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Smelly Cat

"Smelly Cat" is a comedy song from the American sitcom Friends (1994–2004), originally performed by American actress Lisa Kudrow. The song was written by Friends writers Adam Chase and Betsy Borns, with musician Chrissie Hynde and Kudrow for the latter's character Phoebe Buffay, and first appears in the sixth episode of the show's second season, "The One with the Baby on the Bus". Hynde guest stars in the episode as a singer hired to replace Phoebe as Central Perk's in-house musician, to whom Phoebe eventually teaches "Smelly Cat". Borns intended to write the song about a dog, basing it on her own pet dog Gouda, but ultimately decided that a song about a pungent cat would be funnier.

"Smelly Cat"
Song by Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballs
from the album Friends Again
ReleasedNovember 23, 1999
Recorded1995–1999
Genre
Length2:27
Label
Songwriter(s)

Following its debut, Kudrow would continue to frequently perform "Smelly Cat" throughout Friends' ten-year run, most prominently during the show's second season, with the song becoming a running gag and integral component of Phoebe's role. The song's popularity grew among fans to the point at which they asked that it be released as an album track. Kudrow and the Pretenders, credited as Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballs, recorded an updated version of the song entitled "Smelly Cat Medley" for the soundtrack album Friends Again (1999). Musically, "Smelly Cat" is an acoustic pop and folk novelty song about an odorous cat mistreated and neglected by its owners due to its stench.

Established as a fan favorite, "Smelly Cat" has become closely associated with Phoebe, Kudrow, and the series, and is often ranked highly by media publications among Friends' most memorable moments and featured songs, even rivaling the show's theme song "I'll Be There for You" in terms of popularity. "Smelly Cat" has been covered by several artists, including Friends guest stars E. G. Daily, Chris Isaak, and James Michael Tyler, co-star Courteney Cox, and singer Colbie Caillat. Kudrow also performed "Smelly Cat" with Taylor Swift live during the singer's 1989 World Tour in 2015, with footage of the duet garnering widespread media attention and becoming a viral sensation. During Friends' 2021 reunion television special, Kudrow performed a special rendition of the song with Lady Gaga.

Contents

In addition to guest starring in "The One with the Baby on the Bus", musician Chrissie Hynde co-wrote "Smelly Cat" with Lisa Kudrow and performs it in the episode.

On the sitcom Friends, actress Lisa Kudrow portrays Phoebe Buffay, an eccentric masseuse and amateur singer-songwriter with poor rhythm. The character regularly performs her original, peculiar songs at Central Perk, a New York-based coffeehouse at which she and her five friends often socialize. "Smelly Cat" was written for the character by Kudrow with Adam Chase, Betsy Borns and Chrissie Hynde. The song was conceived in 1995 by Borns, a Friends writer who originally intended for its lyrics to be about a pungent dog entitled "Smelly Dog". Having a tendency to incorporate aspects of her personal life into Friends episodes, Borns initially based the song on a malodorous dog she had once owned named Gouda (named after the cheese), at first penning it "as an ode to her childhood pet", before ultimately deciding a song about a foul-smelling cat would be more humorous. Chase, another writer on Friends, also contributed lyrics. Kudrow composed the melody herself, as she had done for all of her character's original songs.

"Smelly Cat" first appears in the sixth episode of the second season, "The One with the Baby on the Bus" (1995), which Borns also wrote. Hynde (lead singer of rock band The Pretenders) guest stars in the episode as Stephanie Schiffer, a professional singer originally hired to replace Phoebe as Central Perk's resident musician, to whom Phoebe teaches "Smelly Cat" at the end of the episode. Hynde co-wrote the song's music with Kudrow. The musician had agreed to guest star on Friends with little knowledge as to how popular the relatively new sitcom had already become in the United States, having not heard of the show prior to being cast. Kudrow described writing with Hynde as "amazing". Critics believe Hynde's guest appearance bolstered sales of The Pretenders' cover of "Angel of the Morning", which Hynde also performs in the episode.

"Smelly Cat" grew increasingly popular among fans of the show, who sent letters to producers asking that they release the song on an album. Upon realizing the song's popularity, Reprise Records' Howie Klein expressed interest in developing a concept album based around "Smelly Cat" as a follow-up to the previous years' Friends album, but Kudrow's participation in the project was undecided. An updated version of the song entitled "Smelly Cat Medley" was eventually released on the soundtrack album Friends Again (1999), credited to Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballs. The track is a combination of "Smelly Cat" excerpts from various episodes, featuring vocals from Kudrow and The Pretenders. Although the album's cover features all six of the show's main cast members – Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer – Kudrow was the only main cast member to contribute a song.

"Smelly Cat" is one of several songs Phoebe writes and performs on Friends. Debuting in "The One with the Baby on the Bus", Phoebe first mentions the song to Rachel Green (Aniston) in conversation. The song is initially established as Phoebe's least popular among audiences. In the episode, Stephanie struggles to play "Smelly Cat" to Phoebe's liking, with Phoebe advising the character to work on feeling the song's lyrics. "Smelly Cat" proved popular and would continue to make several appearances throughout Friends' ten seasons, primarily via various performances and renditions by Phoebe. Although originally intended to be a one-time joke, the writers continued to conceive ways of incorporating the song into the series, creating various storylines that revolve around "Smelly Cat". I'll Be There for You: The One about Friends author Kelsey Miller confirmed that the composition was used most frequently during the show's second season, with Phoebe singing it at Central Perk regularly. The song would become one of the show's most used running gags.

In addition to portraying Phoebe, actress Lisa Kudrow co-wrote the music to "Smelly Cat", which she would perform consistently throughout the show's ten seasons.

