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12 January 2012 @ 10:46 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #140: The Muppets "Pictures in my Head"  
Something that the more recent Muppet features have lacked are really excellent songs. Songs that resonate and stick with you. With the release of 2011's The Muppets feature film that has changed. Yes, there are a couple of old songs that play a prominent role in the film, but those aren't even the stand out tracks to me. It's the new material that really works well. The songs obviously tie-in very tightly to the film and move the plot along, but they also sound great on the soundtrack CD (is that because they trigger memories from the film, sure, but isn't that what soundtracks used to do?).

They're catchy, emotional and charged with that essential Muppet humor and style.

This week's pick I enjoyed before I saw the film and now that I've seen it, I love it even more. Let me set the scene. Jason Segel & Amy Adams characters along with a new muppet, Walter (Jason's best friend) have just informed Kermit that an oil tycoon wants to tear down the old Muppet Theater to dig for oil. The only way to save the theater is to raise $10 million dollars [insert Austin Powers pinky to mouth motion here]. Kermit says that the only way to raise that kind of money would be to put on a show, and he hasn't seen the old gang in a long, long time. As this song starts he is walking down a corridor in his house that has pictures of all of the Muppets in their past glory. At times, he pauses, singing about his friend whose picture he's in front of...

"Pictures in My Head"

It begins with a melancholy piano and Kermit's vocal, full of sad nostalgia.

"Is there more I could have said
Now they're only pictures in my head
That's why my green is feeling grey
Sometimes even frogs have rainy days..."

Of course this works wonderfully within the context of the film, but lyrically it's relatable in everyone's life. Second guessing is second nature to many people as is the desire to remember the 'good ol' days' whether they be 40-years ago, or 40-minutes ago (keeping these feelings in check is the key). Apparently our favorite frog has these tendencies as well.

"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..."

As Kermit's friends join in from their picture frames - after all, what's a musical number if people don't just join in? - with encouraging words, Dr. Teeth kicks the song up a notch in his typical groovalicious style: "This legato tune is posalutely, most-transparently bringing me down, one, two-and-a-half." With a bass guitar accent, the whole gang comes in for a rousing chorus, including the Swedish Chef, and it resolves with a brilliant drum-fill transition back to just the piano and Kermit. For a minute there I thought this hard-rock ballad from the '80s.

"Can we do it all again
Make 'em laugh like we did then
[Swedish Chef - no translation available]
We could harmonize for one more song..."

The song works, in more ways than one, as Kermit's memories persuade him to get the gang back together for one more show [insert crazy Kermit "yeeeeaaa!" here]! It also works in both a dramatic and musical sense as well, on record without the visual aspect. The somber beginning, quick build, musical swell, and resolution to vocal and piano is not unlike numerous power ballads. It's a little Muppet power ballad and while you might think it's a little crazy to put your fist in the air as the the Muppet crew assure Kermit they can "harmonize for one more song" in the way you could during the "whoa-ooo-oh-ohhh" section of Journey's "Faithfully", it's the same feeling that's being delivered, just with a different voice.

It's easy to dismiss a song because of the voice it's sung by, but if you strip down the really good Muppet songs, that's exactly what they are, really good songs. And the new movie is filled with them (see below).

It's so nice to have them back!

More from The Muppets (2011):
Life's a Happy Song (Jason Segel & Cast)
Me Party (Amy Adams & Miss Piggy)
Life's a Happy Song - Finale (Entire Cast)
Man or a Muppet

Some Classic Muppets:
Can You Picture That?
The Rainbow Connection
Movin' Right Along
I Hope That Something Better Comes Along
I'm Going to Go Back There Someday
We Got Us