Colleen Powers is a writer and editor living in Minneapolis.

Trash Anthems

"Trash" and "garbage" are some of the most popular adjectives on the Internet today (not pointing any fingers at who they're usually describing), and I've been periodically singing to myself a song from Sesame Street: Oscar the Grouch's "I Love Trash." 

In it, Oscar rhapsodizes about his collection of refuse, always returning to the refrain, "I love it because it's trash." The song builds to a note of triumph, but its plodding, waltz-y rhythm and the wail in Oscar's voice make it sound like something you wouldn't be surprised to hear a character sing while slumped over a bar.

Bob Fosse has been quoted as saying that most songs in musicals can be categorized as "I am" or "I want" songs. Oscar's song is all "I am"; it's his defiant declaration of self. 

Most villain songs are "I am" or "I want," too. One of my favorite episodes of the podcast Filmspotting has the hosts list their top five Disney villains; guest host Tasha Robinson celebrates the villain song by calling out the fun wickedness of "Gaston" and Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls." She even explains that Jafar was edged out for her list because he has no song to make him a truly classic villain.

But a trash anthem could be a separate subcategory from the villain song  still falling within the "I am"/"I want" breakdown, but not declaring the singer's inherent evil or ill intentions. A trash anthem is an unapologetic ode to the singer's love for grime and filth and excess, declaring that they will always be at least somewhat on the margins of society. 

Like Templeton the rat's song about eating his way through the garbage of a county fair at night, from the 1973 animated Charlotte's Web.

This Charlotte's Web is a decent adaptation of the book, but the movie's most indelible image by a mile is Templeton rolling around on his distended belly, then staggering off into the night singing (as voiced by Paul Lynde), "Thaaat's where a rat can glut, glut, glut, gluuuuuut!"

Some songs almost blur the lines between trash anthem and villain song, like "Riverbottom Nightmare Band" from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

The Nightmares have electric guitar power chords in place of the bouncy horns of Oscar's and Templeton's songs, and their anthem has a meaner edge, too. Their garbage nature isn't just for personal revelry; it's outwardly aggressive, as they brag about terrorizing people and being dangerous. But there's still something infectious about the insistent trashiness of a line like "We don't brush our teeth 'cause our toothache can help us stay mean." The Christmas show crowd goes wild for the Riverbottom Nightmare Band, and it's not hard to see why.

Other potential trash anthems: "The Bare Necessities" and "Hakuna Matata" (both of which are about being lazy and eating bugs); "With A Little Bit O' Luck" from My Fair Lady. Which great ones am I missing?

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