The song appears in season two's "The One Where Eddie Moves In", in which Phoebe attempts to record a professional rendition of the song in a recording studio. She struggles to record with background singers. Phoebe eventually films a music video for the song, for which her voice is ultimately dubbed by a professional singer, voiced by E. G. Daily. Phoebe initially believes she is hearing herself sing and thinks she sounds good. Upon learning the truth, Phoebe ultimately feels sorry for the anonymous singer instead of pitying herself. The song is then heard in season three's "The One with Phoebe's Ex-Partner", in which Leslie (again portrayed by Daily), a singer with whom Phoebe used to perform, suggests that "Smelly Cat" be adapted into a jingle for a cat litter commercial. Phoebe ultimately refuses the offer, but Leslie sells the song without Phoebe's permission, prompting her to write "Jingle Bitch" about Leslie. The product is named "Smelly Cat" Kitty Litter, after the song. Phoebe performs the song as a duet with Rob, portrayed by musician Chris Isaak, although Phoebe criticizes his rendition, suggesting that the singer refrain from incorporating his signature high-pitched yodeling in favor of "a more masculine note". Phoebe also leads her friends in a sing-along version of "Smelly Cat" at Central Perk, each of whom contribute a solo, except Ross Geller (Schwimmer) because there are no more lines.

In season five's "The One with Joey's Bag", Phoebe's estranged father Frank Buffay reveals that he used to sing her a lullaby called "Sleepy Girl", which shares "Smelly Cat"'s melody, as a baby, further establishing "Smelly Cat" as a fundamental aspect of Phoebe's life story. However, Sam Ashurst of Digital Spy identified this as a plot hole, since Phoebe had previously confirmed that her father abandons her before she was born, therefore he could not have been present to sing to her. Ashurst theorized that Phoebe could have been so determined to retain the copyright to her most famous song that she lied about its composer. According to Rachel Steinberg Radio Times, "Smelly Cat" is heard nine times throughout the course of the series in various capacities. VH1 writer Stacy Lambe believes "Smelly Cat" once signified "a point in Phoebe's career when it seemed like her music was going to take off." The New Zealand Herald described the song as "Phoebe's acoustic anthem [which] echoed throughout the whole series." Following filming of the Friends series finale in January 2004, a wrap party was hosted for the cast and crew at Los Angeles' Park Plaza Hotel, at which a cocktail named after the song was served. A full version of the music video has been included on DVD releases of Friends.

"Smelly cat, smel-ly cat, what are they feeding you?
Smelly cat, smel-ly cat, it's not your fault."

– lyrics of the song's first chorus.

Kudrow's original rendition of "Smelly Cat" has been described as a "folky, acoustic" track. The Toronto Star called it a "unique guitar ballad". According to HelloGiggles' Rachel Paige, the music video version is treated to a "90s remix" with heavy production. Amazon identified the updated "Smelly Cat Medley" as a pop song lasting two minutes and twenty-seven seconds (2:27) in duration. "Smelly Cat" alternates between three chords – E, A and D – although Phoebe never refers to chords by their traditional names. The song consists of a simple melody and humorous lyrics, with Comedy Central describing Kudrow's vocals as "strained".

A novelty song, MTV's Lindsay Soll wrote that "Smelly Cat" is about a "feline with a pungent odor", but Phoebe reassures the cat that its scent is not its own fault. Rachel Simon, writing for Bustle, summarized the track as a song about "a poor-smelling cat treated badly by society for its odor". The song's lyrics begin "Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?", followed by "Smelly cat, smelly cat it's not your fault." "Smelly Cat" continues, "It may not be a bed of roses/ but you're no friend to those with noses". NME critic Beth Cherry believes that the song "educate[s] the world about the plight of olfactorily-challenged felines everywhere." Ciara Knight of Joe considers the song's opening lyrics to be its most iconic.

Simon believes "Smelly Cat" explores an inspiring message beyond the odor of a cat about remaining unbothered while being bullied and shunned. Classic FM's Sofia Rizzi agreed that the song "has a deep and meaningful message at its core". Referring to the line "what are they feeding you?", Bustle's Mallory Schlossberg suggested that fans "may never know the answer to that deeply philosophical musical question". The song never reveals how or why the cat smells bad, or what its owners are feeding it. Kudrow confirmed that she never learned what the cat was being fed, although the general consensus is that the cat's diet contributed to its smell. The cat's gender is also never confirmed.

Reviews for "Smelly Cat" have been generally positive. Cosmopolitan writer Jo Sayer reviewed "The One with the Baby on the Bus" as "an awesome episode because it's ... where Smelly Cat is first introduced." Newsweek called the song "legendary". A Medium contributor wrote that the song "has become an undetachable part of Phoebe's persona and her anthem". The Toronto Star's Melody L. Goh hailed "Smelly Cat" as "the best song to ever be played on Friends", while RTÉ.ie declared it one of the series' greatest moments. Greg Gilman of TheWrap described "Smelly Cat" as "delightfully silly". Laura McClellan of Taste of Country deemed "Smelly Cat" "one of Phoebe's greatest quirky coffee house hits". Ilyse Liffreing of Ad Age reviewed one of Phoebe's "Smelly Cat" performances as "One of the most memorable scenes" from the series, which the author believes in turn "solidified Phoebe as their show favorite." The Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Betty Shimabukuro described "Smelly Cat" as "legendary for its tunelessness and total fusion with the Phoebe personality", and suggested that fans seek solace by singing the song following the show's finale. Conversely, Wired writer Travis Reilly described the track as "notoriously awful", while The Washington Post journalist Jennifer Frey dismissed the song's several renditions as "painful".

