I will admit that after reading the description of Ernest Cline’s new book, Ready Player One all of my inner-geek alarms went to Red Alert! Any science fiction novel with video game, movie, TV, role playing game and music references directly from the 1980’s is a book I want to read. Cline did not fail me and has written easily one of the most entertaining books of the year. You can read Teen Librarian, Stewart Fritz’s excellent review of the novel to learn about the story, but I want to talk about the music.
Cline did a magnificence job of mining the rich music of the decade that helped usher in the popularity of hip-hop, indie, new wave, and techno. I could not help but craft a playlist of the great tracks featured in the book.
1. Wild Boys – Duran Duran
2. Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil
3. Blue Monday – New Order
4.Union of the Snake – Duran Duran
5. Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
6. James Brown Is Dead – L.A. Style
7. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
8. Atomic – Blondie
9. A Million Miles Away – The Plimsouls
10. Change – John Waite
11. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
12. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
13. In My Dreams – Dokken
14. Pac-Man Fever – Buckner & Garcia
15. Tank – Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts
16. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC
17. Subdivisions - Rush
Ready player one : a novel
I am a grown man in his thirties with no children and I can unabashedly say that my most anticipated pop culture event of 2011 is the forthcoming movie The Muppets. Both my wife and I were raised watching The Muppet Show, which aired from 1976 to 1981, and we developed a deep appreciation for creator Jim Henson’s sense of humor, which managed to cater to both children and adults while remaining cheekily subversive. Other Muppets projects like Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, The Dark Crystaland Labyrinth were all enduring, but between the original TV show and the first three feature films (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caperand The Muppets Take Manhattan), our hearts belonged to Kermit and the gang.
But after the shocking death of Henson in 1990, quality control of the Muppet brand went downhill. Suddenly, the Muppets were being plugging into existing stories like A Christmas Carol, Treasure Islandand The Wizard of Oz. These puppet-infused literary adaptations lacked true imagination and creativity—two things the Muppets themselves had long represented. Ownership of the Muppets changed hands a few times. During these dark days, it was most certainly not easy being green.
And then, sometime at the end of the 00s, a potential (and unlikely) savior emerged for the Muppets: a comic actor known for his goofy charm and often crude sense of humor named Jason Segel. The How I Met Your Motherstar had just come off the success of the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Wanting to capitalize on his cachet, Hollywood suits approached him and asked what he wanted to do for his next project. And of all things, he said he wanted to make a Muppet movie. Turns out, Segel, too, grew up watching the variety show and missed the days when Kermit and Co. had been relevant and irreverent. Disney, who had purchased the brand, was more than happy to oblige. That film, loaded with guest stars and smart humor, opens November 23rd and will hopefully re-launch Henson’s greatest creations back into the pop culture zeitgeist. I, for one, will be there opening day.
In the meantime, however, Disney has taken a step towards promoting the film by gathering together a group of alternative artists and producing Muppets: The Green Album. This collection puts a modern spin on some of the Muppets most beloved songs. Weezer and Paramore’s Hayley Williams perform “The Rainbow Connection,” alt-rock group The Fray pulls off the catchy “Mahna Mahna,” and My Morning Jacket covers “Our World.” Other artists featured are Andrew Bird (“Bein’ Green”), Matt Nathanson (“I Hope that Something Better Comes Along”) and The Airborne Toxic Event (“Wishing Song”). But the albums best songs belong to Alkaline Trio’s fast-paced road song “Movin’ Right Along,” Sondre Lerche’s groovy “Mr. Bassman” and the ever-inventive OK Go’s cover of the “Muppet Show theme song.” (Check out their video below.)
Green is great for nostalgic fans as well as being a fantastic introduction for a new generation of Muppet enthusiasts. I can only hope that Segel has succeeded in making the Fuzzy Ones witty and inventive again. Even though I still have over a month of anticipation before the movie comes out, this album is helping to get me through the wait.
Muppets: The Green Album