Everything is better when puppets are involved. This is just a FACT. And this fact is especially factual when it comes to music. Whether it’s Feist singing with furry friends on Sesame Street, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog putting J.Lo and Bon Jovi in their place, the stars of Team America: World Police belting out expletive-filled odes to the U-S-A, Sifl & Olly spoofing Devo on their brilliant short-lived MTV show, Debbie Harry and Alice Cooper guesting on The Muppet Show, the late Robert Goulet partying in Vegas with the Anipals on TV Funhouse, Lady Gaga hosting a Muppets Thanksgiving special, or even Spinal Tap opening for a puppet show in a memorable mockumentary scene… well, pop music and puppets go together like Kermit and Miss Piggy.
So naturally, over the years various music-makers have featured puppets in their music videos. Our latest favorite puppet-tastic work of video genius is Parquet Courts’ “Human Performance,” featuring some very non-human felt stand-ins for the band members:
And who can forget last year’s “‘Cause I’m a Man” by psychedelic Aussies Tame Impala? Puppets never seemed so trippy, man:
Bad Veins’ cover of the Muppet classic “The Rainbow Connection,” with the alt-rock band transforming into Muppets and looking surprisingly cuddly while doing so, is another recent favorite:
But these are just the latest entry in a puppet-tastic video tradition. Let us not forget, for instance, the Ben Folds Five’s “Do It Anyway,” which features the beloved cast of Fraggle Rock. It totally rocks, of course:
This of course brings to mind OK Go’s cover of the Muppets’ theme from a few years back, starring a cast of felt friends even cuter than the dogs in OK Go’s “White Knuckles” video:
But Weezer’s “Keep Fishin’” is still perhaps the ultimate puppet video of all time, trumping all others, as it stars the entire cast of The Muppet Show. According to Weezer’s official site, Kermit the Frog said, “It was wonderful returning to the set of The Muppet Show to tape Weezer’s new music video… I know I speak for all the Muppets when I say it was great working with such a talented band. I just hope Pat has recovered from Miss Piggy’s extra attention — both the kissy-kissys and the karate chops, sheesh.” Pat surely thought it was worth it, since it’s every drummer’s dream to one day jam with Animal:
As for non-Muppet puppet videos, X Factor winners Alex & Sierra made basically THE cutest lyric EVER video a couple years ago, starring adorable, lip-synching puppets that look just like Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton. Um, where can we buy these? Are Alex & Sierra selling them on tour?
Country-punk band Timeshares also recently released a new video, in which puppet versions of themselves burst into flames. It would be sad to witness such a waste of perfectly good felt, if this video weren’t so damn cool:
Metal band Mastodon’s “Deathbound,” a collaboration with Adult Swim from which no puppet emerges unscathed, is also pretty awesome, albeit not as adorable. See the felt fly below:
And how does a much more clean-cut artist like Ed Sheeran get away with drunken debauchery and soliciting strippers? By asking his puppet alter ego to do the dirty work for him, naturally:
HUMANS’ puppet video, which also features bonus cats, is described in the band’s press release as a “the hallucinatory journey of two Muppets as they transition from the Muppet realm to a psychotropic dreamland unlike any other.” Sign us up!
Other recent puppet favorites include Coldplay’s Thunderbirds-meets-Punch & Judy sendup “Life In Technicolor ii”; BPA’s (aka Fatboy Slim’s, aka Norman Cook’s) “He’s Frank,” featuring the vocals of the real Iggy Pop and the uncanny puppet likeness of a fake, felt Iggy Pop; Kanye West’s Olympics-themed “Champion”; and the hilarious strumpet-puppet saga “Sugarbaby” by New York rockers Morningwood.
