Tasked with creating a mixtape themed after main protagonist Morty Smith of Cartoon Network’s Rick & Morty, for the Grey Estates’ Toon Tunes, a mixtape series I absolutely adore as cartoon and sci-fi enthusiast, I sat back and contemplated for a very long time which characteristics best define the adolescent boy and his relationship with madcap grandpa, Rick Sanchez. Logically what resulted was a mixtape with a very long runtime at just over 2 hours. The mix is broken into suites, each relating to a different aspect of Morty. Some are quite obvious, and some take a longer harder look at who Morty is and perhaps provide a glimpse at who he may become. Like the series, I also wanted to draw inspiration from many eras and genres, so you will see that I’ve included tracks that range from classic rock to modern indie rock and beyond, as well as touched on decades ranging from the 70s to the present.
Join me now on an exploration of one of television’s most beloved new animated series and characters as we explore the question, just who is Morty Smith?
I: The Unlikely Adventurer
Forced by the hand of Rick, Morty must accept his fate as a reluctant sidekick to his stubborn and demanding grandfather. Plagued with anxiety and lacking life experience due to the obvious reason of being just 14 years old, Morty is basically as ill suited for interdimensional time travel as anyone person could be. The oddities and terror he must endure would be difficult for even the bravest adventurer.
- Ronald Jenkees - “Stay Crunchy”
- The Flaming Lips - “Fight Test”
- Animal Collective - “Peacebone”
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Area 52”
- Hazel O’Connor - “Eight Day”
- Skating Polly - “Louder In Outer Space”
II: The Nerd
While likable in nature, Morty is oblivious to his good qualities and his lack of confidence sees him regarded as a loner and a nerd. Certainly an introvert by nature, Morty rarely if ever has the opportunity to spend time on his own surrounded by the comic books and video games I’m sure he would choose over his misadventures with Rick. Morty has few friends, if any, and is often teased by his schoolmates, likely targeted because of his frail, awkward demeanor, and his nervous stutter.
- The Offspring - “Self Esteem”
- Weezer - “In The Garage”
- Beck - “Loser”
- Placebo - “Scared Of Girls”
III: The Neurotic
With his frantic thoughts and relentless worry, it’s a wonder that Morty doesn’t just self destruct, especially in the face of the perilous and potentially apocalyptic encounters Rick and him share. It’s rather telling that he persists and continues to function. Perhaps this suggests that Morty may not be as weak and witless as he can sometime seem.
- Rush - “Distant Early Warning”
- Uriah Heep - “Traveller In Time”
- Black Mountain - “Wucan”
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “So Good At Being In Trouble”
IV: The Unrequited Lover
One of the main driving forces of Morty is his longing for love, despite grandpa Rick’s warnings of the pitfalls and unavoidable hopelessness of romance. Morty’s crush on one particular classmate, Jessica, is the catalyst for the majority of his romantic feelings.
- Daft Punk - “Instant Crush”
- The Black Keys - “Lonely Boy”
V: The Pessimist
From the first episode, it’s clear that both Morty and Rick share one thing in common, a pessimistic glass half empty outlook on life. Morty believes he is worthless and that he’ll never find happiness, while Rick wields a godlike complex that causes him to perpetuate the idea that there is no merit to be found in loving companionship and is motivated only by greed and power. Ultimately, no matter how many scenarios they diffuse, the universe is doomed, and both Rick and Morty know it.
- Aesop Rock - “Mars Attacks”
- El-P - “The Full Retard”
- Dalek - “Speak Volumes”
- K.Flay - “FML”
- Childish Gambino - “3005”
- Tom Odell - “Another Love (Zwette Remix)”
VI: The Underdog
Would a scientific mastermind such as Rick really appoint Morty as his main assistant if he were as useless as Morty believes himself to be? Like his obviously well kept secret love for his grandson, it’s quite clear to me that Rick sees there is potential in Morty. Think about it, in how many episodes does Morty devise a solution to a situation through nervous suggestion that ends up saving the day? An example being his quick witted distracting of a mind-reading foe named Fart by suggesting he sing, providing Rick the chance to defeat him. There is a heightened level of communication skills and a good natured heroism to Morty that I predict will slowly reveal itself as the series progresses. Perhaps Rick keeps Morty around for balance, as Morty often makes the distinction between good and bad via his choices, such as his refusal to kill an alien child. A distinction that Rick rarely makes, or rather, chooses to make.
Spoon - “The Underdog”
VII: The Faithful Sidekick
Despite his reluctance to serve under his difficult and often cruel grandpa, once recruited, Morty would do just about anything to ensure the safety of his grandfather, his family, and his home planet, Earth. Morty possesses a determination, a will to survive, and a hidden intelligence that I suspect will grow more prominent as the series unfolds. Perhaps if Morty took a long hard look at the person he could be, and shed his impressionable nature, he’d see his true value and grow into the hero he’s destined to be, or perhaps, I’m watching the wrong series. Regardless, I personally cannot wait to see Morty’s character develop and look forward to many more seasons of one of the most imaginative, well-written, and hilarious animated series on tv today.
- Pulp - “The Misshapes”
- Talking Heads - “Burning Down The House”
- XTC - “Senses Working Overtime”
- Thomas Dolby - “She Blinded Me With Science”
- Devo - “Through Being Cool”
- Oingo Boingo - “Weird Science”
- Radiohead - “Creep”