‘The Simpsons’: 3 Secret Reasons Why The Show Has So Many Songs

Writers love singing in the key of Springfield.
‘The Simpsons’: 3 Secret Reasons Why The Show Has So Many Songs

If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you’re likely a fan of Simpsons musical ditties.

Good thing, because there’s a lot of them. ComedyNerd has yet to confirm a definitive list, but Tunefind has cataloged a mind-blowing 1,691 songs from the show’s 33 seasons. 

Why are there so many?  There are multiple reasons, according to longtime Simpsons scribe Mike Reiss in his book Springfield Confidential.  Here are the top three:

Songs fill up the show.

“Our job as creative artists,” says Reiss, “is to shovel jokes into a twenty-two-minute ditch each week.”  

So do the math. Let’s look at the “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious” episode from Season 8, a Mary Poppins parody featuring the nearly-perfect-in-every-way and just-this-side-of-a-lawsuit Shary Bobbins. 

The show is stuffed with original songs, from “Cut Every Corner” (two minutes), “A Boozehound Named Barney” (two more minutes!), “Minimum Wage Nanny” (another minute!) and the big finale “Just The Way We Are” (90 seconds of toe-tapping, time-wasting goodness).  

That’s about 30% of the episode taken care of!  Of course, songwriting takes time too, but at least it cuts down on the rewrites.  Which brings us to …

Songs rarely change.

The Simpsons, like most any sitcom, goes through several script versions before final recording.  The reasons range from the relentless pursuit of the best jokes possible to the fact that something that made you laugh on Monday may seem tired and lifeless by Friday. No matter the reason, revisions mean a lot of heavy joke-lifting for a show’s writers.

But songs!  “While any joke on The Simpsons might be rewritten five or six times,” reveals Reiss, “songs rarely change and almost never get cut.”  That makes sense -- jokes are just words on paper, but once a song’s lyrics are married to melodies that must be scored and recorded, the opportunities for reworking jokes are greatly diminished.

There’s one exception to the “rarely cut” rule that Reiss remembers.  There was yet another song in the Shary Bobbins episode called “We Love To Smoke,” a Selma and Patty parody of the Poppins song “I Love to Laugh.”

You can listen to the song here, one that never made it to air. Why did it get the rare ax? “Hearing Patty and Selma rasp and cough out a song was pretty grating.”

The writers get paid -- again!

Head to Spotify and you can listen to albums like “Songs In the Key Of Springfield,” a compilation of 39 tracks from early Simpsons episodes. And when you listen?  Or when the songs are played on syndicated reruns? Or Disney+ streams?  The writers make extra cash! This feels like a hustle Mr. Burns would want in on.

“I earn a couple of grand a year on songwriting royalties for Spider-Pig,” says Reiss, “and I’m one of eleven credited writers on the song. I wasn’t even in the room when it was written.”

Of course, none of this works if the fans don’t love the songs. “In the end, songs are probably like jokes,” says Reiss. “They’re good when they’re good.”

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Top image: 20th Television


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