Below is the Iggy/BPA video. It may have taken years for the Stooges to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we think Iggy’s immortalization in “He’s Frank” is, frankly, a far more honorable tribute anyway:
And here’s Kanye’s puppet show. We all know Kanye can be kind of a jerk sometimes, but he sure makes a cute puppet. It’s hard not to root for him here:
Meanwhile, Morningwood’s “Sugarbaby” actually manages to make a puppet look downright sexy:
But these videos are just the tip of the felt iceberg. There’s plenty more puppetry where that came from. Here are some more clips to get your own music-video puppet show going…
Genesis’s 1980s hit “Land of Confusion” is a true video classic. The political puppets in this video are from Britain’s satirical sitcom Spitting Image, which along with a similar American show, D.C. Follies, was a cult-classic featuring public-figure puppet recreations of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Margaret Thatcher, and others. Genesis continued the political party here:
Like Morningwood above, Eminem employed the puppets from Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers for one of his funniest vids. This was ironic, since it wasn’t long before this video was shot that he sparred with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at the VMAs. But Shady got the last laugh here:
Lesser seen but just as entertaining is Starlight Mints’ “Popsickle.” This low-budget yet inventive video received so much attention in the art community that it was included in the IFP Los Angeles Film Festival as part of its “Eclectic Mix” program, which featured clips that “summarize pop art history while inventing the video future.” Finally, puppets get some respect!:
And then there’s Mr. Oizo’s bizarrely amusing “Flat Beat.” French filmmaker/musician Quentin Dupieux created this puppet, “Flat Eric,” for a series of bizarre British Levi’s commercials that he directed, which featured Flat Eric dancing with reckless abandon to this techno song (which Dupieux also wrote). The ad campaign was a phenomenon all over Europe, so Dupieux released the song, “Flat Beat,” under the name Mr. Oizo. The single soon went platinum. And the rest was puppet history:
Speaking of bizarreness, Interpol’s disturbing, literal carwreck of a puppet video, “Evil,” proved that puppets aren’t always warm ‘n’ fuzzy. This video is great, but NOT CUTE:
Interpol’s early-200s garage-rock contemporaries the D4 have since broken up… but before they split, they solidified their legacy with this simple but extremely entertaining sock-puppet tour de force:
Indie icons Superchunk also went the DIY, lo-fi route with a grainy marionette clip, in which they fulfilled every rocker’s secret dream (besides jamming with Animal, that is): being immortalized as puppets themselves. This video’s director, Peyton Reed, has an obvious knack for quirky projects; his credits include directing TV remakes of Disney’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Love Bug, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s short-lived Saturday-morning TV series, and the HBO comedy cult classic Mr. Show. He later graduated to the big screen, directing the Kirsten Dunst cheerleader movie Bring It On. But Superchunk’s “Package Thief” may still stand as his best work:
Britpoppers Supergrass also transformed into puppets for “Pumping on Your Stereo,” albeit with a much bigger, almost Jim Henson-level budget:
And Beck took the artist-as-puppet theme to a whole new level for his Guero tour, in which a band of puppet replicas pretty much stole the show:
Lily Allen tried to put a positive anti-drug message in her “Alfie” video, but the titular puppet was so endearing, he made being a basement-dwelling stoner loser seem almost cute:
Chances are Alfie would have been more at home starring on the Sesame Street-meets-Girls Gone Wild video “Let’s Begin” by frat band Bad Ronald, starring a slew of keg-tapping puppets and bikini-clad party babes:
On a much sadder note, “You Are My Joy,” by Scottish indie supergroup the Reindeer Section (featuring members of Snow Patrol), depicted a puppet couple quite literally torn apart at the seams:
Going back to the Muppet theme, shortly after touring with Weezer years ago, emo band Saves the Day shot “Freakish.” And they claimed it was just a freakish coincidence that they released their video mere weeks before their tourmates Weezer came out with “Keep Fishin’.” That may or may not be true, but there can never be enough puppets on MTV as far as we’re concerned, so who cares who copied whom?:
And finally, that brings us to our logical conclusion: an actual Muppet video. Enjoy this cameo-assisted cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy,” by a collective billed as “Kermit Unpigged,” for final proof that REAL puppets in music videos are far more entertaining than some of the record-company “puppets” putting out music these days: