We all know the mental agony that is the earworm, the frustration of having one song unwelcomely soundtrack your actions throughout a day, from shampooing your hair to hailing a cab. This torture crosses over into the realm of humiliation when the tune you can’t stop humming is performed by a group of cartoon characters. And yet, our enjoyment of these songs isn’t always unwarranted — plenty of the songs we hear on cartoons are catchy as hell. So plug in your earphones and turn away from nearby coworkers because we’ve compiled a list of undeniably good jams that just so happen to have been sung by animated musicians. Check out our choices after the jump and be sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments.
Mystik Spiral, “Every Dog Has Its Day” (Daria)
The gifts that MTV’s Daria has given us are seemingly endless, but the music of Mystik Spiral is one that just keeps on giving. Led by preeminent slacker Trent, the grunge band plays music rather infrequently, focusing instead on engaging in “anarchist actions” and talking of the inevitable “big break.” While Mystik Spiral’s songs are few and far between, “Every Dog Has Its Day” easily rises above its competitors. The song perfectly sums up the band’s allure: hilariously inane lyrics all delivered in Trent’s lazy drone.
Josie and the Pussycats, “The Handclapping Song”
Josie and the Pussycats had a relatively short run of only 16 original episodes, but the show managed to cram a whole lot of girl-pop goodness in that time. Each episode featured a new Pussycats song played over a very Scooby Doo-esque chase scene, the girls running from and after an assortment of villainous characters. The ladies with “ears for hats” created plenty of gems, but “The Handclapping Song” is definitely the funkiest — it evokes the sass and groove of some of our favorite soul divas.
The Beets, “Killer Tofu” (Doug)
No list of animated musicians would be complete without The Beets — Doug‘s Beatles-inspired quartet has been the subject of plenty of drunk conversations between nostalgic Gen Y-ers, and for good reason. We are just as smitten with all things Beet as Doug, and are major fans of the band’s soy anthem. “Killer Tofu” had us shouting about those strange white blocks before we even knew what tofu was — an impressive feat.
Jet Screamer, “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)” (The Jetsons)
Who knew that a song with an unintelligible chorus could be so catchy? The Ricky Nelson-like crooner Jet Screamer makes only one appearance in The Jetsons‘ run, but “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” made quite a statement — one YouTube commenter claims to have had this tune stuck in his head for 25 “torturous years.” If you simply can’t stop eep-ing and ork-ing, be sure to check out the Violent Femmes’ slightly less embarrassing cover.
Powerline, “Eye to Eye” (A Goofy Movie)
A Goofy Movie‘s “Eye to Eye” is one of our guiltiest pleasures. Fusing a swelling chorus and an epic synth line with Michael Jackson-esque vocals, the song never fails to get us grooving. Sure, the lyrics may pile on the cheese (“if we listen to each other’s hearts), but who doesn’t feel just a little uplifted after watching Goofy and his son share a stage? And we can see why Powerline is Max’s idol — that yellow turtleneck jumpsuit is stunning.
Dethklok, “Awaken (MustaKrakish)” (Metalocalypse)
Dethklok is proof that even a virtual band can score a hit album — their first release, The Dethalbum, reached #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and their songs have been featured in video games and movies. Predominantly composed of Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small, the death metal band is known for its unique brand of comedy rock. “Awaken,” while a parody of the genre, is a good metal song in its own right.
Jem and the Holograms, “Glitter and Gold” (Jem)
Lead by the glamorous alter ego of Jerrica Benton, Jem and the Holograms use their happy ’80s pop tunes to combat the ever-encroaching threat of the evil Misfits. Like Josie and the Pussycats, the group boasts a pretty impressive catalog, but nothing can compare to “Glitter and Gold,” a rock ode to every young girl’s favorite things. The song is truly outrageous, in the best possible way.
Ronnie Matthews, “I Saw Your Face — And Wow!” (Hey Arnold!)
Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold! has produced an impressive amount of musical talent, from the big-band swinger Dino Spumoni to the surprise country stardom of the Vietnamese Mr. Hyunh, but without a doubt our favorite is pop singer Ronnie Matthews; with a thick Spanish accent and dreamy looks, he is the ultimate teen idol. Although it is eventually discovered that Matthews is a fake (á la Milli Vanilli), “I Saw Your Face — And Wow!” remains a fantastic pop record. The song also boasts the most romantic use of the line “I nearly had a cow” we’ve ever heard.
The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar” (The Archie Show)
A fun music history fact: one of the biggest songs of the 1960s bubblegum pop genre is sung by a fictional band. Yes, “Sugar, Sugar,” which has been in hundreds of movies and TV commercials, was released by The Archies, a band whose members were the main characters from the Archie comics. “Sugar, Sugar” is a cheery, saccharine delight — even former President George W. Bush admitted that it is one of his favorite songs.
The Be Sharps, “Baby on Board” (The Simpsons)
The Beatles has served as a template for many of the cartoon world’s best bands — The Simpsons continued the trend when the show’s fifth-season introduced The Be Sharps. Composed of Homer, Principal Skinner, Barney Gumble, and Apu, the barbershop quartet met the fate of so many musical artists, their catapult to fame leading to their ultimate undoing. The group’s career was short-lived, but “Baby on Board” remains as a testament to the music they created together — an amalgamation of goofiness and surprisingly effective harmonies.