On May 20th, Lady Gaga is set to appear on FOX’s The Simpsons, reminding us that even in its age and declining quality, Springfield’s first family can still draw in the stars. Over 22-plus seasons, The Simpsons has developed a reputation for being able to exalt these individuals while simultaneously making mockeries of their careers. The Simpsons has often called upon the music world to fill those guest roles. In honor of the queen of the “Little Monsters” herself set to make her appearance, here is a look at some of the best musical guests on The Simpsons.
Michael Jackson -“Stark Raving Dad”
Though the King of Pop is billed as “John Jay Smith” on the credits, the speaking of voice of disturbed mental patient, Leon Kompowsky, is indeed Jackson himself. While the episode is littered with references to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jackson takes the spotlight. However, he chose to use a “sound-alike” for the singing bits –supposedly to play a trick on his brothers.
James Taylor – “Deep Space Homer”
His appearance is unassuming– much like Taylor himself– at least until Buzz Aldrin tells Taylor that “this isn’t the best time for your unique brand of bittersweet folk rock.” To which Taylor responds; “Listen, Aldrin, I’m not as laid back as people think. Now here’s the deal, I’m going to play and you’re going to float there and like it.” The Simpsons have a great knack for juxtaposing the guest’s public image with a more radicalized, or even opposite, presentation of the individual within the show.
Peter Frampton/Cyprus Hill/ The Smashing Pumpkins/Sonic youth – “Homerpalooza”
For a music lover, this episode will often find its way into most Top Ten lists. Based around The Simpsons version of the Chicago music festival, Lollapalooza, the above musical guests weave in and out of the plot line– Homer becoming a side-show freak in the traveling freak show– and each offer a comedic angle on their music successes. As Billy Corgan remarks; “We envy you Homer. All we have is our music, our legions of fans, our millions of dollars, and our youth. Woo-hoo!”
The White Stripes – “Jazzy and the Pussycats”
The Detroit-based Jack and Meg White made their (brief) appearance after Bart learns to play the drums. Mimicking the White Stripes video to their song “The Hardest Button to Button”, Bart begins drumming across Springfield only to crash into the Stripes. Once again, juxtaposing Jack and Meg’s normally modest demeanor, they curse Bart for his carelessness and begin chasing him around Springfield.
Johnny Cash – “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer ( The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer)”
This episode has my favorite performance by any musical guest– Johnny Cash. The fact that it is my favorite is a little ironic given that Cash’s character –the space coyote– doesn’t have anything to do with music. He serves as Homer’s “spirit guide” as Homer attempts find out who his true soul mate is. Combining Johnny’s mesmerizing voice and the philosophical nature of the space coyote, the performance is absolute perfection.
There have been countless other musical acts to appear on the beloved series. Some of the other standout performances have been U2 (“Trash of the Titans”), N’Sync (“New Kids on the Blecch”), and The Ramones (“Rosebud”). You can find a full list of these appearances here.
After May 20th, we can add Lady Gaga to that list. Hopefully, her appearance is as memorable as her act.
Lady Gaga to Appear on “The Simpsons.”