Get a first look at the chart-topping stars' upcoming guest appearances
"Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" For Ed Sheeran and Macklemore, a couple Hot 100 hits and good publicists did the trick.
For its upcoming 45th season, which will premiere in September 2014, the iconic children's show enlisted the beloved UK singer-songwriter and the breakout Seattle rapper to bring a dash of pop-culture coolness to its set. Billboard was granted exclusive access to the fun, as Sheeran and Macklemore performed "Sesame"-approved songs alongside the world-famous Muppet cast.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Ed Sheeran and Macklemore's "Sesame Street" video shoots:
Macklemore and Sheeran join a long and lauded list of musicians that have visited "Sesame Street" since the award-wining show hit the airwaves in 1969. Stars ranging from Johnny Cash and Paul Simon to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson have given legendary performances alongside Jim Henson's Muppets over the years. In recent seasons, the show has hosted an array of contemporary pop giants like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Feist, and Norah Jones, among many others.
"I think it's every rapper's dream to make it on Sesame Street," says Macklemore, who was reinvented as a character named "Mucklemore" that helped Oscar and his fellow grouches recycle their garbage to a parody of his smash hit "Thrift Shop."
Ed Sheeran, on the other hand, enlisted the show's music department to come up with an original song for him to sing with the Muppet gang. "Ed Sheeran's music is so melodic and lyrical, it just seemed to fit him," says music director Bill Sherman. "He loved the song, and got to hang out with the Muppets, which was really cool."
Sheeran's kid-empowerment jingle about life at home and at school is built on the concept of executive functioning, a key part of the new season's curriculum, which deals with self-control and organization skills. "This is a wonderful song than can help bridge this transition," says executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente.
Along with its contemporary, kid-centric curriculum, "Sesame Street" has stayed relevant all these years by giving parents a reason to watch and talk about the show, which is much of the reason it enlists stars like Sheeran and Macklemore.
But that doesn't mean the kids can't bob their heads along to the "Thrift Shop" beat, too. "These days, children's' love of pop music is relevant," Sherman says. "Kids are hearing this music all the time and I think their ears are as sophisticated as the parents."
"Sesame Street" seasons are filmed a year ahead of schedule, so the Macklemore and Sheeran episodes won't air until late 2014. Until then, Janelle Monaé, who was recently named Billboard's rising star of 2013, will also pay a visit to "Sesame Street" to film for its upcoming season in the near future.
Outside the music world, a host of NBC stars will guest on the new season, including Tina Fey, "SNL" cast member Taran Killam, and "30 Rock's" Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer. Additionally, upcoming "Word on the Street" shorts will include Taye Diggs, Zach Braff, Claire Danes, Ian McKellen, and Zachary Quinto.