Digital Spy ranked "Smelly Cat" among "12 amazing Phoebe moments". Sammy Nickalls, writing for HelloGiggles, believes "Smelly Cat" "will go down in history for the best song about an odorous pet". Madison Malone Kircher of Business Insider wrote that "Smelly Cat" predated the Internet as a viral meme by "becoming an oft-quoted and mimicked cultural touchstone for fans of the show." Victoria Dawson Hoff of Elle observed that the song threatens to "unseat 'I'll Be There For You' as the song that's most synonymous with Friends", explaining that fans still struggle to "get it out of our heads" nearly 20 years after it was released. Bustle's Rachel Simon agreed that "Smelly Cat" rivals "the theme song as one of the show's most unforgettable musical moments". CinemaBlend contributor Jessica Rawden attributes the song's popularity to several storylines that established "Smelly Cat" as an important aspect of Phoebe's life, ultimately becoming "ingrained into the cultural fiber of Friends". Cosmopolitan's Ellen Scott described the song as "glorious" and "iconic", to which any true fan knows the lyrics. Conversely, Lindsey Weber of Vulture found "Smelly Cat" is "overrated", believing it to be inferior to Phoebe's angrier songs.

Kudrow has generally refrained from performing "Smelly Cat" live under most circumstances, despite being constantly asked by fans. The song began to experience a revival in 2009 when a dance remix began circulating on the Internet. Upon learning about the remix, Kudrow said "I can't wait to hear if it is any good". In September 2009, Kudrow performed "Smelly Cat" live with actress Courteney Cox, who portrayed Monica Geller on Friends, during the Rock A Little, Feed A Lot benefit concert. Kudrow was originally intended to introduce musician Sheryl Crow, only for the audience to ask her to sing "Smelly Cat" instead. Kudrow then invited Cox to join her for the performance, for which the stagehands provided Kudrow with a guitar at Cox's insistence. The performance was met with a standing ovation from the crowd. Hello! joked that "hitting the right notes wasn't really a concern [for the actresses] if they wanted the performance to reflect Lisa's character's dubious musical talents", while Inquisitr's Asher Bayot reviewed the duet as awkward. The performance remained Kudrow's only documented post-Friends "Smelly Cat" performance for several years.

In 2014, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat sang an a capella version of "Smelly Cat" live at a Central Perk-themed pop-up café in Manhattan, New York, which had been launched to commemorate the show's 20th anniversary. Caillat's unscheduled performanced surprised many fans in attendance, who she encouraged to sing along. Despite praising Caillat's rendition as "awesome" for "fulfill[ing] every Friends fanatic's fantasy", Bustle's Aly Semigran criticized her for performing only half of the song. However, she believes her rendition should lead to a Phoebe tribute album, on which she should reprise "Smelly Cat". At the same pop-up, actor James Michael Tyler, who portrayed Central Perk barista Gunther, performed the first verse of the song with band The Rembrandts, who originally recorded "I'll Be There for You". Brent Furdyk of Entertainment Tonight Canada described the Tyler-Rembrandts rendition as "Jim Morrison-esque". A box of "Smelly Cat" kitty litter from the episode "The One with Phoebe's Ex-Partner" was displayed as part of the pop-up's exhibit.

Singer Taylor Swift invited Kudrow to perform "Smelly Cat" with her live during one of the final performances of her 1989 World Tour.

In August 2015, Kudrow performed "Smelly Cat" live with singer Taylor Swift at the Staples Center during the final North American legs of her 1989 World Tour. Her fifth and final performance at the venue, Swift introduced Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, advising the audience that "She's only ever played in coffee houses before. She's never played in a big venue like this". Kudrow then entered the stage wearing a long skirt reminiscent of Phoebe's wardrobe. Adopting her character's personality, both Kudrow and Swift accompanied themselves on guitar. Kudrow interrupted Swift midway through the duet to offer feedback and remind her to feel the song's lyrics, prompting screams and laughter from the audience. Referencing her duet with Hynde, Kudrow ultimately assured Swift that she master the song eventually. The performance was widely reported and positively received by media outlets. Yvonne Villarreal of the Los Angeles Times found the rendition superior to "Smelly Cat's" "over-produced music video" from "The One Where Eddie Moves In". The Daily Telegraph's Helena Horton called Kudrow's performance "the sweetest" of all the guest appearances throughout Swift's tour. Stylist agreed that Kudrow's appearance "might top" all other guests, calling it superior to singers Selena Gomez and Justin Timberlake's cameos at the same concert, while Screener's Andrea Reiher concurred that Kudrow was arguably Swift's "best guest of the entire '1989' run", concluding that the singer once again "wins at life". Heather Saul of The Independent crowned Kudrow "the highlight of all of [Swift's] cameos", eclipsing Timberlake's first stage appearance since becoming a father.

Michel Serra of Closer reviewed that Kudrow "has not lost any of Phoebe's intonations", despite being performed 10 years after the actress had last played the role. Business Insider's Madison Malone Kircher found the song to be "an excellent fit for Swift" due to her love of cats, despite being "a far cry from the tracks on her '80s-pop-inspired ... album". Tessa Berenson of Time wrote that Swift "may have outdone herself" by duetting with Kudrow, suggesting that Swift's next album should be a cover album of Phoebe songs. Rachel Paige of HelloGiggles declared that it would be difficult for Swift to ever top this moment, while HuffPost contributor Stephanie Marcus called Swift's decision to perform with Kudrow " genius" and "glorious". A critic for The New Zealand Herald described the rendition as "a whole new – and slightly surreal – experience to see it performed with pop royalty in front of a huge stadium audience." Fan recordings of the performance became very popular on the Internet being heavily circulated on social media, with both Swift and "Smelly Cat" trending on Facebook and Twitter, respectively, the following morning. The videos quickly earned millions of views, becoming the most viral guest performance from the tour. Time ranked the performance Swift's seventh best moment of 2015. However, Vice's Mitchell Sunderland questioned whether Swift's target demographic of fans born in and after 1999 were truly familiar with Kudrow and the song. As of 2016, E. G. Daily sometimes performs the song during her shows.

To commemorate the show's 25th anniversary in September 2019, a flash mob of 25 women dressed as Phoebe assembled in New York's Union Square and performed "Smelly Cat". In tribute to the character, each woman donned a suede fringe jacket, blonde wig, and guitar, replicating one of Phoebe's outfits from the series. The impersonators also sang the song at each location they stopped, including The Today Show, WPIX TV and Grand Central Station. The performers used the occasion to raise awareness for pet rescue and encourage witnesses to adopt a cat, on behalf of the Best Friends Animal Society. During Friends' 2021 reunion television special, Kudrow performed a special rendition of "Smelly Cat" with Lady Gaga.

"Smelly Cat" has since been established as a fan and cult favorite. Although Phoebe performs nearly 40 original songs over Friends' ten-year run, "Smelly Cat" is considered her breakout hit and signature song, as well as "her most famous creation". According to The Times of India, Phoebe made the song "real and iconic at the same time" to the point at which "its used worldwide by fans." In 2014, Kudrow revealed that fans constantly ask her to sing the song, but she refuses. USA Today ranked the lyrics of "Smelly Cat" among the actress' best Friends quotes. More included "Smelly Cat" among "The 15 Best Moments In 'Friends' History", with author Effie Orfanides deeming it "one of the best things to come out of the series", insisting that all fans know its lyrics. "Smelly Cat" is one of the most enduring songs from the sitcom. VH1 ranked "Smelly Cat" Friends' best musical moment, ahead of "I'll Be There for You". Author Kat George called the song "as essential to Friends as the shows theme song", even going on to crown it "the show's unofficial theme song." E! also ranked the song first, writing that the character "turned the sincere lyrics into one of her most acclaimed (laughed) 'hits'." In a similar article, Billboard critic Erin Strecker deemed the track "a classic" among Phoebe's songs.

NDTV recognized "Smelly Cat" as one of Friends' 20 funniest moments, citing its music video as their favorite rendition. E! considers "Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat" to be among Friends' 25 most quotable moments. Classic FM ranked "Smelly Cat" Phoebe's best song, with writer Sofia Rizzi calling it "a post-modern work of art" that remains "an anthem for fans of the show today." Metro's Hanna Flint declared the song "arguably one of the most memorable songs in the history of television." Marie Claire believes "Smelly Cat" has grown to be nearly as ubiquitous as "Happy Birthday" and Christmas carols, calling it "everyone's favourite Friends song" and concluding, "Despite belting out dozens of ditties during the 10 season run of Friends, the musical talent of Phoebe Buffay will always be remembered through the lyrical genius that is Smelly Cat." In 2016, Comedy Central crowned the song "one of the most iconic tunes of the 90s", calling it a "timeless" track because fans can recall its lyrics 21 years later.

In addition to ranking "Smelly Cat" first on BuzzFeed's "Definitive Ranking Of Phoebe Buffay's Top 40 Songs", author Tasmai Uppin called it "the ultimate Phoebe Buffay song" against which all of her songs are compared. Entertainment Weekly ranked "Smelly Cat" Phoebe's fifth greatest song, with author Hillary Busis calling it "iconic and charming and ready-made for merchandise" but questioned its popularity, considering it less funny than some of her other songs. Busis also praised its music video. The Irish Independent included "Smelly Cat" as one of Friends' 10 best moments, about which author Aishling Phelan wrote that Phoebe "created some pretty comical and sometimes disturbing songs, but Smelly Cat emerged as her trademark number." Phelan went on to describe its lyrics as "deep and eloquent", but dismissed its music video as "cheesy". Although VH1 ranked "Smelly Cat" the third "Best (Fake) Song Written For TV", author Stacy Lambe critiqued the music video version as "overproduced". Meanwhile, Abi Jackson of Stylist included the costume Phoebe wears in the "Smelly Cat" music video among "The 50 most iconic fashion and beauty moments in Friends", calling it "One of Phoebe's best sartorial moments" and joking "forget Lady Gaga, this is how music videos should be".

Ranking "Smelly Cat" among Friends' 10 best running gags, Gillian Furmage of WOW247 wrote that the show simply "wouldn't be Friends without the anthem that is 'Smelly Cat'." Calling it one of television's 12 best running gags, Refinery29's wrote that the song "still brings the laughs years after the show's end." Erin Fitzpatrick Digital Spy ranked "Smelly Cat" the 11th best original song from within a television show. Kat George of Bustle ranked the video the third best video the Friends characters watched during the series, while ranking the commercial for the single seventh. Although Hyndes used to get annoyed by fans asking her to perform "Smelly Cat" on stage, she has grown used to the popularity of it and now considers the song to be "probably my biggest legacy now. Portuguese comedy group Gato Fedorento named themselves after "Smelly Cat", which translates to Gato Fedorento in Portuguese. To commemorate the show's 25th anniversary in September 2019, Google created several Friends-themed easter eggs which appear in the search results when the name of a main character is searched. Searching "Phoebe Buffay" or "Phoebe" returned an image of a guitar which, when clicked, promoted Kudrow's rendition of "Smelly Cat" to play in the background, while a black cat walks across the screen as a green cloud of gas is excreted from its backside to indicate its stench.

