“Singing Is The Lowest Form Of Communication!” This is what Homer Simpson concluded with great seriousness in “All Singing And Dancing”, an episode of the “Simpsons” that may not be among the strongest of the soon longest and most culturally most relevant TV series. Series heard all the time, but sums up with ironic precision how the yellows deal with all the subjects that they relentlessly parodied and at the same time passionately celebrate.
The title already gives it away: It was an episode that itself works like a musical. A completely unnecessary undertaking, because elements of the musical have always played a major role in the series penned by Matt Groening – as well as a meta-narrative use of pop standards and a great passion for post-modern play self-written silly songs.
Every child knows the “Simpsons” theme
Danny Elfman’s theme tune, which everyone involved still claims to this day that it immediately met the humorous style of the “Simpsons” in a congenial way and that after being heard for the first time did not require any further editing, is of course a prime example of how a whole universe of images and thoughts can be created with just a few tones can be driven and illustrated in a dazzlingly suggestive way. The series makers demonstrated how versatile this orchestral matrix could be with countless variations that were played in the credits. There is the “Sonic Youth” volley, the “It’s A Mad, Mad World” homage, the “JFK” ballot and even a renaissance music variant.
But producers Matt Groening, Sam Simon and James L. Brooks were not satisfied with such jokes. This animated series, which works like no other, is a simply not to be killed phenomenon of the 90s and has basically become television on television itself, left everything behind on the audio level that was about “Felix The Cat” “The Flinstones” to the “Looney Tunes” had previously opened up as a space of possibility in the genre.
This was largely due to Alf Clausen, known for his scores for “Splash – A Virgin on the Hook” and above all “Ferris makes blue”. The background music for “Alf” is also on his cap – with some pretty spleens, which he transferred to his life project, which became the “Simpsons” for him from 1989 onwards.
TV declaration of love to the music world
Clausen single-handedly wrote some of the most extraordinary, allusive pieces of music ever to be heard on a television show. Just think of the melancholy and pointed “Flaming Moe’s”, the barbershop quartet number “Baby On Board” (of course a nearly perfect bow to the Beatles, as well as the full episode “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” the career history of the Fab Four with relish through the cocoa), or the brilliant “Monorail Song”, heard in one of the best episodes of the entire series (“Homer gets going”). A nifty piece that is downright terrifyingly brilliant at exposing the manipulative power of music.
All these tracks can be found – along with more than 30 others – on the compilation “Songs In The Key Of Springfield”, the soundtrack and acoustically impressive dialog highlights (“Honey Roasted Peanuts”!) From the first seven seasons.
Of course, a completely self-assured affair: the title occupied Stevie Wonder’s wonderfully overloaded mammoth work from 1976 (“Songs In The Key Of Life”), the cover artwork reproduced that skillful style of merchandising that gave the Yellows a second existence back then Retail shelves granted.
With the idiosyncratic “The Simpsons Sing The Blues” (1990) and the “Yellow Album” (1998) the speakers, who had risen to millionaires in a very short time, gave in to their desire to carry songs into the world themselves. With a playful, but often questionable result. Hardly anyone wants to listen to the record today.
“Songs In The Key Of Springfield” pursues a different strategy (like the sovereign successors “Go Simpsonic With The Simpsons” and “Testify”, which, despite all the outstanding pieces, already made it clear how quickly the musical principle of the “Simpsons” – Sound production had become a method). Here the large and small musical moments of the series are given space to stand for themselves without breathing images.
More about “The Simpsons”
What in 22 minutes of an episode was in part unfairly put into the background by the almost impossible to exhaust image ideas, shines on this record. Above all the musical interludes of “Oh Streetcar!” (A slightly different stage version of “Endstation Sehnsucht”) and the musical “Planet of the Apes”.
Matt Groening aptly said of the latter in an audio commentary on the DVD version of the episode: “I don’t really like musicals. But I would go and see this immediately. “
Parody of the medium
Just one of many examples why the soundtrack of the “Simpsons” (which the producers paid a lot for, including their own studio and permanent session musicians), which is thought to be great in every respect, is not just a scrap of pop and rock, but itself was allowed to make his own rhyme with the social and cultural developments of the time. The animated series gradually lost this freedom, with continued success, and later more and more clearly from sight.
There are many little gems to discover on “Songs In The Key Of Springfield”: For example a declaration of love to Tony Bennett (“Dancin ‘Homer”), Robert Goulet’s crazy “Jingle Bells” mockery (with the lines: “Ohhh… jingle bells / Batman smells / Robin laid an egg / The Batmobile broke it’s wheel / The Joker got away ”), but of course also all the topics from the series that are not only visually coded, but also have an effect through the almost casually used score : “Itchy and Scratchy”, “Eye On Springfield” and of course the “Treehouse Of Horror” episodes.
“TV Sucks!”, That’s what the “Simpsons” claim confidently – and they don’t mean it ironically. The animated film series, which basically declined from dramedy to sitcom to cartoon with increasing duration, at least intellectually, also etched wonderfully with its own soundtrack on the medium, whose most successful product they have now become.
This score does not yet show any signs of wear and tear – as there were none in the first eight seasons of the “Simpsons”. Instead, there is something amazing by the meter! Tears (of joy) flow with “Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?”. In it, Homer says clairvoyantly about the initially American-optimistic and later moping Indian Apu: “Hey, he’s not happy at all. He lied to us through song! I hate when people do that! “. Of course there is still a trace of identity politics. Every viewer understood that it was a satire.
Tito Puente’s diabolical mambo “Senor Burns” is a pleasure. But the tender bowing of musicians (“It Was A Very Good Beer”; “It Was A Very Good Year”, Frank Sinatra / “In A Gaga Da Vida”, Iron Butterfly) remains even with a view to what came later , unforgettable. Even if all the many socks, dolls, buttons, coffee mugs are superfluous as merchandising and the new owner Disney will earn nice sums in the future, this compilation is definitely not. One hour of playing time preserves the genius of a television series that will forever remain unique.