Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Muppets Soundtrack review

Wow, this cd contains 30 songs. That is a LOT, especially for a soundtrack cd. Well, things are not as they seem; half of the tracks on the CD are 'dialogue tracks' that contain snippets of dialogue from the movie related to the tracks.
Still, even when you eliminate the dialogue tracks you've got 14 tracks left and of course quality is more important than quantity. Let's take a look at each track. Note: although I try to keep them as minimal as possible, it's unavoidable that this review contains some minor movie spoilers.

The Muppet Show Theme – The Muppets
What can I say about this legendary theme other than that it's a new recording meaning that the sound quality is a lot better than the quality of the old theme as we know it? The arrangement is the same and of course some of the voices sound a bit different due to the new generation of Muppeteers but overall it sounds as close to the original as you can get.

Life's a Happy Song – Jason Segal, Walter and Amy Adams
The first original song on the soundtrack hits all the right notes. It's simple, optimistic and just bursts with energy. It defines the Muppet's outlook on life and can stand toe to toe with other Muppet movie classics like the Rainbow Connection and Hey a Movie. Sung by Walter, Gary and Mary it lays the foundation of their storyline and just like in the movie, it's the perfect song to wake up. This is the song you will hum for days after listening to it.

Pictures in my Head – Kermit
Amidst all the happy and crazy songs on this soundtrack Pictures in my head stands out as a poignant, sad song. Kermit hasn't seen the other Muppets in years and it hurts. If there's one song that defines the Muppets as more than twodimensional puppets it's this one. It beautifully demonstrates how we can relate to these characters because we all had friends who got out of sight during our lives. The perfect supplement to Life's a Happy Song.

Me and Julio by the school yard – Paul Simon
This really sounded like a road trip song to me so I was kinda surprised it wasn't used as such in the movie. It's a really relaxing song with a heavy emphasis on akoustic guitar which is a plus for me, being a guitarist. Written by the great Paul Simon, it isn't a song you would associate with the Muppets and it may not fit in with the other songs but it's a great song on it's own.

The Rainbow Connection – The Moopets

Why are there such great deals on our hotel rooms?” starts the first line of the Moopets version of the magical song from the first Muppet movie. Clearly, this isn't a lovely tribute. The Moopets version tries to advertise the Hotel they're playing at with hilarious results. It's so bad it's good. Singing off key and trying to plug as many features of the hotel as they can Fozzie and the Moopets deliver one of the worst but funniest covers of The Rainbow Connection. It's short and it's sweet.

We Build This City – Starship
A rock song that is as eighties as can be. If that's a good or bad thing is up to you. Personally I love eighties rock and I like the song although I would have preferred a Muppets cover. A Electric Mayhem cover would be amazing and fit the movie much better.

Me Party – Amy Adams and miss Piggy
This disco-styled duet between Amy Adams and Miss Piggy is a bit on the short side lasting barely 90 seconds. As mentioned in the movie review, it doesn't really benefit from being a duet since there's no interaction between the two. It's a missed opportunity since Amy Adams and Miss Piggy both have great singing voices. The song itself (arrangement/composition) is pretty good. I just wish there was more of it.

Let's Talk About Me – Chris Cooper
Tex Richman has a song too and it's a rap song of all things. Chris Cooper can rap pretty well and the song's lyrics are cleverly written (“I got so much gold I gold plate my gold”). The chorus is catchy as can be and it even features an opera styled bridge that explains why Richman hates the Muppet which was cut from the movie.

Man or Muppet – Jason and Walter
Is this song meant to be serious or not? It doesn't really matter as it walks a delicate balance between comedy and drama and it is one of the best songs of the soundtrack. Walter and Jason share a duet in the same style as Piggy and Adams in Me Party. It works much better here though since Walter and Jason sing about their personal problems instead of singing interchangable lyrics. When they join voices at the last refrain it ends the song with a bang.

Smells like Teen Spirit – Sam the Eagle, RowlfLink Hogthrob and Beaker
The Muppets have always been known for their covers. The first episode of the Muppet show started with Mahna Mahna, a cover itself and that trend has been continuing to this day. The Muppets features an amazing cover of grunge band Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit sung in a Barbershop quartet style by Sam the Eagle, Rowlf, Beaker and Link Hogthrob. It's certainly one of the most original takes on the 1991 classic and it's definitely one of the best covers the Muppets have done, ranking up with the Bohemian Rhapsody cover and maybe even surpassing it. The voices supplement each other marvelously and in a smart twist, the profane lyrics are 'sung' (or rather 'meeped' by Beaker) effectively eliminating them without making it sound the song's been censored.

Forget You – Camilla and the chickens
Another cover but this is one of a more recent song, Cee-Lo Green's Forget You. Sung entirely in chicken by Camilla and the chickens it's a nice and funny inclusion but the lack of words does make it a bit repetive. There's really not much more to say about this one since the arrangement is basically the same as the original.

The Rainbow Connection – The Muppets
This version of arguably the best Muppet movie song in history does a nice job of recreating the song's magic without sounding like a repeat. Starting out as a solo Kermit song, morphing into a duet between Kermit and Piggy, the song slowly adds more Muppets singing without losing the gentility of the song. Accompanied by a beautiful string arrangement and later in the song the Electric Mayhem, the Rainbow Connection has never sounded as good as it has here. The fact that the whole main cast sings along makes the 'Muppety' feeling of the song that much stronger. While the song is somewhat abbrevated in the actual movie, the soundtrack features the complete song.

The Whistling Caruso – Walter
A whistling solo by Walter which is impressive considering most Muppets don't have lips. The song itself is 'nice' but it doesn't stand out like the rest of the songs. You'll like it the first few times you hear it but the novelty of a whistling song wears out soon.

Life's a Happy Song (finale) – Entire Cast
A reprise of Life's a Happy Song, sung by the entire cast. The inclusion of more singing Muppets, including some unexpected ones, makes this a great ending to the film and soundtrack. The lyrics are somewhat altered and the different cast makes this more than just a repeat of the first song. Personally I like it even better than the original, even though it's a bit shorter.

Mahna Mahna – Mahna Mahna and the Snowths
The legendary Mahna Mahna song has been used a lot in the promotion for the movie so it's no big surprise it's featured on the soundtrack. The original song is remastered in a great stereo mix that makes it sound like the Mahna Mahna Muppet is walking all over the place. It's still as catchy as it was in the 60's and it's nice to hear Jim Henson himself featured on the soundtrack.

A song featured in the movie that was left out on the Soundtrack is AC/DC's Back in Black, of which an instrumental version is used in the montage. I can see how some of the more profane lyrics can pose a problem but it's inclusion would have been nice since it's a great song.

Overall the soundtrack is great, but not perfect. The original songs mostly stand out and are worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as other great Muppet movie songs from the past while the covers pay a nice tribute without sounding like a copy and paste job. There are some comedy songs that sound nice the first few times but prove to be skippable during the long run. That shouldn't ruin your listening experience though since most of the songs stand remain fresh and exciting for a long least it's understandable to see why.

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