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Smelly Cat
Smelly Cat Language Watch Edit Smelly Cat is a comedy song from the American sitcom Friends 1994 2004 originally performed by American actress Lisa Kudrow The song was written by Friends writers Adam Chase and Betsy Borns with musician Chrissie Hynde and Kudrow for the latter s character Phoebe Buffay and first appears in the sixth episode of the show s second season The One with the Baby on the Bus Hynde guest stars in the episode as a singer hired to replace Phoebe as Central Perk s in house musician to whom Phoebe eventually teaches Smelly Cat Borns intended to write the song about a dog basing it on her own pet dog Gouda but ultimately decided that a song about a pungent cat would be funnier Smelly Cat Song by Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballsfrom the album Friends AgainReleasedNovember 23 1999Recorded1995 1999GenrePop folkLength2 27LabelReprise WEASongwriter s Adam Chase Betsy Borns Chrissie Hynde Lisa Kudrow Following its debut Kudrow would continue to frequently perform Smelly Cat throughout Friends ten year run most prominently during the show s second season with the song becoming a running gag and integral component of Phoebe s role The song s popularity grew among fans to the point at which they asked that it be released as an album track Kudrow and the Pretenders credited as Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballs recorded an updated version of the song entitled Smelly Cat Medley for the soundtrack album Friends Again 1999 Musically Smelly Cat is an acoustic pop and folk novelty song about an odorous cat mistreated and neglected by its owners due to its stench Established as a fan favorite Smelly Cat has become closely associated with Phoebe Kudrow and the series and is often ranked highly by media publications among Friends most memorable moments and featured songs even rivaling the show s theme song I ll Be There for You in terms of popularity Smelly Cat has been covered by several artists including Friends guest stars E G Daily Chris Isaak and James Michael Tyler co star Courteney Cox and singer Colbie Caillat Kudrow also performed Smelly Cat with Taylor Swift live during the singer s 1989 World Tour in 2015 with footage of the duet garnering widespread media attention and becoming a viral sensation During Friends 2021 reunion television special Kudrow performed a special rendition of the song with Lady Gaga Contents 1 Background and writing 2 Use in Friends 3 Composition 4 Reception and popularity 5 Live performances and covers 6 Legacy 7 ReferencesBackground and writing Edit In addition to guest starring in The One with the Baby on the Bus musician Chrissie Hynde co wrote Smelly Cat with Lisa Kudrow and performs it in the episode 1 2 On the sitcom Friends actress Lisa Kudrow portrays Phoebe Buffay an eccentric masseuse and amateur singer songwriter with poor rhythm 3 The character regularly performs her original peculiar songs at Central Perk 3 a New York based coffeehouse at which she and her five friends often socialize 4 5 Smelly Cat was written for the character by Kudrow with Adam Chase Betsy Borns and Chrissie Hynde 6 7 The song was conceived in 1995 by Borns a Friends writer who originally intended for its lyrics to be about a pungent dog entitled Smelly Dog 8 Having a tendency to incorporate aspects of her personal life into Friends episodes Borns initially based the song on a malodorous dog she had once owned named Gouda named after the cheese 8 9 at first penning it as an ode to her childhood pet 10 before ultimately deciding a song about a foul smelling cat would be more humorous 8 Chase another writer on Friends also contributed lyrics 11 Kudrow composed the melody herself as she had done for all of her character s original songs 12 Smelly Cat first appears in the sixth episode of the second season The One with the Baby on the Bus 1995 13 which Borns also wrote 9 Hynde lead singer of rock band The Pretenders guest stars in the episode as Stephanie Schiffer 14 a professional singer originally hired to replace Phoebe as Central Perk s resident musician to whom Phoebe teaches Smelly Cat at the end of the episode 9 10 Hynde co wrote the song s music with Kudrow 1 The musician had agreed to guest star on Friends with little knowledge as to how popular the relatively new sitcom had already become in the United States having not heard of the show prior to being cast 2 Kudrow described writing with Hynde as amazing 15 16 Critics believe Hynde s guest appearance bolstered sales of The Pretenders cover of Angel of the Morning 17 which Hynde also performs in the episode 18 Smelly Cat grew increasingly popular among fans of the show who sent letters to producers asking that they release the song on an album 19 Upon realizing the song s popularity Reprise Records Howie Klein expressed interest in developing a concept album based around Smelly Cat as a follow up to the previous years Friends album but Kudrow s participation in the project was undecided 19 An updated version of the song entitled Smelly Cat Medley was eventually released on the soundtrack album Friends Again 1999 20 credited to Phoebe Buffay and the Hairballs 21 The track is a combination of Smelly Cat excerpts from various episodes featuring vocals from Kudrow and The Pretenders 22 Although the album s cover features all six of the show s main cast members Kudrow Jennifer Aniston Courteney Cox Matt LeBlanc Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer Kudrow was the only main cast member to contribute a song 5 Use in Friends Edit Smelly Cat is one of several songs Phoebe writes and performs on Friends 23 24 Debuting in The One with the Baby on the Bus 25 Phoebe first mentions the song to Rachel Green Aniston in conversation 26 The song is initially established as Phoebe s least popular among audiences 27 In the episode Stephanie struggles to play Smelly Cat to Phoebe s liking 28 with Phoebe advising the character to work on feeling the song s lyrics 29 Smelly Cat proved popular and would continue to make several appearances throughout Friends ten seasons 13 30 31 primarily via various performances and renditions by Phoebe 32 33 Although originally intended to be a one time joke the writers continued to conceive ways of incorporating the song into the series creating various storylines that revolve around Smelly Cat 34 I ll Be There for You The One about Friends author Kelsey Miller confirmed that the composition was used most