OK Go and The Muppets

27 Aug

Alright, so we’ve been crazy excited for a long time for the new Muppets movie, especially since it’s written by and starring Jason Segel, who is basically a 6-foot-4 Fozzie Bear with a penchant for nudity and stoner jokes. Seriously, his brilliant Dracula mini-musical from Forgetting Sarah Marshall tided us over for a long time in dealing with Muppet separation anxiety. And you have to figure that between Segel’s own songwriting skills, the music in his own movies and a whole gaggle of indie-geek musicians looking to get in on the action, the soundtrack would be pretty killer. Contributions from Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, The Airborne Toxic Event? All awesome. Let’s do this thing, we just need to kick it off in style! Oh. Oh wait. Oh no.

So then there was OK Go, who were tasked with re-inventing with the grail of Gonzo Grails, the holy of Henson Holies, the Muppet Show theme song. Why were they chosen? It’s an excellent question, one which I am sure can be answered by imagining a boardroom full of some guys in suits, one or two creatives with clear Prada nerd-glasses and a YouTube view counter. “We’re going to build a clever web campaign around this new Muppets movie, and we need some musicians!” “What about those OK Go guys? They’re young and hip and their videos are fun.” “Sure, but have you heard their music?” “No, but in the 21st century, views is money baby!” “Right!” Which led to me rolling over in bed last week as Jill Riley and Steve Seel happily announced that Muppets: The Green Album was the CD of the week on The Current and here comes OK Go with the theme song. Which promptly led to me wishing that Beaker and Bunsen were burning out my eardrums and the Swedish Chef was bludgeoning me senseless.

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to let those treadmill-walking twerps sap that iconic tune and turn it into buzzing minor key electronic dirge needs to be shot out of a canon. In the original tune, those opening horn blasts are so full of zany, bouncy energy that it is impossible contain the joy. OK Go makes it impossible to contain the bile. I have now watched their self-congratulatory video 4 times in a row in order to write this and there is more to hate every time. Beyond the fact that the alleged music has no brass and no celebration, replacing it with the sound of laptops crashing together and a hollow echo, the fact that OK Go move through their own music videos feels like a crass and shallow marketing ploy, it’s terrible watching the Muppets with their hands up the bisected bodies of the live action band members and the ongoing endings just get worse and worse. When Rolf can’t save a bit for me, the world must be ending.

“But,” you’re saying, “those OK Go music videos were really funny and inventive!” And you know what, you’re right, they were. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing about the music that went along with them. There’s that treadmill one, the paint-blast one and Rube Goldbergian one and not a single one of those tunes that accompanied them has made an impact on my life. The Muppets Show theme? Instant recognition and giggly chills. Here’s the thing- the Muppet Show was all about all-out earnest wackiness, with people like Steve Martin, Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper just throwing themselves into the make believe and running wild with it. The OK Go videos have always been about the cool technique of pulling it off, which is a far more distanced thing. So even if it does share some of the “whoa” factor, the exuberant giddiness of performing? Nope, nada, zip. It’s enough to break Miss Piggy’s heart.

I didn’t have to even say anything about it, the words have been there all along. Statler & Waldorf sang it with ironic verve and energy at first, making it a joke about the joke, but dribbling out of the unenthused mouths of OK Go, it just becomes self-fulfilling: “Why do we always come here? I guess we’ll never know. It’s like a kind of torture to have to watch this show.” Maybe I’m just aggrieved because they did a terrible thing to a cherished memory, but even if not, that tune is a wheezing, sloppy, unhappy mess. I’m sure that the OK Go guys are nice, well-meaning people, and so I mean it in all sincerity when I tell them to just stop it and go be Animal’s roadies. And for those of you who watched the video above, I apologize. Here’s the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational version, may we never need another.

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