1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 442

The Muppets (2011 Soundtrack), by Various Artists
Suggested by Dreena Jane

My wife has a fluffy fur coat. It is a glorious pink.

It’s not real fur. She’s not a monster. In fact, it’s not even pretending to be fur. It’s just furry, maybe wool or nylon, ready to be stroked or combed or teased from its frenetic and madcap natural state, to little or no effect.

She loves her pink coat. I’m not so keen. But we’re both agreed on one thing… it looks like a skinned Muppet. So much so that it’s become both a running joke and a casual frame of reference.

“Is it cold out? Will I need a coat?”
“Pretty cold, yeah. I’d wear the skinned Muppet.”

We’ve have many such conversations in Chez Craig, or at least we did when the outside world wasn’t riddled with anxiety, fear and superbugs.

While the abstract concept of skinning a Muppet and wearing its pelt is inherently humorous, it’s also more than a tad unhinged. There’s a sense of the sacrosanct about the Muppets, so much so that even imaginary violence towards them, of a non-cartoon nature, feels… disappointing. Everyone loves the Muppets, right? They’re so wholesome I could explode.

While its safe to say that those of us whose formative years straddled Jim Henson’s Seventies heyday knew the Muppets at their very best, the strength of the brand lies in reinvention. The frenetic anarchy of the show has translated well into movies and other appearances down the years, with the core characters finding new fans while swelling their puppet portfolio with fresh fuzzy felt faces all the while.

The Muppets, released in 2011, heralded a fine return to form after a decade adrift from the Silver Screen. It did so by concentrating on the basics. The plot sees the gang getting back together to save the legendary Muppet Theatre from a rich and pernicious oil baron. This is a clever conceit, as it allows the film, and the subsequent soundtrack, to capture the original TV show’s breathless and knockabout feel.

The film is excellent, and the soundtrack is too. It consists of remastered Muppets classics, like Rainbow Connection and Mah Na Mah Na, alongside five original songs, four covers, and a barrel of dialogue interludes. It’s these interludes that are the soundtracks single misstep, as they are pebbledashed throughout, sort and somewhat confusing, badly in need of curation. Aside from this, and maybe in part because of it, the soundtrack captures the essence of the Muppet experience, from the earnestness of its Oscar song Man or Muppet to the irreverence of the chicken-led cover of Cee Lo Green’s Forget You or the barbershop quartet that butchers Smells Like Teen Spirit. I have an unironic love for Starship’s We Built This City that transcends mere puppetry, and Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the School Yard is always value, despite using the phrase “Queen of Corona”. My standout track is the original Life’s a Happy Song, which crystalises the entire film, and franchise, in four perfect minutes.

Honestly? It comes down to a single thing. Do you like the Muppets? For those that do, as I do, this soundtrack delivers, scoring a strong 7/10. For those that don’t, I’d suggest that they have deeper issues to confront, as they clearly are bereft of a human soul.

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