Kieran Moore – 2014 was an amazing year. All across the internet there were Muppet websites talking about big news stories like Muppets Most Wanted, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge and season 45 of Sesame Street. However, only one of those sites also featured a certain UK writer joining their ranks for the first time. Yes, it’s true 2014 was my debut as a writer for The Muppet Mindset. In fact my first ever piece went live almost 4 years ago today! Personally, I read the site that has “Dear Abby”, but we can all agree – Muppet fandom has never looked back!
What this incredibly self-indulgent introduction is really saying is that loads of cool Muppet things happened in 2014 and if you’re anything like me, they might just have changed your life forever. And change is a great way to neatly segue into today’s tenth song, which sees a new twist being added to an old idea…
10 – Number of the Day – Sesame Street
Both the Number and Letter of the Day sections of Sesame Street were given brand new looks and songs for season 45 of the show. Each is simply filmed – essentially just showing a group of Muppets singing to find out what the letter/number of the day is going to be. The letter song is led by Elmo and, of course, Count von Count is the lead singer for its numerical equivalent. Of the two, this one is far and away my favorite. It’s entirely appropriate for Elmo’s song to be fun and playful, but The Count is serious about counting and this track matches that tone perfectly. It’s taking no prisoners in its pursuit of counting up to 20. The electronic bass line and refrain of “Stomp, Stomp” combine to make this an earworm that you might never get out of your head!
9 – I Hope I Get It – Muppets Most Wanted
Don’t you just hate it when you buy a soundtrack album for a film you really enjoyed and it’s full of songs that were “inspired by” the movie rather than those that were actually in it? This song is kind of the same thing. Of course, other than some demo tracks, everything that appears on the soundtrack for Muppets Most Wanted was in the movie, but it also missed one of its funniest moments – this song and sequence. I’m guessing it’s omitted for licensing reasons, but it’s still a shame this wonderful parody of A Chorus Line wasn’t immortalised alongside prison classics Working in a Coalmine and The Big House. This is brilliantly realized. Who knew Danny Trejo could sing? All these years he’s been hiding his light under a bushel! Tina Fey is fantastic as Nadya throughout Muppets Most Wanted. I often feel the human stars of that movie don’t get their dues so I’m glad I can do so here.
8 – Number Medley – Sesame Street
Although this song actually appeared in season 44 of Sesame Street, it first aired in 2014 so has found itself in today’s chart instead of the last one. It’s a shame really as it might have charted higher if it wasn’t up against the songs from Muppets Most Wanted… I really like Pentatonix. They have a great sound, their arrangements are always interesting and they perform with a real sense of fun. As an a cappella singer myself, I totally appreciate what they do and how they do it. They make this kind of thing look effortless and I can attest that it isn’t. I’d love to be as good as them someday. This mash-up is wonderful; using the iconic Pinball Number Count to thread together some of Sesame Street’s most famous number songs. It’s a very clever way of putting a story together. Pentatonix are fast becoming friends of the Muppets and I hope this trend continues.
7 – We’re Doing a Sequel – Muppets Most Wanted
I really couldn’t decide whether or not to accompany this write up with a video of the movie or the audio from the soundtrack album. You see, the video is wonderful and filled with Muppets and fun stuff, but it does omit some of the best lines of the song – invariably sung/spoken by Rowlf. Why is it that Rowlf seems to get the rough end of the pineapple every time an editor gets their hands on something Muppety? Going right back to the 25th anniversary CD, Rowlf often seems to get overlooked. It’s not easy being brown… Anyway, this song is a great way to open a movie which is (let’s be honest) paying homage to another that started with a song called Hey, A Movie! It’s wearing its heart on its sleeve, demolishing the fourth wall and setting out the mission statement for the whole film at the same time. I might be old fashioned, but nothing makes me happier than seeing Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rowlf and Scooter front and center as the core Muppet gang. It just feels right to me. This song was clearly written and recorded before the name of the movie was changed and I must admit to getting perverse pleasure from Walter’s title (terrible as it is) not being used. I just wish they’d done something clever with the onscreen graphics to tie it together better.
6 – We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Keep Christmas With You (All Through the Year) – Christmas with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Every year The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (who my little sister used to call the Mormon Schafernacker Choir) performs a series of Christmas concerts at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. In 2014 the Muppets of Sesame Street were invited to join them for some wonderful shows which combine the incredible talents of both groups. This track is the event finale and feels joyous and uplifting and about as Christmassy as anything the Muppets have ever done. Keep Christmas With You is rightfully lauded as one of the best Muppet Christmas songs ever and when combined with We Wish You a Merry Christmas becomes an even more powerful seasonal message. When I was a kid my school used to arrange trips to the Royal Albert Hall in London to see a carol concert very similar to this, so watching clips of this show has made me feel very nostalgic.
