a South Pole Penguin to melt my heart. One day this will be number one, but today in the battle between my heart and my heart, my heart won.
1 – Ho Hey – Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem – The Muppets Take the O2
After enjoying the shows so much and talking about how amazing they were I really had to pick a song from the O² performances as number one. This means that once again we have an Electric Mayhem song as the number one piece for the year. Only once since 2014 have they not been number one. Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. We live in an age where The Electric Mayhem are consistently putting out new material and much of it live performances to boot! Shouting out “Ho Hey” along with the band as they performed in a huge arena made me feel like a rock star – even if only for a few minutes. Huge praise goes to Matt Vogel and David Rudman for leading this song as well as to Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz and Peter Linz for ably supporting them. I have no idea how they kept their arms in the air for this amount of time. It’s miraculous!
And 2018 was a miraculous year for the Muppets. Ok, so there wasn’t much divine intervention on display here (after all Miss Piggy hasn’t really featured), but it was a year I’ll never forget and I have to hold the Muppets accountable for quite a bit of that. Thanks Guys!
Kermit has hinted that there’s something big coming for the Muppets in 2019 and if we’re honest it’s probably something for the new Disney streaming platform, but here’s what else I predict will happen in 2019 for the Muppets:
- The new Sesame Street movie will debut. It will center around Grover getting elocution lessons and be based on Pygmalion – expect My Furry Grover to hit theaters in time for Christmas
- The Muppets will announce a concert tour of US cities – the final show will be broadcast live to movie theaters
- Speaking of movie theaters, Fraggles will finally make their first appearance in one when a Fraggle hole is discovered by a projection booth in Flagstaff, Arizona and they settle down to watch Avengers with the rest of the known universe
- The Dark Crystal Show will be a huge cult hit and season 2 will be fast tracked into production (I hope)
- The “New Muppet Show” will actually be a series of themed specials and will debut with a Halloween special and a Pigs in Space TV movie that parodies Netflix’s current Sci-Fi offerings called “Pigs in Space: Weirder Things”
I think all of this is possible. If only we dare to dream. Here’s to 2019!