Nothing says summer like tunes blasting from a rolled down car window or from speakers on the beach. Here's a post I wrote sharing some of my favorite children's music and encouraging everyone to take another look at what was long considered the lamest of musical genres. My favorites haven't really changed, except I would absolutely add Dan Zanes now...as you can probably tell from his constant presence in my video montages!
Several years ago, before Griffin was a twinkle in my eye, I stumbled across an interview with Stefan Shepherd on NPR. Shepherd writes Zooglobble, a blog dedicated to reviewing and sharing the newest children's music. When asked by the host why kids couldn't just listen to The Beatles or Rihanna or whatever their parents were listening to, Shepherd explained he thought it was important that his daughter listen to music that explored subjects and issues she understood. He didn't want her only listening to songs about romantic love (the primary subject of most pop music) or other adult subjects any more than he wanted her only reading Jane Austen or Michael Chabon.
I remember being so struck by what he said that I noted his favorite artists in my super-secret-when-I-have-a-baby file and vowed to make children's music a part of my children's life.
Of course, when I say I listen to children's music with Griffin, I get a lot of eye rolling and sighs from my fellow parents. Somehow children's music has the reputation for being the worst (and least hip) part of being a parent. (Personally, I blame Raffi.) Why don't we all just put on our mom jeans, pile in the minivan, and sing "I Love You, You Love Me" all the way to Chuck E. Cheese?
The irony is the actual music has gotten hipper as its reputation has taken a dive. Several prominent bands from the 1990s, such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, have reinvented themselves (and children's music itself) with some of the most inventive and infectious tunes out there. Plus, there are some seriously dedicated artists recording fresh, original songs, instead of torturing us all with one more version of "The Wheels on the Bus." If I'm being honest, this music is so good some of these CDs continue to play long after I've dropped Griffin off at day care.
But don't just take my word for it. I've picked my top five favorite artists for you to listen to and decide for yourself. Hopefully, you'll give children's music another chance. After all, do any of us really want to catch our 6-year-old bopping along to "All the Single Ladies"?
1. Justin Roberts. My absolute favorite. Roberts' songs are funny, insightful, and fresh. I dare you to listen to "Stay-At-Home Dad" without giggling or "Giant-Size Butterflies" without crying. I love all his songs but "Pop Fly" is my favorite. It does what Roberts does best - captures the joy and charm of being a kid in a way both parents and kids can enjoy.
2. Elizabeth Mitchell. I love Mitchell because she is everything children's music isn't supposed to be. Calm. Soothing. Beautiful. Smithsonian Folkways is offering a free download from her newest album.
3. They Might Be Giants. Just think of TMBG as The Beatles of children's music. If there is a group responsible for the reinvention of this genre, it's them. All of their albums are great, but Here Comes Science is amazing. Let's put it this way. If I win a trivia contest by explaining the difference between speed and velocity, it will not be thanks to my public school education. It will be thanks to They Might Be Giants. Their free weekly podcast is an excellent way to get introduced to their music.
4. Barenaked Ladies. If I had a million dollars, I would buy you all the Barenaked Ladies album Snacktime. (Ha! Like what I did there!?!) I don't know what they do better - clever lyrics or lovely melodies - luckily I don't have to chose. Plus, Gordon Lightfoot makes an appearance. How can you argue with that OR a free download?
5. Renee & Jeremy. Similar in sound to Elizabeth Mitchell, this duo's sweet songs are easy on the ears. A lot of their songs also teach important lessons about sharing and why you can't do everything you want right now. Added bonus: They are also giving away two free downloads on their website!
~ Sarah Stewart Holland