Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kids Music That Doesn't Suck

Matt Orel writes:

Earlier this week, I took my son to his Cub Scout meeting. He immediately demanded that I turn on XM Kids. The very first words coming from the speakers were, "I Need a Nap." The music had many of the trappings of power ballads--no guitar, but many of the rest of the characteristics were present. I pressed the little button to see what it was, and the readout came: I Need a Nap, with artist listed as Kate Winslet. Kate Winslet? But at least the song didn't take itself seriously. After one recitation of the I Need a Nap chorus, someone doing the duet with Kate started singing lyrics such as "why is this song still going?" (not sure I got that lyric precisely), and then, at the dramatic moment, "key change!," which actually had me laughing.

Driving home from the Cub Scout meeting two hours later, turned on XM Kids again, the 2nd song was "I Need a Nap" again. Just like WABC when I was a kid, the top songs came on every hour. Kate Winslet, star singer of kids songs.

But my day with kids music was only just beginning. An hour later, I took our 4-year old daughter to a concert of a group called Funkey Monkeys. Turned on XM Kids and the first song was... no, not I Need a Nap! The first song was, Down on the Corner?? OK, now I was getting majorly weirded out. I rarely hear CCR on adult radio stations any more, and now they're on kids radio? This was followed by a cover of Pete Seeger's All Around the Kitchen.

Funkey Monkeys is the brainchild of Josh Sitron, whose claim to fame is as the composer for the theme song to Dora the Explorer. The group is just four people, and the only instrumentalists are Josh on keyboards (and in bare feet) and the drummer. And all four in very tight fitting monkey outfits. Their Web site describes it as "'Free to Be' meets 'P-Funk'." Not sure about the meeting part, but I did get to witness Dora the Explorer in extended format with a long conga line (having seen the stage version of Dora as well, I can testify that it's an improvement). But it was actually good stuff, overall. One song, called Ribbit Ribbit -- it's the #4 track on their new album -- is an instant classic. My daughter got all of their jokes. She was crestfallen when she didn't get to go on stage, but OK afterwards when she got the new CD and dictated to the band members how to spell her name for autographs. She'd dressed herself up in a long necklace (prize from Chuck E Cheese) and a silver tiara (from I don't even know where), and had them calling her princess. As soon as we got to the car, that CD had to go in. And then twice more when we got home--I guess it's in next week's playlist, if I make one.

Her other favorite band is a local group called Candy Band, composed of four moms from Royal Oak, MI, who were horrified at the children's music offerings they found, and decided to do something about it. Try to imagine the Ramones in drag doing kids songs, and you'll have a bit of an idea. We've seen them three times now. My daughter's favorite song is about Playdough. She has, at times, gone 'round the house shouting out, "Playdough, I don't think so!" She demands the song when she sees the band, walks right on up to the stage and shouts it out. Last August when Candy Band played at the Detroit Zoo, I estimated the crowd at 3,000. We have tickets to a show next March in a small venue as part of the DSO's music for tots series; it's been sold out for two months.

Which brings me back to Kate Winslet. Turned out her co-conspirator was none other than Weird Al Yankovic, which I guess explains the goofiness somewhat. It's part of a new collection of Sandra Boynton compositions that was released in October; seems XM Kids was doing a feature on the album when I heard the song the first time We have several Boynton books and one other CD made from Boynton's writing; an Alison Krauss performance that was played after I Need a Nap was both serious and good. So I guess maybe kids music isn't dead yet, and if Weird Al and Kate and a few others have their way, the kids view of certain genres may be just a bit warped. One can hope, anyway.

(Listening again now to I Need a Nap, I note there is no power there. Must have been the kid in the car. Plenty of sap.)


Blogger MiseryCreek said...

You should check out The Doodads from Kansas City, also. My 5 year old's all time fav.

3:01 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great band for families is The Swingset Mamas ( We love them and can't wait for their next CD.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Robbi K & Friends - a cool band that does everything from world beat to jazz with blues, calypso, and pop music in between!

Robbi K & Friends are launching their new CD Music Makes Me Happy on July 8th @ the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC - a cool club that has an eclectic family music series year round.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous viagra online said...

This is perfect because kid's music is something extraordinary because they make us think on many things, they have a particular way to sing, I love all what they do.m10m

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