It's no secret that we're being sold a product constantly. Even the TV shows we enjoy are nothing more than someone else's attempt to make some money at their heart. They live and die by how much revenue they generate, not typically their artistic value. Like it or not, they're a product and, oftentimes, a brand.
And, in the fashion of brands, if they're a big enough success then they spin off to all kinds of other avenues of production and merchandising. For instance, The Simpsons and its action figures, comic books, theme park rides, soft drinks, and... records?
Yep. When a tie-in album was an easy way to make a quick buck, you bet they were making them, and some of them were just plain strange.
5. Music Inspired by Pokemon There have been lots of soundtrack albums for Pokemon, so let's get that out of the way right now. This is not that. This is a very weird synth-pop record supposedly inspired by the Pokemon anime TV series. This, unlike most tie-in albums, is also recorded by one band who apparently just really loved Pokemon, or else were paid assloads of money to pretend.
It's a lot more likely that they were pretending because most of their songs really seem to have nothing to do with Pokemon. According to at least one Amazon review, "a few of the songs seem to mostly relate to Ash + Misty's hidden romantic feelings for each other," which, if it is to be believed, is really damn icky.
But otherwise, there's a few Pokemon songs and a lot of songs that sound like this band was just dying to get some of their music out there by any means necessary. Which is kind of a shame, come to think of it, because I can't find a single mention anywhere on the internet as to what the name of the band on this record was. It's all just credited to "Pokemon."
4. The Bible: Music Inspired by the Epic Miniseries The Bible TV miniseries was confusing enough to me, but I accepted that this is 2013 and that's just a thing that's going to exist. I was even more confused by the existence of the novel tie-in called A Story of God and All of Us: A Novel Based on the Epic TV Miniseries The Bible, because, really, why? I think the book version was already written and it's called the Bible.
So you can imagine my bewilderment with the discovery of The Bible: Music Inspired by the Epic Miniseries. For people who didn't get enough of the Bible by reading the Bible, watching the "epic TV miniseries," or reading the novel based on the TV series based on the Bible, now you can listen to "top Christian artists" performing songs which I assume are inspired by the novel based on the TV series based on the Bible.
And, of course, it's "anchored by" that classic Christian anthem, Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," here performed by Francesa Battistelli. Hey, wait, what? Seriously? Maybe this might be worth checking out after all...
3. Music from and Inspired by Desperate Housewives How many Desperate Housewives fans are also big music nerds, do you suppose? I'm going to guess almost none, which makes the idea behind this release pretty baffling. Even weirder is the fact that this was a pretty big-budget thing. See, they didn't just buy the rights to songs that had been on the show for some cheap soundtrack album. Oh no. That would be too simple.
Instead, they got legitimate artists to actually write songs inspired by Desperate Housewives for the album. So you get things like the first single, "Shoes," by Shania Twain. Not only did Shania actually sit down and write a song about Desperate Housewives, but the producers of the show felt it wasn't hip enough and had it remixed twice for different markets.
The saddest part is the inclusion of indie-rock's biggest tragedy, Liz Phair, contributing a cover of the Rolling Stones' ""Mother's Little Helper" to this odd, gimmicky record, and making us all wonder for the hundredth time how this could be the same person who wrote Exile in Guyville.
2. The Yellow Album The Yellow Album is a Simpsons tie-in record, and features a Beatles-inspired cover (and title) that received an honorable mention when we looked at the best album-cover homages and parodies recently. Unfortunately, that's the best thing to come of this one.
The music is embarrassing kitsch that even the most hardcore Simpsons fan would struggle to get through. Stuff like Linda Ronstadt and Homer Simpson's cover of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" or Patty and Selma (characters whose voices are repulsive to begin with) doing Eurythmics' "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" is really the kind of thing that's only worthwhile to weirdo pop-culture nerds like me.
How this thing made it to print is hard to tell. It was so bad that it was put under the microscope for Nathan Rabin's excellent My World of Flops, his column over at the Onion's AV Club. Even he couldn't figure out why it existed. Nevertheless, The Yellow Album has awesome cover art, especially for those of us who can name all the characters on it.
1. Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by The X-Files The holy grail of bizarre TV show tie-in records. It figures that a show like The X-Files would have a weird record to accompany it, but seriously, take a look at this thing's track list for a second. For every Sheryl Crow or Soul Coughing, there's a Danzig and a Nick Cave appearance.
Then there's a new version of R.E.M.'s "Star Me Kitten," featuring none other than legendary Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, a Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper duet (which got nominated for a Grammy), and an Elvis Costello/Brian Eno collaboration out of nowhere.
The best part, though, is that if you manually rewind the beginning of the first track, you get two hidden tracks performed by Nick Cave and the Dirty Three, including their cover of Mark Snow's X-Files theme song. Serious kudos to whoever discovered that for the first time.