5 – I’m Number One – Muppets Most Wanted
This song has appeared on several of my top 10 charts in the past, but this is actually its lowest position. Fifth place is still pretty good though… Muppets Most Wanted will always hold a special place in my heart, but this song in particular is especially dear. I’ve been fortunate in my life to be blessed with some very cool nieces and nephews, and whilst we all share something in common, I have one of each that has followed me down Bean Bunny’s rabbit hole into Muppet fandom. I’m so pleased to be able to share these wonderful characters and Jim Henson’s philosophy with them. My nephew, Jared, is a born performer who loves to sing and act, and the reason I love this song so much is that we have sung it as a duet several times over the years. He is, of course, Constantine and I’m Dominic Badguy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way!
4 – I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu) – Muppets Most Wanted
Constantine and Matt Vogel in particular are doing very well today! I mentioned above that Muppets Most Wanted is special to me and that’s for two reasons really. First, through incredible luck I was able to attend the London premiere of the film and see Kermit, Piggy and Constantine (as well as Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson and Matt Vogel) up close. Being in the same room as these megastars was an incredible moment. You haven’t watched a Muppet movie properly until you’ve done so seated behind Stephen Fry and Stanley Tucci! Second, it was my advance viewing of this movie that got me writing for The Muppet Mindset. Ryan Dosier (whatever happened to him?), graciously let me write about my experience and the rest is history. Here I am four years later writing my 135th chart! This song really should have been the breakout hit of this movie – I’m not sure why it wasn’t.
3 – Something So Right – Muppets Most Wanted
How can Something So Right, not win an O-o-scar tonight? This was clearly the song that Disney were hoping would emulate the previous success of Man or Muppet and take home a second bald-headed gold man. I’m not sure they even submitted any songs from Muppets Most Wanted for consideration in the end, but if not, they made a mistake. I think all the songs from the movie were so good they split the vote resulting in no nominations at all – that’s my head canon anyway. I feel sorely aggrieved for Miss Piggy though as this was her one big chance to legitimately get her hands on an Academy Award. This song is the high point of a slow movement towards getting audiences to understand Piggy that started with The Muppets (2011) and continues on today. Thanks to Eric Jacobson we are seeing her vulnerability more and more now. As wonderful as the songs from Muppets Most Wanted are, I’m shocked to say this is actually the highest ranking piece from the film on today’s list. You’re about to see why…
2 – The 12 Days of Christmas – Christmas with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
If you’ve never seen this clip, I implore you to watch it – even if it is nearly Easter! The whole piece is quite long, but I swear you’ll be rewarded if you do. I don’t know if Count von Count has ever been funnier. Without wanting to spoil anything, the joy I feel at day 11 is peak happiness! The music here is fantastic and The Count is played perfectly. This is Matt Vogel at his very, very best. The Count is so enthusiastic it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in this piece. Props also have to go to Richard Elliott who is playing this beautiful (and huge) organ. The way he weaves so many disparate musical threads together is sublime. I especially like the nods to composers such as Tchaikovsky and the great American songbook – combining them together expertly matches The Count’s character. I’ve always enjoyed this song, though I know some really don’t – if you’re in the latter camp hopefully this will change your mind.
1 – The Weight – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
It never rains, but it pours. As I come very close to the end of these yearly charts I’m reminded that some years have been chock full of incredible material and others are sadly left lagging behind. With Muppets Most Wanted, the Mormon Tabernacle concert and this fantastically soulful performance from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I’ve been spoilt for choice. It really has taken something special to top today’s list and this is just that. Everything about it is perfect. I love the way it develops – going from a solo song sung by Jimmy and backed up by The Electric Mayhem (very much a like a Muppet Show performance), to an Electric Mayhem piece proper (Dr. Teeth really is the MVP here – his vocals and adlibs are all over this), and then to a joyous Muppet group number – all topped off with a sweet, sentimental duet between Miss Piggy and Kermit. It’s impossible not to get hit with “the feels” as the whole group comes together for the finale. Emotionally this is incredible. Musically this is incredible. Every performer is at their absolute best and this clip is using just about every Muppet person you can think of. When Muppet productions are constantly in production, this is the end result. If the upcoming O2 shows are even half as good as this, I’ll be a very happy bunny.
All joking about my own contributions to 2014 aside, I think it’s easy to see this was a year when every branch of the Muppets was doing well. Four years on, we’ve had peaks and troughs, but I think it’s safe to say the Muppets are still on the plus side of the column. 2014 really was the year that cemented that standing. So I have to say Thank You to everyone whose work is on display here – there are a lot of you, but you all deserve it. Thank You.
Join me in 2015 when the Muppets go back to primetime, The Jim Henson Company goes back to old ideas, and Sesame Street goes back to producing specials based in museums…