There are two kinds of music in our house – kids music and music we don’t listen to anymore. Considering that we used to imbibe in the local music scene on a frequent basis this is pretty traumatic. We still relish in the ability to tell stories like the night they were begging people to pay a $5 cover to see up-and-coming star Howie Day. Unless you have kids, you are probably thinking, like I used too, why not let your kids listen to a little adult music? It’s not until you realize that kids will sing any song they like at any time that you change your mind. As such we have a simple litmus test for music we let Katie hear: Is there any part of this song you would not want her singing at the top of her lungs in Whole Foods? Once you start thinking about it like this, even the seemingly innocuous songs get ruled out.
In case you are not a scholar of children’s music it generally falls into one of four categories: intolerable, insipid, inane and, occasionally, acceptable.
Intolerable: music that sounds like it is made by one guy in his basement with a Radio Shack keyboard. Every child gets a recording like this because of there is usually gimmickry involved, we have one where a spoken word “Katie” is inserted into every song.
Insipid: “The wheels on the bus go round and round…” need I say more?
Inane: If you don’t know Raffi I will spare you the pain and suffering, just trust me on this one.
Then there is kids bop which I have hard time describing in language my mom would find acceptable. The basic idea here is to take American Idol rejects back them up with American Juniors rejects lay that down over a high school band playing Fisher Price instruments and have them remake currently popular songs. Of course they edit the lyrics so that Usher’s Caught Up becomes benign and make wretched videos featuring kids with braces. I don’t know where the appeal is, perhaps the minivan moms feel that knowing all the lyrics to Sk8er Boy will keep them hip and young? All in all this stuff belongs on Something Awful not in my house.
So where does one find this elusive acceptable children’s music? There is no Paste Magazine for indie kiddie music. If you’re lucky you might get recommendations from friends, but we weren’t so lucky. Fortunately, Noggin turned us on to some. Laurie at least has some cleaver lyrics about things like Seinfeld and has some basic guitar and vocal skills (but boy that girl can’t dance.) Then there is XM Kids — I love my XM, but that is for a different post — with their wacky DJs who actually find some pretty decent music and minimize the abominable. The problem with XM-K is that when you do hear a good song with some aggressive guitar you expect angst filled lyrics about losing your ecru bunny and you end up getting another song about beans.
Try as you might to imbue your kids with good musical taste, sometimes you just have to suck it up and let your kid listen Crazy Frog Chorus.
In case you are wondering what Katie is listening too these days, her “Tunes for Urchins” iMix is now linked on the right side.