Kieran Moore – Every now and then the core Muppets gang (as in Kermit, Miss Piggy and Mo Frackle) has an incredibly busy year. They’re flitting from TV special to guest appearance to movie to album so fast it’s impossible to keep up. They are everywhere all at once with a dazzling array of top quality material on offer.
This is not one of those years.
In 2007 you’d be more likely to find Waldo than Waldorf. To be fair, Disney was playing the long game at this point and big things were on the horizon.
Meanwhile on the east coast, Sesame Street was having another fantastic year and going from strength to strength. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but the show was enjoying yet another golden era around this time. Everything was clicking and working and they were hitting it out of the park. So it’s fair to say this list is littered with songs from the street, but can they make it 10 for 10?
10 – Do You Hear What I Hear? – Elmo’s Christmas Countdown
Unless you’re reading this while you wait for the Mardi Gras celebrations to begin or catching up in the hour you gain when the clocks change, you’ve just found yourself once again listening to a Christmas song in January. To me that isn’t a problem as I love festive tunes, but if you’re sick of them I have to warn you that because of Elmo’s Christmas Countdown this isn’t the only one today. Don’t worry; we can get through them together. I have a secret to confess – I’ve never seen the entire special this comes from. I think to atone I have to say 3 “Wocka Wockas” and a “15 seconds to curtain…” or something. Anyway, all is good as I did actually buy it on DVD (remember them) last month; I just didn’t get around to watching it yet. In my defence I got the Storyteller DVD set for Christmas so, you know. But you don’t care about my Christmas presents; you care about this song which I enjoy very much. Elmo and Alicia so a great job of building it up (just as it should be).
9 – Pear – Sesame Street
I guess while I’m confessing stuff I should say I’ve never seen the musical Hair in any form. I’ll let you decide whether that’s a bigger crime than not seeing the Elmo Christmas special. I think these Dinner Theater sketches are so well done. The parodies are perfect and the performances panacheful. (I don’t think that’s a real thing, but I was going for alliteration and they are full of panache.) Martin P. Robinson is particularly strong here. His vocal performance is unmistakeably him and yet draws me in so I’m completely unaware at the same time. Pears are a much underrated fruit I think. I guess its flashier cousin the apple gets all the glory… This song is doing its best to redress the balance and I applaud it for that.
8 – Elmo’s Ridin’ – Sesame Street
I’m pleased Elmo’s Dad Louie reminded Elmo that he was going to keep an eye on him as I must admit I was a bit concerned about such a young monster going off on his own. I think that’s why he’s often seen with older kids or human adults in this clip. Louie was first seen in 2006 in the Sesame Beginnings home video franchise. It featured various Sesame Street Muppets as babies and was very, very cute. As I kid who grew up in the latter part of my childhood in a single parent family where that parent was my father, I appreciate the fact that Louie represented all those hardworking Dads out there (not that Elmo’s Mom isn’t around).
7 – Annie Get Your Gumbo – Sesame Street
I’m not sure if anything will ever usurp 2006’s “Zucchini” as my favorite Dinner Theater song, but I really like the theme of this piece. It could really be taken as the main mission statement of the whole strand as it’s talking less about a particular food and more about the joy of getting together around the table and spending time with those you love. I think that’s a really important message and one that is often lost as we rush around. Taking 20 minutes or so out of your day to relax with friends and family is totally worth the effort. The usual Dinner Theater family is expanded here to make this into more of a celebration meal and the whole sketch has a happy, party feeling. This song takes a lead from “There’s No Business like Show Business” and gives me instant Ethel Merman vibes. There can’t be many other songs that are so linked with a particular performer, especially when they didn’t originate it.
6 – You Gotta Just Believe – Elmo’s Christmas Countdown
We’ll get to the song in a moment, but I have to give a few thoughts about the art direction here first. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the painted flats as they looked a bit cheap, but they’re warming on me. The storybook feel they give off makes the special seem like a giant pop-up book. Kevin James makes a perfect Santa. He’s affable and full of the spirit of the season whilst being as world-weary as someone who travels the globe should be. He’s also fantastic at performing the rock/blues style this song is written in. Finally, I just adore the group sing at the end. Seeing all the main Muppet cast there together at Christmas makes me very, very, happy.
