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SPINfighting: Who’s the Best Musical Cat?

As the roundtable format has grown into an effectively direct way for a publication to think out loud for its readers’ perusal, we present SPINfighting, a new column where the SPIN staff will debate about a new wrinkle in the musical landscape every week. With the release of Run the Jewels’ infamous Meow the Jewels remix and the announcement of an honest-to-blog Lil Bub album, we asked ourselves: Who’s the best musical cat? 

Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, Lil Bub, Meow the Jewels, whatever: Talk to us when any of them have a friggin’ No. 1 hit. MC Skat Kat ascended to the Hot 100’s throne — though he was only officially credited by the name of musical puppeteers the Wild Pair, typical industry BS — in 1990, as the special guest of the only pop star to rival Madonna and Janet Jackson for turn-of-the-decade popularity, Paula Abdul. He stole the show on her “Opposites Attract” video, all lascivious eyebrows and size-14 dancing shoes, helping the clip earn five VMA nominations, including Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, and Video Most Likely to inspire a Hilarious Jack Donaghy Reference 17 Years Later. Don’t sleep on “Skat Strut,” by the way, the Skitty Kitty’s Paula-featuring, Earth Wind & Fire-sampling solo breakout. Peaked at No. 96!

Colin Joyce: Oh sure, she may not literally be a cat, but none of these fictional felines can touch the wrenching devastation that Cat Power‘s issued over the course of her two decades beating up the Great American Songbook. While Andrew’s right that MC Skat Kat has the highest highs, Chan Marshall has to win if only for sheer longevity. To say nothing of the beautiful wreckage of her earliest work, even Sunher most recent effort and the most wonderfully technicolor, has the emotional heft to leave lions weeping like kittens.

James Grebey: Truly amazing music — the best music — inspires passionate feelings. And, as it turns out, wanting to throw yourself through a sheet glass window to feel the sweet release of death is one of them. Love her, or more likely, hate her, you can’t deny that Nyan Cat, a super-kawaii fusion of cat, rainbow, and Pop-Tart, evokes a feeling. She does so much with so little — a short hyperspeed loop that’s so full of life it makes you wish you were dead. SPIN recommends the 10-hour version for maximum impact.

Rachel Brodsky: Josie and Pussycats, of course. Riding on the surprise success of the Archies’ wholesome “Sugar, Sugar,” Hanna-Barbera took Josie, Melody, and Valerie out of the comics and put them on the ’70s Saturday morning cartoon circuit — a move that totally makes sense, because what good is stanning for a band you can’t even listen to?

Since then, the leopard-print ladies have become pop cultural touchstones: The Pussycats put out two full albums with Cathy Dougher, Patrice Holloway, and Cherie Moor standing in on vocals in 1970, and finally, in 2001, we got a live-action look at the girls with Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson playing Riverdale’s favorite felines, and Parker Posey playing a scheming record exec. The movie may have bombed — sorry, Parker — but the soundtrack! Probably the only thing the film’s producers did right was hire Kay Hanley of the now-defunct power-pop act Letters to Cleo to voice the soundtrack, which features great punked-up cuts (“Three Small Words,” “Pretend to Be Nice”) that hold up a lot better than they should.

Dan Weiss: Let’s first acknowledge that the racist section that mars “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from Disney’s The Aristocats is an abominable shame. History rightfully looks down on the the fact that any Siamese cat in a Disney film was a vehicle for disgusting Asian stereotyping, and the hurtful caricature of a bucktoothed cat playing a piano with chopsticks was one of their stupidest allowances ever. But the song itself is an unfortunate casualty; it made for otherwise wonderful kids’ fodder to play off the jazz slang “cat” for an actual swing tune about how great it is to be a cat. The enjambed rhymes and use of slang are witty (“A square with a horn / Makes you wish you weren’t born” flows way better than it should), and the melody itself is snappy enough to make one wonder themselves how to enroll in the hairball academy. One of the few films where a corrective remake is more than welcome, provided they remix the horrors out.