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Veggie Rocks!

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Veggie Rocks!
Sounds like … everyone's favorite silly songs from VeggieTales, performed as modern rock by big names like Rebecca St. James, Relient K, Superchic[k], and the NewsboysAt a glance … aside from a few highlights, most of Veggie Rocks! falls flat because it lacks the silly spirit and campy wit of the originalsTrack ListingVeggieTales Theme Song – Rebecca St. JamesI Love My Lips – StevensonPromised Land – Sanctus RealIn the Belly of the Whale – NewsboysThe Water Buffalo Song – Superchic[k]I'm So Blue – Paul ColmanThe Hairbrush Song – Audio AdrenalineThe Pirates Who Don't Do Anything – Relient KI Can Be Your Friend – The O.C. SupertonesHis Cheeseburger – TaitStand – Skillet

Ten years ago, an album called Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits featured a variety of alternative rock artists singing classic cartoon themes from the '60s and '70s—like The Ramones plowing through "Spiderman" and Matthew Sweet singing "Scooby-Doo." More recently, there's been Disneymania 1 & 2, featuring teen pop artists like Jump 5, Jessica Simpson, and Aaron Carter singing classics "Beauty and the Beast," "Part of Your World," and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." Do these albums sell? Apparently, since Disney has released two (so far), though those are for an audience still enamored with cartoons. Saturday Morning, however, was geared to older listeners looking to reminisce over their long past childhood. Now comes Veggie Rocks!, the Christian music variation on the "kiddie-album-for-adults," inspired by the songs from everyone's favorite talking vegetables.

Most will agree that the music of VeggieTales is brilliant, thanks to Big Idea's musical genius Kurt Heinecke. He has a keen sense of classical, opera, Broadway, and pop standards, allowing him to match music to the comedic slapstick and melodrama on the screen. Wit is essential, not just in lyrics, but also in selecting genre, arrangement, writing the melody, and the comedic acting of the voices. Whether you're watching or listening, you're always in on the joke, with a musical elbow to the ribs if things ever come close to sounding serious.

That's why most of Veggie Rocks! falls flat. If Christian artists and producers are going to tinker with the arrangement, they need to be up to the task of replicating Heinecke's intelligent nonsense. Perfect example: the opening rock rendering of the "VeggieTales Theme Song" by Rebecca St. James. Using an extremely low vocal range, she sings about "broccoli and celery" with her familiar dark, dramatic rock á la "Pray." It's almost like Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and while it's undoubtedly intended as camp, listeners are never let in on the joke. The only time it approaches humor is when St. James sings in operatic three-part harmony toward the end. Wouldn't it have been a lot more fun to hear Rebecca sing in a different style like punk-polka, or else ham it up in the spirit of the show?

Same with Audio Adrenaline's straight-faced rendering of "The Hairbrush Song," which was originally a wonderful parody of Gilbert & Sullivan on VeggieTales. They've used this cover frequently in concert, but am I the only one who finds it plodding and lifeless? Superchic[k]'s "Water Buffalo Song" is not nearly as much fun as you'd hope, offering a headache-inducing example of repetition, and Skillet's version of "Stand" is merely loud.

Tait's performance of "His Cheeseburger" fares better, though the melodrama feels forced. A cover of "I Love My Lips" by Stevenson (Steven Curtis Chapman and his two sons, get it?) is cute because of Chapman Sr.'s cameo, but it's basic garage rock with canned humor. The same is true of Sanctus Real's little rendition of "Promised Land." Paul Colman does the best job of getting into the spirit of things with his crazy cover of "I'm So Blue"—he sounds like he's auditioning as a new character.

The best tracks are those originally used in the cartoons or as promo tie-ins, performed by bands with a gift for goofiness. It's not surprising that Relient K has a blast performing a spirited rendition of "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything," or that The Supertones do simple ska-pop justice to "I Can Be Your Friend," with both bands throwing in silly voices aplenty. Then there's "In the Belly of the Whale" from the Jonah film, performed by the Newsboys and a worthy successor to their hit "Breakfast." It's co-written by Steve Taylor, whose legendary lyrical wit is perfect here: "Woke up this morning kinda blue/Thinking through that age-old question: 'How to exit a whale's digestion?'/It might behoove me to be heaved/Head out like a human comet/(Hmmm … I wonder what rhymes with comet.)" Fans should also note that Taylor delivers the rap during the song's bridge.

Is the album worth your money? Generally not, but it is what it is. The album's a little light, and it's surprising that Nicole C. Mullen's "Theme from Larry Boy" wasn't included. While Veggie Rocks! seems designed for today's teens that grew up listening to the songs as babes, younger kids will undoubtedly prefer to hear Bob, Larry, and the gang. Can't argue with that—if I want to hear VeggieTale songs, I'll listen to the original CDs any day!