Seinfeld is straight up the greatest sitcom of all time. A self-proclaimed “show about nothing”, the pop culture juggernaut mixed observational comedy, wacky surrealism and frequent self-referencing, while almost entirely focusing on the trivial minutiae that occurred in the lives of its four main characters in the cushy setting of nineties Upper West Side Manhattan. Plus, the series had a deliciously mean-spirited undercurrent that was at odds with the hugging, learning and sharing that typically went on in Frasier, Friends and other US sitcoms of the day. Jerry Seinfeld and his pals were kinda dicks, but the kinda dicks the American public couldn’t get enough of: full of self-obsessions and comical neurosis.
But of all the things Seinfeld was known for during its initial run, music wasn’t really one of them. There was, of course, the instantly recognisable theme tune – built on a goofy sounding synthesized slap bass guitar riff – but pop songs were rarely worked into the show. Music, generally, just wasn’t engrained in its ethos. But, since Seinfeld finished up production in 1998, a number of musicians and producers have pulled inspiration from the series, keeping its relevance alive and well. Here are five of our favourite examples.
Jeru the Damaja’s ‘Seinfeld’
Brooklyn rapper Jeru the Damaja is known for his dexterous flow and smart lyricism, both of which were showcased on his fine 1999 track ‘Seinfeld’. On the surface, the song didn’t have much to do with the show, with Jeru throwing out a bunch of seemingly random imagery (“Ham hocks, crack rocks, ooo-wops, cell blocks/Biscuits, gravy, smothered pork chops”), all of which he tied together with a chorus that simply consisted of a few la-la-las. On closer inspection, though, the rapper depicted both the distractions and trappings of a person who, like the show’s characters, were caught up in a life not really going anywhere, albeit with the dangers of heroin and prison constantly looming. Jeru’s own version of Seinfeld, it was song about nothing that actually becomes a song about everything.
Upon the release of the Seinfeld-themed ‘The Mixtape About Nothing’ in 2008, Wale admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he’d “seen every episode, like, 30 times”. That fandom really shines through on the release, which sees the Washington MC rapping over the theme tune, peppering his rhymes with references to the show, and building whole songs around single lines of dialogue. Perhaps garnering the most attention, though, was track ‘The Kramer’, which addressed Seinfeld actor Michael Richards’ vitriolic n-word peppered verbal assault on a number of black patrons at a comedy club in 2006, and finds Wale pondering the power of words. He followed up the mixtape with ‘More Music About Nothing’ in 2010 and, just recently, ‘The Album About Nothing’, which saw him collaborate with Jerry himself. Neither satisfied like the original though. If anything, it highlighted that everything Wale has done since has been a bit of a disappointment.
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Yo La Tengo act out entire episode on stage
Back in 2011, indie veterans Yo La Tengo attempted to add some unpredictability to their live show by embarking on a tour that saw each set decided by a giant spinning wheel. The concept was simple: every night an audience member was invited up to give the wheel a whirl, and the band would play whatever chance determined. Some concepts were relatively straight forward, like playing a set of covers the band recorded under alternative name The Condo Fucks. Others, however, were a little stranger, as the audience at Metro Chicago discovered when the wheel landed on ‘Spinner’s Choice’. The volunteer selected ‘A Classic Sitcom’ from the listed options and band members proceeded, with scripts in hand, to act out Seinfeld episode ‘The Chinese Restaurant’ in its entirety.
Not everyone was thrilled with the outcome, as The Chicago Sun Times pointed out in their review of the gig. “Play some fucking music!” one fan shouted. “That wasn’t worth trudging through the snow for, that’s for sure,” grumbled another. Mercifully, when the 20-minute performance was concluded, Yo La Tengo did perform some songs.
Ezra Koenig sings the Seinfeld theme acapella
With its absurdist plot pitches and spellcheck-unfriendly stylings, parody Twitter account @Seinfeld2000 is known for its bat shit take on the show. Breaching out from the confines of the social network, the man behind the account, Jason Richards, partnered with New Zealand video game designer Pippin Barr last year to create The Junior Mint, a game based on the 1993 episode of the same name. And, in a huge coup for the developers, they secured Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig to provide an a cappella rendition of the show’s theme music. Instantly recognisable by his sweet, cheerful vocal style, Koenig can be heard crooning the famous melody amid all sorts of wacky in-game sounds. Tragically, ‘The Junior Mint’ doesn’t appear to be online anymore.
To Pimp a Seinfeld
Londoner Jack Dudley noted the similarities between the thick basslines of Kendrick Lamar’s recently-released g-funk homage ‘King Kunta’ and the famed Seinfeld theme tune, bringing both together in a glorious mash-up that sees K Dot rapping over composer Jonathan Wolff’s infectious baseline pops and vocal clicks. Dudley was far from the first person to think of mashing up the Seinfeld theme, though. This year has also seen the release of ‘Break Nothing’, which mixed the instrumental with the twisted yelps of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’. Going further back in time, Wolff’s composition has also been married to ODB’s ‘Got Your Money’ and, most strangely, ‘My Immortal’ by Evanescence. As George Costanza might say, these mash-ups are making me thirsty…