The original “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is so iconic. There’s a reason why it’s not covered on every musical artist’s Christmas album like other holiday standards. Tyler, The Creator decided to take a swing at the 1966 theme song for 2018 The Grinch movie and… it’s good. We have a right to be a little jaded. The last time “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was covered it was a disaster, but before we get to that here’s a brief history of the 1966 song.
The lyrics to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” were written by Dr. Seuss himself, and Albert Hague composed the music. The singer was Thurl Ravenswood. That name might not sound familiar, because many people believe that the narrator and voice of the Grinch, Boris Karloff, sang the song. Ravenswood has the same deep register as Karloff. It became a common misconception, because Ravenswood was not credited at the end of the special. Ravenswood is remembered more for his “They’re grrrrrreat!” as the voice of Frosted Flakes’s Tony the Tiger.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was covered by a few other artists, like RuPaul and CeeLo, in the following decades, but the Jim Carrey trainwreck How the Grinch Stole Christmas decided to make itself even worse by covering the song. Naturally, Carrey sang it himself. He used about every voice in his arsenal to create a cringe-y cover that would have been listeners sinking down in their seats and wondering why the studio would inflict such horrors on their eardrums.
It’s been 18 years since that Carrey’s Grinch movie came out, which is enough time for moviegoers to recover and give another Grinch movie (and theme song) another chance. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch, but doesn’t try to imitate Boris Karloff. He uses a higher-pitched, nasally voice instead. He’s reimagining the furry green grump. Tyler, the Creator also decided to pay homage to the original song while making it his own. He took Dr. Seuss’s lyrics and worked with Tim Burton’s favorite composer, Danny Elfman. He adds his own line, “Who is this mean fellow? / With his skin all green and his teeth all yellow?” and works in a children’s choir to sing behind him. Maybe Jim Carrey should take notes.
Tyler, the Creator has one more song on The Grinch soundtrack titled “I Am the Grinch.” The soundtrack is released on November 9th when The Grinch hits theaters.