frequently during the show s second season 35 with Phoebe singing it at Central Perk regularly 36 The song would become one of the show s most used running gags 37 In addition to portraying Phoebe actress Lisa Kudrow co wrote the music to Smelly Cat which she would perform consistently throughout the show s ten seasons The song appears in season two s The One Where Eddie Moves In 38 in which Phoebe attempts to record a professional rendition of the song in a recording studio 32 She struggles to record with background singers 33 Phoebe eventually films a music video for the song 39 for which her voice is ultimately dubbed by a professional singer 30 voiced by E G Daily 27 40 Phoebe initially believes she is hearing herself sing and thinks she sounds good 41 Upon learning the truth Phoebe ultimately feels sorry for the anonymous singer instead of pitying herself 42 The song is then heard in season three s The One with Phoebe s Ex Partner in which Leslie again portrayed by Daily 43 a singer with whom Phoebe used to perform 44 suggests that Smelly Cat be adapted into a jingle for a cat litter commercial 45 Phoebe ultimately refuses the offer 42 but Leslie sells the song without Phoebe s permission prompting her to write Jingle Bitch about Leslie 30 46 47 The product is named Smelly Cat Kitty Litter after the song 48 Phoebe performs the song as a duet with Rob portrayed by musician Chris Isaak although Phoebe criticizes his rendition 28 suggesting that the singer refrain from incorporating his signature high pitched yodeling in favor of a more masculine note 4 49 Phoebe also leads her friends in a sing along version of Smelly Cat at Central Perk 50 each of whom contribute a solo except Ross Geller Schwimmer because there are no more lines 51 In season five s The One with Joey s Bag Phoebe s estranged father Frank Buffay reveals that he used to sing her a lullaby called Sleepy Girl 52 which shares Smelly Cat s melody as a baby 53 further establishing Smelly Cat as a fundamental aspect of Phoebe s life story 34 However Sam Ashurst of Digital Spy identified this as a plot hole since Phoebe had previously confirmed that her father abandons her before she was born therefore he could not have been present to sing to her 54 Ashurst theorized that Phoebe could have been so determined to retain the copyright to her most famous song that she lied about its composer 54 According to Rachel Steinberg Radio Times Smelly Cat is heard nine times throughout the course of the series in various capacities 55 VH1 writer Stacy Lambe believes Smelly Cat once signified a point in Phoebe s career when it seemed like her music was going to take off 56 The New Zealand Herald described the song as Phoebe s acoustic anthem which echoed throughout the whole series 57 Following filming of the Friends series finale in January 2004 a wrap party was hosted for the cast and crew at Los Angeles Park Plaza Hotel at which a cocktail named after the song was served 58 59 A full version of the music video has been included on DVD releases of Friends 60 61 Composition Edit Smelly cat smel ly cat what are they feeding you Smelly cat smel ly cat it s not your fault lyrics of the song s first chorus 62 Kudrow s original rendition of Smelly Cat has been described as a folky acoustic track 49 The Toronto Star called it a unique guitar ballad 63 According to HelloGiggles Rachel Paige the music video version is treated to a 90s remix with heavy production 41 56 Amazon identified the updated Smelly Cat Medley as a pop song lasting two minutes and twenty seven seconds 2 27 in duration 21 64 Smelly Cat alternates between three chords E A and D although Phoebe never refers to chords by their traditional names 65 The song consists of a simple melody and humorous lyrics with Comedy Central describing Kudrow s vocals as strained 66 A novelty song 67 MTV s Lindsay Soll wrote that Smelly Cat is about a feline with a pungent odor 68 but Phoebe reassures the cat that its scent is not its own fault 69 Rachel Simon writing for Bustle summarized the track as a song about a poor smelling cat treated badly by society for its odor 36 The song s lyrics begin Smelly cat smelly cat what are they feeding you 70 followed by Smelly cat smelly cat it s not your fault 71 72 Smelly Cat continues It may not be a bed of roses but you re no friend to those with noses 73 NME critic Beth Cherry believes that the song educate s the world about the plight of olfactorily challenged felines everywhere 74 Ciara Knight of Joe considers the song s opening lyrics to be its most iconic 14 Simon believes Smelly Cat explores an inspiring message beyond the odor of a cat about remaining unbothered while being bullied and shunned 36 Classic FM s Sofia Rizzi agreed that the song has a deep and meaningful message at its core 75 Referring to the line what are they feeding you Bustle s Mallory Schlossberg suggested that fans may never know the answer to that deeply philosophical musical question 76 The song never reveals how or why the cat smells bad 14 or what its owners are feeding it 77 Kudrow confirmed that she never learned what the cat was being fed 78 although the general consensus is that the cat s diet contributed to its smell 52 The cat s gender is also never confirmed 52 Reception and popularity EditReviews for Smelly Cat have been generally positive Cosmopolitan writer Jo Sayer reviewed The One with the Baby on the Bus as an awesome episode because it s where Smelly Cat is first introduced 79 Newsweek called the song legendary 80 A Medium contributor wrote that the song has become an undetachable part of Phoebe s persona and her anthem 32 The Toronto Star s Melody L Goh hailed Smelly Cat as the best song to ever be played on Friends 18 while RTE ie declared it one of the series greatest moments 26 Greg Gilman of TheWrap described Smelly Cat as delightfully silly 81 Laura McClellan of Taste of Country deemed Smelly Cat one of Phoebe s greatest quirky coffee house hits 82 Ilyse Liffreing of Ad Age reviewed one of Phoebe s Smelly Cat performances as One of the most memorable scenes from the series which the author believes in turn solidified Phoebe as their show favorite 83 The Honolulu Star Advertiser s Betty Shimabukuro described Smelly Cat as legendary for its tunelessness and total fusion with the Phoebe personality and suggested that fans seek solace by singing the song following the show s finale 65 Conversely Wired writer Travis Reilly described the track as notoriously awful 84 while The Washington Post