Premiering in December of 1989, The Simpsons very nearly instantly struck a chord with pretty much all of America — screwball comedy and animation that was entertaining enough for most kids, absurdist humor and relatable topics for adults, and plenty of subversion that would come to define the satirical cynicism of '90s pop culture.
Within a year, the animated show had become one of the highest-rated shows for the fledgling Fox network, becoming the first of the network's shows to crack the top 30 in the Nielsen TV Ratings.
Which meant that even a subversive cartoon on a network looking to take risks wasn't immune to pure, unadulterated commercialism.
The Simpsons Sing the Blues, released on December 4th 1990, was the brainchild of David Geffen of Geffen Records, who basically pitched producers on putting out a novelty album in time for Christmas. With the plethora of Simpsons merch out there, I don't think they said no to much of anything (I still have my copy of The Simpsons Board Game, and it rules), so naturally it was just a matter of figuring out what they'd slap together.
Calling this album "the blues" is a bit of a stretch — sure, there's some blues influence in there and some covers of bluesy rock songs, but there's also hip-hop (or at least some kind of version of hip-hop).
Cast members recorded the songs in between sessions for season 2, and as a testament to just how big the show had become by then, lead single "Do The Bartman" was produced by and featured backing vocals from the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
Call it rampant commercialism if you want, which many reviewers very clearly did at the time, but the album caught fire, going platinum within the first week, and double platinum within a few more. It hit no. 3 on the Billboard 200, and "Do the Bartman" topped charts in several countries — it probably would have in the U.S. too, but it was never actually released as a single here, which may have helped to bump up album sales.
As further validation of the album's success, it also spawned a multitude of novelty albums from other various fictional characters, including Barbie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
We might not all still be doing the Bartman today, but it did exactly what it was meant to do — sell a bunch of copies for the holidays — and frankly, I ain't mad at that.