So true to my word, I did end up downloading a full copy of the new album from The Muppets, or at least a bunch of random people covering The Muppets, and although I’m sad to admit it, my predictions were actually spot-on for what I ended up thinking of the full album. 3, maybe 4 tracks tops, out of 12, is what I will actually probably listen to again in the future, so I guess let’s just start going track-by-track to see what exactly went horribly wrong with this album in my book…

Muppet Show Theme (OK Go)
I guess you could call it the premiere track on the album, which was actually simultaneously released as a music video as well … but frankly, this one was just way too weird for me. I don’t really get into their kind of music anyways, so it was a bit too funky for me. And also, a small discrepancy that another reviewer pointed out – it did seem a little odd that they just sang the Statler and Waldorf lines along with everything else, so it seemed odd that they were boasting about the show one minute and then complaining about it the next instead of putting those words into the hecklers’ mouths.

Anyways, the spirit is there and they clearly had fun with it, but it was just too weird … even for The Muppets.

Rainbow Connection (Weezer, featuring Hayley Williams)
On the other hand, I really liked this one – nice and clean and simple … like several others on this album, this is just such a great classic that bringing too much to the table would’ve been overpowering, but this great duet really did the nostalgia justice!

Mahna Mahna (The Fray)
Honestly, this sounded almost exactly like I remember the original skit.

Movin’ Right Along (Alkaline Trio)
Probably the “most different” song that I actually enjoyed, I think this sort of hard rock/punk remix worked rather well, primarily because it puts its own spin while still maintaining the original fun spirit of the song.

Our World (My Morning Jacket)
I didn’t even recognize this song as the one that Ma sings in Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas until I looked it up on YouTube, so I guess I’m not really sure why they even included it on the album. I mean, the cover is fine, but it’s certainly not a song that comes to mind when I think Muppets. Odd because there are plenty of other songs that would’ve fit better…

Halfway Down the Stairs (Amy Lee)
Frankly, this and Rachael Yamagata are tied for worst songs on the album, in my opinion. I think what ruins this particular one is the eerie, gothic-tekno background music because otherwise she does have a really strong and pretty voice. And I do get that goth is kind of her thing, but this song was originally sung by the Muppet-equivalent of a little kid, so I think it was just a bad direction.

Mr. Bassman (Sondre Lerche)
For the most part I like this song except for one tiny, but significant-in-my-mind detail – the bass rhythms don’t actually match from the original!!! Seriously, I thought I was just making it up in my head at first, but then I pulled up the old duet with Scooter and Floyd and listened to them side-by-side and it just confirmed my nitpicking craziness. So close, too, but that tiny detail almost makes this one painful to listen to…

Wishing Song (The Airborne Toxic Event)
This was another one that was basically forgettable for me – the song never really did anything for me, and neither does this cover of it.

Night Life (Brandon Saller)
This is kind of a weird one to review because I actually never really liked this song even by Electric Mayhem … and yet, the cover in sort of a hair-band-style I think really works. I still don’t like the song, but it works!

Bein’ Green (Andrew Bird)
Hands down the best song on the album because just like with Rainbow Connection, this is a nice and simple rendition of an old favorite. And I know that a lot of people say that a “cover” should put a new spin on an old song, but if we’ve learned anything from American Idol, sometimes it can be better just to sing a nice version of an old favorite than to absolutely butcher it “making it your own.”

I Hope That Something Better Comes Along (Matt Nathanson)
Meh.

I’m Going to Go Back There Someday (Rachael Yamagata)
So slow and so boring – a real disappointment because I really, really love this song. It’s probably in my top 3 favorite Muppet songs ever (along with Rainbow Connection and Just One Person), so I was kind of bummed to hear the album end on such a low note. Frankly, it was almost depressing to listen to because whereas when Gonzo sings it with an upbeat at the end of each verse, this chick just sings it so monotonous that I’m not really sure if she actually wants to go back there someday or not…

I guess one interesting thought to wrap this up on is that while yes, this album is most definitely a very different take on The Muppets than I’m really used to, at the same time The Muppets themselves are evolving as well. Looking through the cast list for the upcoming movie this fall, the list of original Muppet performers still in active duty is getting pretty slim – really only Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Bunsen, Waldorf) and Steve Whitmire (took over Kermit and most of Jim Henson’s characters when Jim died), so while listening to this album also admittedly makes me a little worried of what to expect with the new movie, maybe it’s time to come to terms with the idea that The Muppets in general are kind of changing, too.

Of course, I’d love to later find that this album is an isolated incident and that Jason Segel has completely knocked it out of the park with this one, making it the comeback that we’ve been waiting for since Muppets From Space, but we’ll see!

In the meantime, if you want to make your own comparison between the old and the new, here’s a great “interactive video” from YouTube that shares sample clips from the original versions of every song on the new album:

(samples of the new tracks can be found on both Amazon and iTunes)

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