journalist Jennifer Frey dismissed the song s several renditions as painful 85 Digital Spy ranked Smelly Cat among 12 amazing Phoebe moments 86 Sammy Nickalls writing for HelloGiggles believes Smelly Cat will go down in history for the best song about an odorous pet 87 Madison Malone Kircher of Business Insider wrote that Smelly Cat predated the Internet as a viral meme by becoming an oft quoted and mimicked cultural touchstone for fans of the show 50 Victoria Dawson Hoff of Elle observed that the song threatens to unseat I ll Be There For You as the song that s most synonymous with Friends explaining that fans still struggle to get it out of our heads nearly 20 years after it was released 73 Bustle s Rachel Simon agreed that Smelly Cat rivals the theme song as one of the show s most unforgettable musical moments 36 CinemaBlend contributor Jessica Rawden attributes the song s popularity to several storylines that established Smelly Cat as an important aspect of Phoebe s life ultimately becoming ingrained into the cultural fiber of Friends 34 Cosmopolitan s Ellen Scott described the song as glorious and iconic to which any true fan knows the lyrics 88 Conversely Lindsey Weber of Vulture found Smelly Cat is overrated believing it to be inferior to Phoebe s angrier songs 89 Live performances and covers EditKudrow has generally refrained from performing Smelly Cat live under most circumstances 90 despite being constantly asked by fans 78 The song began to experience a revival in 2009 when a dance remix began circulating on the Internet 91 Upon learning about the remix Kudrow said I can t wait to hear if it is any good 91 In September 2009 Kudrow performed Smelly Cat live with actress Courteney Cox who portrayed Monica Geller on Friends during the Rock A Little Feed A Lot benefit concert 92 Kudrow was originally intended to introduce musician Sheryl Crow 70 only for the audience to ask her to sing Smelly Cat instead Kudrow then invited Cox to join her for the performance for which the stagehands provided Kudrow with a guitar at Cox s insistence 93 The performance was met with a standing ovation from the crowd 70 Hello joked that hitting the right notes wasn t really a concern for the actresses if they wanted the performance to reflect Lisa s character s dubious musical talents 92 while Inquisitr s Asher Bayot reviewed the duet as awkward 90 The performance remained Kudrow s only documented post Friends Smelly Cat performance for several years 90 In 2014 singer songwriter Colbie Caillat sang an a capella version of Smelly Cat live at a Central Perk themed pop up cafe in Manhattan New York 49 94 which had been launched to commemorate the show s 20th anniversary 84 Caillat s unscheduled performanced surprised many fans in attendance 71 who she encouraged to sing along 94 Despite praising Caillat s rendition as awesome for fulfill ing every Friends fanatic s fantasy Bustle s Aly Semigran criticized her for performing only half of the song 51 However she believes her rendition should lead to a Phoebe tribute album on which she should reprise Smelly Cat 51 At the same pop up actor James Michael Tyler who portrayed Central Perk barista Gunther performed the first verse of the song with band The Rembrandts who originally recorded I ll Be There for You 95 Brent Furdyk of Entertainment Tonight Canada described the Tyler Rembrandts rendition as Jim Morrison esque 49 A box of Smelly Cat kitty litter from the episode The One with Phoebe s Ex Partner was displayed as part of the pop up s exhibit 48 96 Singer Taylor Swift invited Kudrow to perform Smelly Cat with her live during one of the final performances of her 1989 World Tour In August 2015 Kudrow performed Smelly Cat live with singer Taylor Swift at the Staples Center during the final North American legs of her 1989 World Tour 38 97 Her fifth and final performance at the venue Swift introduced Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay advising the audience that She s only ever played in coffee houses before She s never played in a big venue like this 29 Kudrow then entered the stage wearing a long skirt reminiscent of Phoebe s wardrobe 41 Adopting her character s personality both Kudrow and Swift accompanied themselves on guitar 38 Kudrow interrupted Swift midway through the duet to offer feedback and remind her to feel the song s lyrics prompting screams and laughter from the audience 98 Referencing her duet with Hynde 29 Kudrow ultimately assured Swift that she master the song eventually 38 The performance was widely reported and positively received by media outlets 99 Yvonne Villarreal of the Los Angeles Times found the rendition superior to Smelly Cat s over produced music video from The One Where Eddie Moves In 38 The Daily Telegraph s Helena Horton called Kudrow s performance the sweetest of all the guest appearances throughout Swift s tour 97 Stylist agreed that Kudrow s appearance might top all other guests calling it superior to singers Selena Gomez and Justin Timberlake s cameos at the same concert 100 98 while Screener s Andrea Reiher concurred that Kudrow was arguably Swift s best guest of the entire 1989 run concluding that the singer once again wins at life 101 Heather Saul of The Independent crowned Kudrow the highlight of all of Swift s cameos eclipsing Timberlake s first stage appearance since becoming a father 102 Michel Serra of Closer reviewed that Kudrow has not lost any of Phoebe s intonations despite being performed 10 years after the actress had last played the role 4 Business Insider s Madison Malone Kircher found the song to be an excellent fit for Swift due to her love of cats despite being a far cry from the tracks on her 80s pop inspired album 50 Tessa Berenson of Time wrote that Swift may have outdone herself by duetting with Kudrow suggesting that Swift s next album should be a cover album of Phoebe songs 103 Rachel Paige of HelloGiggles declared that it would be difficult for Swift to ever top this moment 41 while HuffPost contributor Stephanie Marcus called Swift s decision to perform with Kudrow genius and glorious 104 A critic for The New Zealand Herald described the rendition as a whole new and slightly surreal experience to see it performed with pop royalty in front of a huge stadium audience 57 Fan recordings of the performance became very popular on the Internet being heavily circulated on social media 100 with both Swift and Smelly Cat trending on Facebook and Twitter respectively the following morning 50 The videos quickly earned