5 – I Love Words – Sesame Street
In my last chart I mentioned that 2006 was the year Abby Cadabby was introduced to Sesame Street. I’d have loved to feature a big Abby solo at that time to commemorate this momentous occasion, but unfortunately there wasn’t really anything suitable. Now in 2007 (if that makes sense), I have the perfect opportunity with this fun song. I have to confess two things before I go any further: first, Abby is probably my favorite “new” Sesame Street character; second, I think a lot of this is down to the fact that her performer, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is one of the best things that’s ever happened to the show. As well as being fantastic on Sesame Street, Leslie is an incredibly versatile and charismatic artist in her non-Sesame work too. She has one of those distinct voices that make me feel at home while watching Muppets – Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson had the same affect so I don’t say that lightly.
4 – Because We’re Friends – Sesame Street
Also in my last chart, I touched upon the phenomenal range of female characters Sesame Street now has. Somehow this show has always managed to stay ahead of the Muppet curve on that score. The core Muppet Show troupe finds female characters still being woefully underrepresented with female performers joining the gang only on a project by project basis. Once Abby was added to the cast, Sesame Street had probably its most diverse group of girls ever. It’s wonderful to see their friendship given the spotlight, but I do miss Prairie Dawn from this line up. I know that Fran Brill is still in the mix as Zoe and I can see why she is picked here as she perhaps compliments the furry group better, but that’s another reason why I’d like to see Dawn as well. Abby was purposely added to show ethnic diversity as a fairytale character. Between her, Zoe and Rosita we don’t actually have a human character present and I feel like that’s an opportunity missed. Either way, I love this song and these gals!
3 – Carol of the Bells – Elmo’s Christmas Countdown
And here’s this chart’s final Christmas song. (Don’t worry – they’ll be back next time!) This has always been one of my favorite carols. The first time it really caught me was at the start of the Addams Family Movie – it’s barely on for a few seconds, but it made a big impact and set the tone for the film perfectly. I love how intense and dark it is. Christmas is (obviously) famous for being jolly and joyful, but I do really enjoy a carol that goes a bit deeper. In the case of this song, it’s obviously the tune rather than the words that evoke that feeling – the words are all about “Merry, merry, merry Christmas”. Jennifer Hudson can quite obviously sing her way out of a paper bag (does that saying travel beyond the UK?) and is fabulous here. There can come a time in every diva’s life when they go too far and Jennifer just manages to keep it in check here. The setting and the woodland animals add some winter magic to the whole thing and, combined with the song itself, creates something that’s simply enchanting.
2 – Get Up! Get Out! – Sesame Street
This powerhouse tune was so very close to being number one today. Unfortunately it always seems to be a case of “close, but no cigar” for this track as it was also nominated for an Emmy, but sadly lost out. Never mind. It seems like such a “now” problem for kids to need encouragement to go out and move that I’d forgotten it was an issue 10 years ago. This is the perfect type of music to get up and move to though – forget the 80’s power ballads favored by kids learning karate or American boxers behind the iron curtain, Gospel is where it’s at! There are some incredible vocals here, but I’ve sadly come up lacking as to who is performing this. I don’t know if it’s a Sesame human (or two) or a Muppet performer (or two) or just a choir for hire, but either way I’ll have two scoops of whatever they’re having. I always try to credit performers where I can, so if anyone knows who this is please get in touch and let me know.
1 – My Triangle – Sesame Street
What can I say about this clip? I really feel like this was water cooler TV at its finest. Sesame Street wasn’t even shown here in the UK in 2007 and yet this still got coverage in the media. Perhaps it’s because this song was so huge. The show has always featured celebrity singers and they often ape their own tunes – it’s nothing new, but this just seemed to catch fire and I think gave the genre a bit of a renaissance. Also, anyone who has seen James Blunt in interviews or read his NSFW twitter page will know that he brings a wonderful sense of self-deprecating humor to everything he does. I think that subtle element makes this playful in a way that really works for Sesame Street. Speaking of humor, the song is a very funny parody that is so spot on it can’t fail to raise a smile. While I’m heaping on the praise I have to reserve a large portion for Martin P. Robinson. Without his brilliant turn as the neurotic Telly this wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is.
So that’s today’s list. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that Sesame Street productions are the sole contributors to today’s list. The only non-Sesame song that was ever really considered was Kermit’s duet of You’ve Got a Friend from America’s Got Talent, but that was a good few places away from troubling the top 10. Sesame Street really were hitting it out of the park around this time with great songs, characters, performances and writing. Thank you to everyone who worked on Sesame Street in 2007 – I really feel like you made the show what it is today. Thank You.
Join me next time as the Muppets are almost live, Gonzo almost ruins Christmas and Abby almost gets lost in Wonderland.