?In the world of primetime episodic television animation, The Simpsons is a titan among titans. We won’t bore you with mind-boggling numbers about ratings conquests, guest stars, and the amount of Bart Simpson T-Shirts sold since 1989. No, instead, we’re here today to celebrate part of what made The Simpsons great to begin with: namely the songs featured over the course of their 500 episode-plus run to date. From parodies and jingles to original song and dance numbers fit for the broadway stage, these musical achievements are a big part of what made them the big yellow icons they are today and demonstrate why the golden age of The Simpsons will probably be looked back upon as an unscalable TV triumph. So, while you wait for the one millionth episode spectacular to air in the year 4000, kick back, keep at least one eye open, and check out the entries on this list to indulge in their musical brilliance, creativity, and of course, hilarity. Tell ’em Troy McClure sent ya.
15) They’ll Never Stop the Simpsons
There are few things more infuriating to a die-hard TV fan than finding out the long-awaited newest episode of his favorite program is none other than a thinly-veiled clip show because the writers couldn’t come up with anything new for that week. 2002’s “Gump Roast” seemed to be just that, but the abrupt ending anchored by “They’ll Never Stop The Simpsons” – a musical apology for the clip show that preceded it to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” accompanied by several self-deprecating faux story ideas (“Marge becomes a robot”) – was both the perfect path to redemption and an ironic anthem combating those rooting for the show’s cancellation after its perceived decline. Okay, The Simpsons. All is forgiven. Proceed with awesome.
14) The Garbageman
A parody of “The Candy Man” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “The Garbageman” celebrates the ridiculous promises of sanitary nirvana Homer made while running for office with wit and showmanship that The Simpsons of the ’90s managed with scary regularity.
13) You’re Checkin’ In
An excellent satire of the seemingly unlimited number of get-out of-jail-free cards some Hollywood celebs seem to possess, “You’re Checkin’ In” is part of the broadway musical the Simpson family attend titled Kickin’ It: A Musical Journey Through the Betty Ford Center in the episode “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” The song even won an Emmy award and would surely snag a Topless Robot nomination for Catchiest Fake Broadway Tune from an Animated Program if such an award existed.
12) Drop Da Bomb (Yvan eht nioJ)
After Bart, Milhouse, Ralph, and Nelson are rounded up to form a fake boy band (The Party Posse) as part of a massive recruitment scheme to influence citizens subliminally (and at times, superliminally) to enlist in the Navy, they release a string of pop hits in order to coerce those within earshot to enlist. The most memorable and blatant of these chart-toppers was “Drop Da Bomb,” including lyrics like “Your love is more deadly than Saddam” and the immortal chorus “Yvan eht nioJ,” the song melds together boy band romanticizations and the needs of the U.S. sea power in effortless harmony.
11) Luke Be A Jedi Tonight
We wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if we left out this nerdtacular gem from the Season 10 episode “Mayored to the Mob.” The context of the number – Mark Hamill is thrust into a terrible Springfield dinner theater production of Guys and Dolls complete with botched lyrics and incorrect costuming (he’s forced to wear his Luke Skywalker threads) – is funny in its own right, but his last-ditch improvised lyrics (“and…uh…do it for Chewie and the ewoks. And all the other puppets?”) take the cake.
10) Cut Every Corner
An examination of the American work ethic, “Cut Every Corner” celebrates getting through life the easier way whenever possible. Of course, it’s also a parody of “A Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins, as performed by the episode’s main guest character, the appropriately named Shary Bobbins. The lyrics are stealthily brilliant (“If nobody sees it, then nobody gets mad”) and the song is juxtaposed hilariously against Shary’s stereotypical goody-two shoes nanny persona as she implores the Simpson kids and various Springfield residents to “just do a half-assed job.”
9) Scorpio (Theme Song)
From the episode “You Only Move Twice” the James Bond song parody celebrates the generous work benefits offered by Globex Corp President, dream boss and super villain Hank Scorpio. The lyrics speak for themselves (“His twisted twin obsessions are his plot to rule the world and his employees’ health”) and its bond-theme centered melodics work beautifully considering the context, celebrating a boss any blue collar slob would envy, even if he’s prone to world-takeover plots and attacking government agents with a flamethrower.
