Editor’s Note: There were several titles for this article tossed around the old editing room and we settled with a shout out to Twisted Sister. Other ideas included – “Kids Music Makes Me Want to Vomit”, “I Swear Music I Grew Up on Was Soooo Much Better than What is Out There Today!”, “Seriously, We Get It – The Green Grass Grows All Around and Around and Around and Around…..”
Official Blog Starts Here: My brother is seven years older than me, and my sister is ten years older than me. Although this is not such a difference now, when I was a kid it felt generational.
Going back to my childhood there are plenty of examples of the usual brother-sister sister-sister issues. There were also a few unique ones too. My sister would show me horror movies so that she would not have to babysit because I would not go to sleep without my mom. My brother would make me walk ten steps behind him on the way to school (yes we walked).
However, when it came to music I was their favorite toy. They invented a game called ‘Music Appreciation” and would sit me down for what felt like hours in our basement molding me into their slightly twisted version of a ‘cool’ kid. At seven years old, I knew all the words to a number of David Bowie, CSN, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Marley and James Taylor songs. They would pick an album, make me listen to it, and then verbally test me on artist, song titles, and lyrics. They loved to show me off to their friends, and I loved being center stage. I have carried this love and appreciation for a variety of music with me into adulthood.
As you can imagine I am hopeful that I will impart the same love of tunes onto my children (minus the pop quizzes of course). You can also correctly presume I visibly shudder at such artists as The Wiggles or the varying cast of Sesame Street. Children’s music can be annoyingly repetitive, and a little too sunny for me. Obviously my kids couldn’t get enough of this genre and I have found myself at more than one live performance wearing large sunglasses in a half hearted attempt at disguising myself. Today I present to you a few albums that appeal to both the kid and adult in me (and my kids too).
As a high-schooler I shared many big laughs and great times with one half of the band OOZAKAZOO. It was no surprise to me that Josh Engle has made a career of singing for kids. I spent many a nights in our high school gym and smoky bars swooning as he played and sang. The music of OOZAKAZOO is bright and fun with great stories for both kids and adults. I feel excited to be able to share this shameless promotion with you, because theirs is music I really believe in. You can check it out at http://www.oozakazoo.net/.
One of the first bands that I took a liking too as a parent is the ever popular They Might Be Giants. Our favorite albums are Here Come the ABCs, and Here Come The 123s. They have won numerous awards and even some Grammy’s for their funky beats. The band originally started performing at bars in Brooklyn, but found their popularity in children’s music around 2004. Even if you do not own any of their albums (which you really should) you have most definitely heard them perform in various Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, and the theme songs to a number of Disney Jr. TV shows. They are fun without being too cute.
Another family favorite is Dan Zanes (and friends). Our favorite album is Catch That Train. I am not sure that Zanes set out to make kid music, but rather cool music that is appropriate for kids to listen to. Like TMBG, Dan Zanes started out as a rather organic adult bar playing sound but switched genres after he began his own family. On his albums he has also included the incredible voices of Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crow. If you haven’t already had a good listen then his music is definitely worth giving a good listen to.
It seems that so many of today’s musicians definitely don’t want to be role models. Popular music is full of complicated themes and language that I definitely do not want repeated at school, which is why I am more than happy to seek out and listen to musicians and artists with unique sounds that are both parent-approved and kid-friendly, and don’t make you want to bang your head against a wall while listening. If you know of an artist who makes kids music, but isn’t so concerned with being kid-cute – I’d love to hear about it! Please share your favorites with me!