THE MUPPETS ORIGINAL MOVIE SOUNDTRACK
Review by Ryan Dosier
This article contains detailed information on the soundtrack for The Muppets. If you wish to remain completely unspoiled on the movie or its songs, you may want to hold off on reading this article until sometime next week.
Ryan Dosier - On November 21st, The Muppets Original Movie Soundtrack will be hitting store shelves all across the country and be available for digital download via iTunes and Amazon.com. I was lucky enough to acquire the soundtrack early and I'm thrilled to say that I haven't stopped listening to it for two days. It's such a delight hearing new, quality Muppet music performed by the incredible voices of the Muppeteers along with great vocals from Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper.
There are 30 tracks on the soundtrack, half of which are short dialogue tracks used to introduce (and in one case close) the musical tracks. The dialogue ranges from about four to twenty seconds long, so they hardly get in the way, but some of them provide some good context for the music that is to come. Though they are fun to have, none of the songs are missing anything when the dialogue isn't present. Just think of the dialogue tracks as a nice little bonus when you listen to the soundtrack the whole way through, in order.
The album hits the ground rolling with a fun, raucous redo of "The Muppet Show Theme" that we all knew was coming. Unfortunately, there is nothing too spectacular present here. Yes, all the voices sound wonderful--Steve Whitmire's Kermit is especially a treat to hear in this classic--but it's a complete copy of "The Muppet Show Theme" we've always heard. This song works a lot better with the added visual of a complete reconstruction of the theme on the movie screen. Getting to see the Muppets put on their show again adds an immeasurable amount to the song we all know and love.
"Life's a Happy Song" is one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack and is quickly becoming one of my favorite Muppet songs of all time. This track introduces us to the characters of Gary (Jason Segel, surprisingly comfortable and adept singing here) and Walter (performed by the soothingly-voiced Peter Linz who brings heart, soul, and humor to the character just through the voice) as well as a brief solo from Mary (Amy Adams, whose attempts at being funny don't fall short here) and extremely quick vocal cameos from Feist and Mickey Rooney. The brilliance of this song is that it's just so wonderfully happy and unbelievably catchy. You'll be humming the chorus ("Everything is great, everything is grand, I've got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand! Everything is perfect, it's falling into place, I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face!") for days and you won't be mad about that at all. This song works on so many wonderful levels. It's exciting, it's fun, and it's happy. Segel and, especially, Walter carry this tune to a new height, making it a true highlight of the soundtrack and the film itself.
The second song in the film and the third on the soundtrack is Kermit the Frog's heart-wrenching ballad, "Pictures in My Head" which also features Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, The Swedish Chef, and The Electric Mayhem. This song is unbelievably touching and hits all the right notes of emotion with a nice influx of humor as well. There are so many beautiful lyrics in this song, but the stand out is easily, "If we could do it all again... just another chance to entertain... would anybody watch or even care? Or did something break we can't repair?" This line is not only poetic and lovely, but it says so, so much about the Muppets and their recent plights to regain fame and fans. Thankfully, Fozzie (who sounds perfect thanks to Eric Jacobson), Gonzo (the irreplaceable Dave Goelz), Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth (both the pitch-perfect Bill Barretta) and harmonies from the rest of The Electric Mayhem (Matt Vogel, David Rudman, et al) make this song soar as they sing along with Kermit. "Pictures in My Head" is beautiful and will give you chills every time you hear it. A truly perfect piece.
Next, we hear Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," which is only used in the movie for its beautiful guitar melodies. No lyrics from the song appear in the film at all. Later in the soundtrack we also here Starship's "We Built This City," which takes place while the Muppets clean up the theater. I don't have much to say about these two songs, since they aren't Muppefied... but they do work well in the film.
Fozzie Bear leads a rendition of "Rainbow Connection" that I never thought I would hear... one that shills for a Reno casino and hotel. The Moopets join Fozzie as back-up in this song while he sings such wonderfully funny lines as, "Why are there such great deals on our hotel rooms?" and "Our wedding chapel is 24 hours, no marriage certificate is needed." It's funny, it's Fozzie, and it works. Such a cute, stupid (in a good way) little novelty song that they didn't have to include on the soundtrack... but one I'm really glad they did. Again, Fozzie sounds perfect with the voice of Eric Jacobson, who never ceases to amaze me.
Up next is "Me Party" with Mary (Amy Adams) and Miss Piggy. I mentioned in my review of the movie that this was the only part that left me feeling "Meh," and I feel the same way about the song itself. Both Amy Adams and Miss Piggy have great voices here (Piggy, especially, sounds excellent) but the song itself is just... odd. It doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the music and the lyrics seem rushed. I think this song would have worked a lot better if it was an actual, planned duet with the two leading ladies. Instead, it's just Amy and Piggy singing separately, harmonizing only on one verse. It's just weird, and the low point of the soundtrack for me.
