In recent years, the music world has made an effort to re-emphasize the reciprocal nature of childhood. The music that is created for children affects those that are adults as those children grow up. This is in the same vein of A Nightmare Revisited; the retrofiting of music to fit both our nostalgia and our own musical tastes. However, unlike A Nightmare Revisted, who remade music from a recent movie; we now have a President who was eight when Sesame Street first appeared and now has daughters who have grown up on it. The Muppets as a cultural point of view supersedes that of almost any thing else. Their movies, shows, and music have impacting not only American culture, but the world. Perhaps, then Joe Rapposo and Kenneth Ascher belong in our lexicon with the Beatles and Gershwin.
The Green Album itself can be broken into two types of songs; remakes and remixes. The remakes are the songs that were directly remade, for example “The Rainbow Connection” by Weezer and Hayley Williams (from Paramore), “Mahna Mahna” by the Fray, “Moving Right Along” by Alkaline Trio, “Mr. Bassman” by Sondre Lerche, and the Sublime “Bein’ Green” by Andrew Bird. Meanwhile, the remixes are the songs reinterpreted by the artists who covers them. These include “The Muppet Show Theme” by OK Go, “Our World” by My Morning Jacket, “Halfway Down The Stairs” by Amy Lee (from Evanescence), “Wishing by The Airborne Toxic Event, “Night Life” by Brandon Saller (from Atreyu) and Billy Martin (from Good Charlotte), “I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along” by Matt Nathanson, and “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” by Rachael Yamagata.
The music, like that on the show resonates from silly to sublime, kitsch to cute, and emotional to electronica. Perhaps the best metaphor for this is the first official video from OK GO remixing the theme of the Muppet Show.
This piece of satiric perfection is the pinnacle of the album. The video merely reinforces this. The song is designed to immediately remind you of the classic. The video reminds you of the show. There is immediate catastrophe, followed by self-referential parody of all of OK Go’s previous videos, and highlighted by the joke of OK Go being puppets controlled by the Muppets, while Horace and Jasper just want to watch cat videos. This is a beautiful representation of the album and the Muppets themselves. From the self deprecation of show at all points to the general absurdity, the album hits all the right points.
“Mahna Mahna” by the Fray, “Moving Right Along” by Alkaline Trio, and “Mr. Bassman” by Sondre Lerche are perfect. You can sing along, the emotion is light and the music is exactly the feel you remember. While “Halfway Down The Stairs” by Amy Lee (from Evanescence) and “Wishing” by The Airborne Toxic Event hit the right emotional chords that bring emotional baggage of the weight of the songs.
However, for those who know me, only two songs matter. The first, the Rainbow Connection, is, to me, one of the most beautiful songs written in the last forty years. The simplicity of the original and the subtlety of music made the song quintessential to the movie and the development of the Muppets as the symbols they are. I am sure for Weezer this daunting task was powered through, mainly because I doubt Rivers had the modesty to care. However, they did not mess with the perfect formula and created a beautiful duet. Meanwhile, Andrew Bird did challenge my other song, Bein’ Green. This song represents all that Sesame Street tries to be. It represents individuality, love of oneself, growth as a person, and simple release and acceptance. When the song came out, it was covered by Frank Sinatra within the first year, Buddy Rich, Van Morrison, Diana Ross, and Ray Charles within the first five. Andrew Bird adds a more light-hearted feeling, compared to the song which is almost dark until the finale. There is a whistling section, which you can’t help but smile at, and the strings replace the dated flute.
In the end, the album has it’s misses, but even they commit no great sin. Please listen, feel like a kid again, and enjoy these classics one more time.