1990: The Simpsons - The Simpsons Sing The Blues

Within its first season in 1989, The Simpsons was a massive hit; America ate it up. So did you, as your parents surely remember -- they’re the ones who threw away your “Don’t have a cow, man” t-shirt in 1996. They also probably tossed The Simpsons Sing The Blues while they were at it, unless you set it aside as a cultural artifact you thought you’d find funny in, say, 2009.

If it was spared from garage sales, the time for re-examination has come. The Simpsons Sing The Blues, as you can probably imagine, has dated about as well as any episode from the show’s crudely drawn, Bart-centric first season. It starts with “Do The Bartman,” the producers' attempt to add “dance hit” to their endless list of merchandising wins. It was a modest success, as was the similar second single, “Deep Deep Trouble.” Both are pure early 90s: awkward rapping, cold stilted beats, and production by DJ Jazzy Jeff. They’re also the weakest links on the album, excluding a few funny spots (not much can top Dan Castellaneta’s delivery of Homer’s line “D’oh! Now you can’t go/ to the boat show.”)

The best (and, not coincidentally, least embarrassing) track on The Simpsons Sing The Blues is “Look At All Those Idiots,” on which Paula Abdul dance beats are contrasted with Mr. Burns’ decidedly unfunky demeanor. It works because the joke is about the characters, from Burns misunderstanding the concept of a “breakdown” (“What if there was an inspector around?!”) to Smithers unexpectedly ripping through a Prince-like guitar solo. It’s exactly what the rest of the record should have been: comedy, plain and simple.

Other ideas fall totally flat, such as Homer’s rendition of “Born Under A Bad Sign” (with the always-game B.B. King on lead guitar) and “Moanin’ Lisa Blues” (which was also featured on the Simpsons episode in which Lisa meets Bleeding Gums Murphy). These songs take the album’s title literally, and it’s here you realize: this is nothing but a cash-in, a waste of talent and time. The cringe-worthy “School Day,” featuring Bart butchering the Chuck Berry classic, is downright awful. “Springfield Soul Stew,” a homage to King Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew,” is innocuous enough -- and Marge saying “This is gonna taste alright” in a soulful growl is downright charming -- but you can’t help thinking that the players, and all the rest of us, had somewhere better to be.

The Simpsons Sing The Blues is a perfect musical snapshot of 1990. It’s also an effective encapsulation of The Simpsons in its first couple of years: a project full of potential, experimentation, periodic failure, and attempts to make a buck.

1. Do The Bartman
2. School Day
3. Born Under A Bad Sign
4. Moanin’ Lisa Blues
5. Deep Deep Trouble
6. God Bless The Child
7. I Love To See You Smile
8. Springfield Soul Stew
9. Look At All Those Idiots
10. Sibling Rivalry

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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