Kieran Moore – “If you’re going to write a Top 10 list during Halloween week and not make it about Halloween then you might as well make it about a monster.” It’s a mantra that’s never let me down before so I’m hoping to strike gold again now.
Over the years, Sesame Street has terrified us with hideous creatures who devour every cookie in their path, become fixated with watching screens until their eyes spin and regularly fail to deliver soup. I’m sure you’ll all agree that’s pretty horrific. Yet there’s another nightmare-ish creation that is even more gruesome. A shape-shifting beast that removed parts of its body and gave up the ability to fly simply to infiltrate the locals and move amongst them. Taking on the persona of a five-year-old child it has actually been around for decades, slowly but surely stealing our hearts and blowing our minds.
I am of course referring to Rosita – one of Sesame Street’s sweetest ever characters. Or is she…? MUAHAHAHAHA!
10 – Tu Me Gustas
This song is a Sesame Street classic. Over the years so many characters have performed it that it’s pretty much a rite of passage by this point. Each version has its own merits, but I especially like the simplicity of this with just the Spanish guitar and Rosita and Gabi’s vocals. It gives this well known number a lazy, hazy vibe that works well as a musical metaphor for how easy friendship can be. This is perhaps the ultimate Sesame Street chill-out song. I also really appreciate the stripped back harmonies. They suit the style of the piece perfectly and make what little there is much more effective. I just can’t help smiling and swaying as I listen to this!
9 – Musica
I love a song about music! It’ll be pretty impossible to write about Rosita and not mention her Latin heritage (hailing as she does from Mexico) so I guess I won’t even bother trying. She was one of the first bilingual Muppets on the show and still the most prominent. Central American culture and its language has always been a large part of Sesame Street’s curriculum with characters like Luis and Maria leading the way, so it was only a matter of time before an actual Muppet was added to the mix. Rosita has been a wonderful ambassador for Mexico and I’m sure I know more about the country and its people because of her. Here she explains a little about their musicality, focusing on the instruments and rhythms used.
8 – Fiesta!
This is another upbeat track that explains a two contrasting Spanish concepts. I don’t know about you, but I love a fiesta and a siesta! The soft, slow open and close of this track makes the uptempo middle section so much more effective, but what really sells this is Carmen Osbahr’s gutsy vocal. Carmen has performed Rosita since her introduction to the show in the early 90’s. On a side note: it blows my mind that Rosita has appeared on the show for more than half its lifetime. I was genuinely shocked when I read that. Carmen is a very, very talented performer who quickly became an integral part of the Sesame Street cast. Both Carmen and Rosita have gone from strength to strength to become hugely popular over the last 25+ years.
7 – Mango Tango
Over the years Rosita has formed friendships with several Sesame Street characters. She’s an integral part of the Rosita/Abby/Zoe modern female troika, and for a while cited Prairie Dawn as her best friend. However, more recently Telly has become her go-to monster whenever she needs a partner. It’s a great pairing. Not only is nice to see a female character paired with a male one (rather than it continually feeling like the show has girl/boy clubs); the two compliment each other in lots of interesting ways. Rosita has had insecure moments, but generally she’s happy in her own skin (largely thanks to her sense of family history and heritage). Telly, on the other hand, is often nervous and neurotic. They both have a keen sense of fun and enjoy playing and music. Also, they are two of the sweeter Sesame Street Muppets, but aren’t over the top cutesy as some other characters can be. They feel like real world monsters (if that makes sense). This song doesn’t really deviate from its title (it’s not a pineapple samba in disguise) but is a lot of fun and just plain old silly.
