While they’ve stirred up a lot of political controversy throughout their 15-year run, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always delivered those political barbs through delightfully catchy songs and musical guests. Primus composed the theme song, Isaac Hayes starred as the voice of “Chef” (who would sing songs that directly referenced the plot) and numerous iconic musicians have lent their appearances and voices to episodes, including Radiohead, Elton John, Meat Loaf, as well as the odd crossovers like Ween, Korn and Rancid.
South Park begins the second half of its fifteenth season tonight, and to celebrate, we’ve rounded up our five favorite musical moments throughout the series’ history that celebrate the odd humor that only this show can bring (and get away with).
If you ever saw the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, then “Lemmiwinks” will sound very familiar. A sendup of the music composed by Maury Laws (also responsible for the music of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) and of vocalist Glenn Yarbrough’s insanely twee delivery from The Hobbit, Parker and Stone copied Laws meter and grandiose time changes as they always do: With aplomb. [Watch here.]
2. Imagination Song
Grating, off-kilter, horrible. Do you detect a little gospel? Maybe some Sousa? A carol? Less song and more acapella parody of the Willy Wonka ‘follow me children!’ variety, the “Imagination Song” is classic South Park in its utter ridiculousness. [Watch here.]
3. Robert Smith
This is not a song, per se, but South Park‘s twelfth episode featured a guest appearance by one of their (and our) most-favorite artists, the Cure‘s Robert Smith. Smith came to South Park in order to lend a helping hand in fighting the dreaded Mecha-Streisand, and had exactly one sentence of dialogue, basically serving up an excuse for Kyle to yell “Disintegration was the best album ever!” [Watch here.]
4. Kyle’s Mom’s a Bitch
Another classic from the show’s first season, and an early indication of the depths to which Parker and Stone would take Cartman’s sociopathic personality. But it’s also, a show tune — was this foreshadowing of Parker and Stone’s massive success with their Broadway show The Book of Mormon? Um, probably not. But maybe. [Watch here.]
5. Let’s Fighting Love
Japanglish for the win! In one of the best “childhood can be so fun (and dangerous)” episodes, the boys convince a carny to sell them weapons, which they then use to (what else?) pretend that they’re ninjas. Somehow they worked in a pitch-perfect parody of an anime theme song — reminiscent to me of the eye-crossing language employed in Love Psychedelico’s most famous song, “Lady Madonna-U-Utsu-Naru-’Spider’.” [Watch here.]