Warner Bros. // 2012 // 48 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 20th, 2012
Learn about rhyming, shapes and counting!
Dear Rolling Stone magazine,
I'm submitting the following article for your consideration. I'm not asking that you use this as your cover story, but perhaps you could promote it with a blurb printed just beneath Jon Hamm's chin. Also, out of respect for my integrity as a writer, I would ask that you not double-check the quotes I've included. Thanks.
-- Judge Clark Douglas
What is the definitive signal that a musical artist has truly arrived? Performing in the country's largest sports arenas? Earning rave reviews from national music critics? Being invited to play at SXSW or Coachella? Earning Grammy nominations? Being inducted into the rock n' roll hall of fame? These are all considerable feats, to be sure. However, anyone who's serious about the music business knows the true pinnacle of achievement for a rock star: performing on Sesame Street.
For years, the infamous street has been a hub of vibrant cultural activity. Sure, at a first glance it might look like a bad neighborhood (there have even been reports of citizens living in garbage cans), but look closer: you might just see Robert de Niro giving the locals a lesson on how to successfully play a cabbage, or perhaps you'll find First Lady Michelle Obama discussing her latest health program at a local restaurant. It's an animated, remarkably youthful hangout populated by genial birds, ravenous monsters, mathematically-obsessed vampires and creatures which defy description. The street is so overwhelming that simply being there creates a kind of natural high (which may explain why so many people on the street are often found wondrously examining life's most basic elements: "There are so many words that start with the letter G!" one man exclaimed as he chased a small goat down the street).
Of course, getting into Sesame Street is notoriously challenging, which is why so many Americans must content themselves with watching highlight reels of each week's activities on television. However, every now and then, the powers-that-be will extend an invitation to a living legend and grant them the opportunity to pay a brief visit. "Being invited to visit Sesame Street is akin to receiving a personal invitation from God to visit heaven," David Bowie told me. "So the answer is always yes. Unfortunately, my invitation was rescinded after I starred in Labyrinth and the The Muppets decided that I was no longer suitable company." A new DVD entitled Sesame Street: Singing with the Stars collects some of these ephemeral moments and compiles them into 48 minutes of unfiltered musical ecstasy. Now, viewers can visit some of the greatest moments in the history of music again and again.
Who can forget that legendary day when singer James Blunt stopped by and made one of the most shocking confessions in the history of television: he was in love with a triangle. His gentle re-working of his song "Beautiful" was a spine-tingling moment. "I saw three pointy corners, and I saw three straight sides," he cooed. "The top was very narrow and the base was oh-so-wide." Blunt wasn't the only one inspired to improve his most popular material: Sheryl Crow reached new heights as an artist when she realized that "I'm Gonna Soak Up the Sun" would work best as a tribute to the letter I, while Jason Mraz somehow found a way to make one of his sunniest songs even sunnier -- literally -- by turning "I'm Yours" into a song about playing outdoors. "I think it was always about playing outdoors," Mraz said. "It just took a visit to Sesame Street to help me recognize that. This place is so full of truth."
Indeed, Sesame Street isn't just a place. It's a muse, a revelation and an inspirational kiss upon the brain. For instance, Feist's "1234" was always meant to be a Sesame Street song about counting, but it took a visit to uncover that truth. The street also has a way of inspiring stars-in-the-making to reach their potential: Justin Timberlake left N'Sync shortly after visiting, and Beyonce left Destiny's Child in similar fashion. "Watching Big Bird and Snuffy was revealing to me," Beyonce said. "I saw how Snuffy was dragging Big Bird down, and realized that Big Bird would never fly as long as he had that baggage to deal with. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to put an end to Destiny's Child."
Of course, not every great moment could be included on this disc. Faith Hill's deeply personal number about sharing things with Tim McGraw is nowhere to be found. Even more disappointingly (but unsurprisingly), the decadent display of unfiltered sexuality that was Katy Perry's X-rated appearance on the program is also entirely absent. Even so, the moments which are included on this disc are more than worth the price of admission, from Andrea Bocelli's earnest lullaby to R.E.M.'s exhilarating song about monsters to Norah Jones' introspective appreciation of the letter Y. It's the greatest rock documentary of all time, so complaining about the fact that it's missing a few performance is like complaining that you only won 500 million dollars in the lottery instead of one billion.
The DVD transfer is solid enough, sporting decent detail, though it's disappointing that portions of the presentation are offered in non-anamorphic widescreen. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is adequate but never overwhelming, a merely functional presentation of music which is simply too outstanding to handle in immersive surround sound. Included as a bonus is a CD featuring such groundbreaking musical experiments as "Eensy Weensy Spider," "The Wheels on the Bus" and "If You're Happy and You Know It."
In summary: this disc is not only an essential part of any music lover's collection, it's the only essential part. Watch and rewatch it. Bask in its glow. Sesame Street: Singing with the Stars is salvation in the humble form of a digital video disc. Om nom nom, brothers and sisters. Om nom nom indeed.
Review content copyright © 2012 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 48 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus CD