6 – Duermete Mi Niña
This song in another form was number one on my chart for Carmen Osbahr and I still love it despite it only managing a sixth place finish here. This is now one of my favorite lullabies, yet I‘d never even heard of it before this Sesame Street cover. Rosita can have quite a gruff voice sometimes – we’ve already witnessed that today, but here it’s sweet and gentle and full of love. It’s wonderful to see this side of her character. Rosita has a large family so it makes perfect sense that she’s good with younger children and babies – at large family gatherings I can totally see her playing “madre” and being looked up to by the other kids. If I listen to this too long I’ll start to nod off and we still have five more songs to cover so I’d better move on… *yawn*
5 – The Spanish G Word Song
The lyrics of this song (as fun as they are) aren’t likely to change your perception of the world or offer some new angle on life – they are a fairly run of the mill list of Spanish words starting with “G”. However, musically this piece is fantastic and that’s why it scores so highly. Latin music is as varied as the people and places it covers and this calls to mind the Havana nights of The Buena Vista Social Club. There’s a great juxtaposition between the grown up sound of the song and its simple, preschool lyrics. It should be noted that this song was co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (whatever happened to him). Carmen and Rosita are well at home with this style of song. I especially like the way Rosita is right on the beat, yet relaxed and smooth to suit the track. I’m sure it came easily to a talented performer like Carmen, but it’s a tough thing to do in reality. Fantastic!
4 – Everybody Say Hola
This might be the happiest song on today’s chart and that’s why it’s won a place near the top. All three of the main performers are brilliant in this clip. First there’s Fran Brill’s Zoe who I love a little bit more everytime I see her. Fran is such a classy performer. She lights up the screen beautifully. Carlo is a very capable guy who shows time and again that he can hold his own against veteran performers. Because he’s younger, I don’t think he always get the recognition he deserves for his five years on the show. And then there’s Rosita. This song shows off her lighter side and Carmen is filling her performance with fun little giggles and smiles. They say if you work on the telephone the person you’re speaking to can hear your smile – the same is very, very true here and it’s infectious.
3 – My Favorite Sneakers
This song brings us bang up to date as it only aired a few months ago on PBS. This is such a lot of fun. In some ways this feels like a combination of the previous two songs in that it has fantastic music (with a funky guitar line I can’t get out of my head) and the most joyous feel all about it. It’s silly and throwaway (as all the classic songs about sneakers are), but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. All concerned are clearly having a ball and that feeling is transferred to us as we watch and listen. It’s very special. I love the dance moves – who knew Rosita could do “The Running Man”?
2 – Sing/Canta
You’ve heard this song performed by so many artists in so many ways that it’s pretty hard nowadays to find a version that leaps out and grabs you and demands attention. That’s exactly what this number did to me. It’s so different, so interesting and so well done by all concerned that it very nearly stole the top spot at the last minute. I love the counter melody the Spanish guitar provides. Even Oscar the Grouch loves this! This is probably a good place to address the wing-shaped elephant in the room. As you may or may not know, Rosita was originally conceived and created with a set of wings. You can see them in this clip. Rosita is actually a “monster from the caves” – in fact her full name is Rosita la Monstrua de las Cuevas. Because of this she was designed to be bat-like and her wings were born. Several seasons later, with no warning, the decision was made to remove her wings. It’s hardly the first time a character has changed look significantly (orange Oscar, anyone?), but it’s not ideal for canon (did somebody say cannon?). I actually prefer her without her wings as they give her a less cluttered appearance, but what do I know?
1 – Mi Amiguita Rosita
Could there be any other option for the top spot in a chart sung by Rosita? For regular viewers of Sesame Street, Rosita truly is their “amiguita”. She’s certainly mine. Despite being an obvious pick, the main reason this is the number one song is because of how life affirming it is. Rosita proudly declares “I love the way I live”. If more people could share the same sentiment what an incredible world this would be. Being happy in your own skin and circumstances is not easy, but I’m so grateful this song offers that message – particularly from someone who could be seen as being in a minority group. Once again Carmen Osbahr is the glue that holds this sandwich together (I think I just mixed a metaphor) and is compelling and interesting to watch and listen to. ¡Brava!
In an era where Sesame Street is continuing to push boundaries with it’s characters it’s easy to overlook Rosita as a trailblazer, but she was. She was a new way for Latin Americans to get recognition on Sesame Street and allowed a whole new set of kids to see themselves on screen. The year she debuted she was one of only seven named female characters on the show – male characters were over triple that figure. Of those seven only she and Prairie Dawn still appear today, so that’s nothing to be sneezed at.
Finally, for all her incredible work on this chart I must thank the amazing Carmen Osbahr. I also need to thank all the other performers and writers and technicians and musicians that poured their hearts and souls into these songs. You’ve all added some Spanish flair to my life. Muchas Gracias Amigos.