8) Happy Birthday, Lisa
A sentimental favorite among the core of the show’s fanbase, “Happy Birthday, Lisa” is simply a touching tune from the show’s earlier seasons, celebrating Bart’s love for his little sister in a manner both poignant and memorable. While Jackson is believed not to have been able to perform the song himself due to contractual complications, the King of Pop and “Do the Bartman” songwriter’s spirit is certainly present, as it is in the episode surrounding it.
7) An Amendment To Be
6) See My Vest
In 1991, Walt Disney Pictures premiered Beauty and the Beast and along with it, musical number “Be Our Guest.” About four years later, The Simpsons released “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds,” an episode that took jabs at many things Disney with hilarious results, including the Montgomery Burns musical number and “Be Our Guest” parody “See My Vest.” The song develops another dimension to the evil (and ridiculous) antics of Springfield’s greediest and richest citizen by exposing his sordid history of unique animal part accessorization while simultaneously revealing his evil plans to the spying Bart and Lisa. The song caps it all off by setting up a great interaction between Burns and Smithers after its conclusion (Burns: “I really like the vest.” Smithers: “I gathered, yeah.”)
5) Talkin’ Softball
The secret lives and subsequent fates of professional athletes are sometimes stranger than fiction, and the episode “Homer at the Bat” which featured “Talkin’ Softball” certainly explored that concept to an outrageous degree. While the context of the episode helped enhance the song’s comedic content, the parody of Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball” performed by Cashman himself contains lyrics unforgettable to both Simpsons and baseball fans alike (“Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw/Steve Sax and his run-in with the law”) and is still entertaining today even though all of the players featured are retired and a significant number have since dealt with drug and/or PED allegations.
4) We Do (The Stonecutters)
Obviously a group with clear vision and objective leadership, “We Do” displays The Stonecutters’ (the secretive Freemason-inspired fraternity Homer falls into) pride in manipulating everything from transportation (“Who holds back the electric car?”) to the entertainment industry (“Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?”) and finally offers an explanation for why the United States refuses to adopt the metric system. There are certain songs ingrained in the DNA of The Simpsons. This is one of them.
3) Dr. Zaius
Simultaneously an awesome nod to Planet of the Apes and a hilariously awful yet extremely catchy and enjoyable musical number, this parody of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” has stood the test of time as one of The Simpsons‘ most memorable off-broadway musical numbers. The song gets extra credit thanks to its corresponding animation’s breakdancing ape and Troy McClure’s awesome cheeseball antics on the piano.
2) The Monorail Song
The Conan O’Brien-scribed “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode ranks highly across the critical consensus as one of the show’s all-time best, thanks in no small part to its defining number “The Monorail Song.” Piloted by the late Phil Hartman as the smooth talkin’, town-upending swindler Lyle Lanley, not only did it expose (and in part, define) Springfield as a town run by mob-mentality, (Marge: But Main Street’s still all cracked in broken. Bart: Sorry Mom the Mob has spoken!) but included several witty barbs regarding the politician/voter relationship as Lanley sells the town on the Monorail as a cure-all for Springfield’s woes (Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs? Lyle: You’ll be given cushy jobs!) and reassures them that nothing can possibly go wrong (Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend? Lyle: Not on your life, my Hindu friend!) right before everything does. It’s classic Simpsons vaudeville at its finest.
Whoa, Canyonero! Effectively mocking the shit out of the rampant overgrowth of self-fashioned suburban cowboy douchebags taking the highways of the mid-to-late 90’s by force with their flagrantly unsafe and environmentally unsound SUVs, the Hank Williams Jr.-performed “Canyonero” from Season 9’s “The Last Temptation of Krust” did a lot to illustrate the pointed disdain The Simpsons‘ writers (and probably a lot of other people) must’ve felt for the irrational and misguided attempts of patriotic machoism these vehicles represented. Of course, the fact that the lyrics are unrelentingly hilarious and catchy helps too, reminding us what an original song on The Simpsons can be: pure sardonic perfection.
Honorable Mentions: “Underwater Wonderland,” “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel,” “Adults/Kids,” “Gonna Paint Our Wagon,” “Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?” “Mr. Plow,” “We Put the Spring in Springfield,” “Flaming Moe’s”