Chris Cooper gets to test his rapping chops (bet the Academy wasn't expecting that when they gave him the Oscar) with the hysterical and catchy "Let's Talk About Me." This song is oozing villainy, greed, and clever lyrics. Bret McKenzie's impressive lyrical skills shine here, as well as Chris Cooper's surprisingly well-suited for hip-hop voice. This is actually an extended version of the song that appears in the film, and provides some background context for why Richman hates the Muppets. In the movie, the song is much shorter (and works much better that way for the movie), but having the full version on the soundtrack is great. The included dialogue clip featuring Richman and Kermit is hysterical and is the perfect pay-off for the song.
Possibly my favorite song in the entire film... "Man or Muppet" sung by Jason Segel and Walter is perfect. Jason's singing is, once again, surprisingly fantastic, but not even he can match Walter. His adorable, spine-tingling voice is just beautiful in this song. Peter Linz shows us exactly why he was the perfect choice for Walter here with his sweet, lifting voice alongside Jason. The lyrics are awesome, and I think, "If I'm a man, that makes me a Muppet of a man" might become my new catchphrase. What I really love about this song, though, is the way it plays out in the film. One revealing shot during the song will have you laughing so hard that you might not hear the rest of the lyrics. I can't say enough how much I love this song. If we're looking for Oscar-worthy songs on this soundtrack, "Life's a Happy Song" is the standout, but "Man or Muppet" is a very close second.
Without a doubt the most exciting and unexpected song on the soundtrack for Muppet fans is "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the Nirvana classic covered by The Muppet Barbershop Quartet consisting of Sam the Eagle, Rowlf the Dog, Link Hogthrob, and Beaker. This unbelievable matching of characters and song is a true callback to The Muppet Show as it pairs the Muppets with a barbershop-rendition of a hard-rock song. I also have to commend Eric Jacobson, Steve Whitmire, and Bill Barretta on their vocals here, because all four of these characters sound incredible. Sam Eagle has a rich timber to his voice that will have you second guessing whether it's really Frank Oz, Rowlf's gruff soulfulness is spot-on, and Link Hogthrob makes his first major vocal appearance in 20 years, and Steve Whitmire has him sounding just as perfect and smooth and idiotic as ever. It's glorious and it's another personal favorite song of mine.
The funniest song on the soundtrack, by far, is Camilla and the Chickens clucking their way through Cee Lo Green's insanely catchy "Forget You" (or, "Cluck You" for you poultry-minded individuals). I'm a sucker for chicken covers of absolutely any song, and this one is 100% perfect. I really don't have any complaints about this. It's hilarious, it's fun, and it's an amazing treat to sing along with in the car. This scene in the movie is another of my personal favorites, and brings one of the biggest laughs of the whole thing, just because it's chickens clucking on screen in glittery outfits for a minute and a half. What's not to love?
There is no more meaningful song in the Muppet world than "Rainbow Connection." The Paul Williams classic carries the message, spirit, and beauty of the Muppets like nothing else. On this soundtrack, it's sung by Kermit, Miss Piggy, and all of the Muppets in an amazing, soaring, guaranteed-to-give-you-shivers manner that will never disappoint. Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson are the perfect harmonists as Kermit and Piggy tackle the opening verses of the song, and the drums that come in for the tail-end of the song are phenomenal, adding an extra level to this already-classic entry. This is my favorite song on the soundtrack. Every time I hear it I smile. Yes, we've heard it before, but never like this. It's an amazing tribute to an amazing song. Perfection.
"The Whistling Caruso" is a whistling wonderment penned by popular singer Andrew Bird, but not performed by him in the film. I won't reveal who does perform this in the movie and how it fits into the wonderful story, but it's magic. I adore this part of the movie, and this song is a part of the reason why. The melody is perfect and it's not too long, not too short. Whistling has never sounded better.
The movie closes with a reprise of "Life's a Happy Song (Finale)" that sends the song to an even higher level (if that was possible). Finally, we get a ton of Muppets joining together to sing a huge song for an amazing dance number that literally shut down Hollywood Boulevard. The song features vocal appearances by Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gary, Mary, Walter, Scooter, Fozzie, The Electric Mayhem, Uncle Deadly, Marvin Suggs and the Muppaphones, Tex Richman, Statler and Waldorf, Bobo, Beaker, Lew Zealand, Swedish Chef, Sweetums, Beautiful Day Monster, rats, penguins, chickens, and a whole chorus of others. I will never not be amazed by the fact that Marvin Suggs and Uncle Deadly have solo lines in a song from a Muppet movie in 2011. The lyrics are changed a bit for the finale here, but they are still perfect and I might even like them a little bit better here. It's just a wonderful finale that sends you into a million smiles and is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face.
The album closes with the original version of "Mahna Mahna" performed by Jim Henson. It's lovely to have Jim's voice included on this soundtrack, and "Mahna Mahna" is always fun to have.
I really can't talk about how glorious this soundtrack is enough. The songs will lift your spirits, make you smile, and have you singing along with them for days and days to come. Whether you buy this soundtrack when it is released on Monday, November 21st or wait to buy it until after you've seen the movie, you are guaranteed a musical treat. So, what I'm saying is... buy this soundtrack. The Muppets and your ears will thank you.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org