millions of views 105 becoming the most viral guest performance from the tour 106 Time ranked the performance Swift s seventh best moment of 2015 107 However Vice s Mitchell Sunderland questioned whether Swift s target demographic of fans born in and after 1999 were truly familiar with Kudrow and the song 106 As of 2016 E G Daily sometimes performs the song during her shows 108 To commemorate the show s 25th anniversary in September 2019 a flash mob of 25 women dressed as Phoebe assembled in New York s Union Square and performed Smelly Cat 13 In tribute to the character each woman donned a suede fringe jacket blonde wig and guitar 109 replicating one of Phoebe s outfits from the series 110 The impersonators also sang the song at each location they stopped 83 including The Today Show WPIX TV and Grand Central Station 109 The performers used the occasion to raise awareness for pet rescue and encourage witnesses to adopt a cat 111 112 on behalf of the Best Friends Animal Society 109 During Friends 2021 reunion television special Kudrow performed a special rendition of Smelly Cat with Lady Gaga 113 Legacy Edit Smelly Cat has since been established as a fan and cult favorite 19 35 Although Phoebe performs nearly 40 original songs over Friends ten year run 114 Smelly Cat is considered her breakout hit and signature song 29 114 115 116 as well as her most famous creation 117 According to The Times of India Phoebe made the song real and iconic at the same time to the point at which its used worldwide by fans 110 In 2014 Kudrow revealed that fans constantly ask her to sing the song but she refuses 15 USA Today ranked the lyrics of Smelly Cat among the actress best Friends quotes 72 More included Smelly Cat among The 15 Best Moments In Friends History with author Effie Orfanides deeming it one of the best things to come out of the series insisting that all fans know its lyrics 118 Smelly Cat is one of the most enduring songs from the sitcom 102 VH1 ranked Smelly Cat Friends best musical moment ahead of I ll Be There for You 30 Author Kat George called the song as essential to Friends as the shows theme song even going on to crown it the show s unofficial theme song 30 E also ranked the song first writing that the character turned the sincere lyrics into one of her most acclaimed laughed hits 119 In a similar article Billboard critic Erin Strecker deemed the track a classic among Phoebe s songs 120 NDTV recognized Smelly Cat as one of Friends 20 funniest moments citing its music video as their favorite rendition 33 E considers Smelly Cat Smelly Cat to be among Friends 25 most quotable moments 25 Classic FM ranked Smelly Cat Phoebe s best song with writer Sofia Rizzi calling it a post modern work of art that remains an anthem for fans of the show today 75 Metro s Hanna Flint declared the song arguably one of the most memorable songs in the history of television 69 Marie Claire believes Smelly Cat has grown to be nearly as ubiquitous as Happy Birthday and Christmas carols calling it everyone s favourite Friends song and concluding Despite belting out dozens of ditties during the 10 season run of Friends the musical talent of Phoebe Buffay will always be remembered through the lyrical genius that is Smelly Cat 121 In 2016 Comedy Central crowned the song one of the most iconic tunes of the 90s calling it a timeless track because fans can recall its lyrics 21 years later 66 In addition to ranking Smelly Cat first on BuzzFeed s Definitive Ranking Of Phoebe Buffay s Top 40 Songs author Tasmai Uppin called it the ultimate Phoebe Buffay song against which all of her songs are compared 122 Entertainment Weekly ranked Smelly Cat Phoebe s fifth greatest song with author Hillary Busis calling it iconic and charming and ready made for merchandise but questioned its popularity considering it less funny than some of her other songs Busis also praised its music video 114 The Irish Independent included Smelly Cat as one of Friends 10 best moments about which author Aishling Phelan wrote that Phoebe created some pretty comical and sometimes disturbing songs but Smelly Cat emerged as her trademark number Phelan went on to describe its lyrics as deep and eloquent but dismissed its music video as cheesy 123 Although VH1 ranked Smelly Cat the third Best Fake Song Written For TV author Stacy Lambe critiqued the music video version as overproduced 56 Meanwhile Abi Jackson of Stylist included the costume Phoebe wears in the Smelly Cat music video among The 50 most iconic fashion and beauty moments in Friends calling it One of Phoebe s best sartorial moments and joking forget Lady Gaga this is how music videos should be 124 Ranking Smelly Cat among Friends 10 best running gags Gillian Furmage of WOW247 wrote that the show simply wouldn t be Friends without the anthem that is Smelly Cat 125 Calling it one of television s 12 best running gags Refinery29 s wrote that the song still brings the laughs years after the show s end 126 Erin Fitzpatrick Digital Spy ranked Smelly Cat the 11th best original song from within a television show 127 Kat George of Bustle ranked the video the third best video the Friends characters watched during the series while ranking the commercial for the single seventh 42 Although Hyndes used to get annoyed by fans asking her to perform Smelly Cat on stage she has grown used to the popularity of it and now considers the song to be probably my biggest legacy now 2 Portuguese comedy group Gato Fedorento named themselves after Smelly Cat 128 which translates to Gato Fedorento in Portuguese 3 To commemorate the show s 25th anniversary in September 2019 Google created several Friends themed easter eggs which appear in the search results when the name of a main character is searched 129 130 Searching Phoebe Buffay or Phoebe returned an image of a guitar which 131 when clicked 132 promoted Kudrow s rendition of Smelly Cat to play in the background 133 while a black cat walks across the screen as a green cloud of gas is excreted from its backside to indicate its stench 117 129 References Edit a b Jue Teresa November 6 2014 Lisa Kudrow tells Reddit she came up with the tune for Smelly Cat Entertainment Weekly Archived from the original on May 24 2019 Retrieved May 24 2019 a b c Hernandez Nina November 13 2014 Chrissie Hynde Q amp A The Austin Chronicle Archived from the original on May 24 2019 Retrieved May 24 2019 a b c The Cat Publico in Portuguese August 6 2006 Archived from the original on 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