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Children’s Music

We’ve seen their drawings of Radiohead songs, they tell us the Strokes make their heads hurt “like 100 dogs,” but how do we feel about their songs? A panel listens to children’s music, weighing in on the state of the pint-sized.

Cedarmont Kids, ‘The Alphabet Song,’ Toddler Tunes

Choire Sicha: Wow, that kid has trouble at the top of his range. She/he/it should work on that. I really despise the punch-up at the end—almost as much as I despise the alphabet itself.

Sarah Hepola: Well, it’s short. The kid’s kinda cute. But his pitch is all over the place, his diction is mushy. Then the Disney chorus chimes in at the end to show him up. Tell you what I think of you? I think middle school’s gonna be tough, honey.

Leslie Harpold: I see this sort of learning as the domain of the short people, or should I call them pre-tall?

TMN: This was published by a Christian children’s music company. The cover doesn’t make their faith-based angle entirely clear, and some Amazon reviewers have been upset with the lyrical content.

Choire: Oh, they’re Christians! Of course they are. They’re subverting the educational system with their Christ-love-induced alphabet primacy. The worst thing about having made Christian music as a child is that it’s only funny later, when you’re 15, and all your friends are smoking dope out of a Granny Smith.

Leslie: Well, I’m not hearing any faith-based initiatives in the alphabet song, unless they’re backwards-masked. I can’t speak for the rest of the record, but the idea of Christian baby songs makes me feel funny, and not in the good way, although I turned out okay and I had to sing ‘Jesus loves me, This I know’ all the damn time.

Sarah: This would sound better in Aramaic.

 

Madeline, ‘At the Hotel Riche,’ Sing-A-Long With Madeline

Sarah: Wow. Music that’s even more shrill and annoying than The Sound of Music. Did they just say, ‘How fun to go to bed, with chocolate near your head?’ Umm, I guess it is.

Choire: Oh dear god. This song is like a Simpsons parody of itself. I think these children arrived pre-molested.

Leslie: This song parses like a show tune, and since I don’t deal in the realm of musical theatre, I’ll dismiss it immediately.

Choire: Leslie’s quite right—this is technically a show tune, and should therefore be eschewed. Musical theatre is the way the devil teaches you to become a catamite.

Sarah: Hey, if it weren’t for musical theatre, I would have spent all of high school stuffed in the dumpster. Wait a minute. What the hell is a catamite?

TMN: You know Madeline? The little French orphan girl from the Bemelmans books? Disney has a television show based on the characters, and this song is from the album, Sing-A-Long With Madeline, associated with the show. A lyric sheet is provided and kids are supposed to sing along with the songs.

Leslie: EuroDisney should have taught them the lesson. Disney plus Anything French equals Total Disaster.

 

Kidz Bop Kids, ‘Family Affair,’ Kidz Bop 3

Choire: No. This didn’t just happen to me. Mary J. should beat everyone who sang on what is obviously an American Idol audition tape gone even worse. These children have never been crunk in their fucking lives.

Sarah: Glad to see Mary J. Blige has left no child behind: ‘Don’t need no hateration, holleration in this dancery.’ In my opinionation, singerating with the childrification is all crunk until you viewify their standardized test scores.

Leslie: This epitomizes everything I hate about children’s music—taking a mediocre hit and making it worse by removing the one good thing about it—the vocalist. Of course in time this may serve as a good litmus test for great songs—If kids could sing it and the song still retained some value, however faint, then you’d be on to something.

Choire: Now, I’m not down with that: this is a TOTALLY good song. I was getting my hair cut at Royal on St. Mark’s Place yesterday, and they were playing ‘Family Affair’ and I thought, mmmm… let’s get my hair all crunk up on it!

Sarah: Please, Choire and Leslie—no more drama.

TMN: Kidz Bop Kids’ new album, Kidz Bop 5, which features covers of ‘Crazy in Love,’ ‘Girls and Boys, and ‘Hey Ya!,’ is fifth on the top selling children’s music chart at Amazon right now.

Leslie: I’m especially pleased to see misogynist hit by ersatz proto-punk band Good Charlotte ‘Girls and Boys’ in this collection so everyone under eight can imprint on girls not liking boys but cars and money. That’s just the message I worry won’t make it through the rest of the media deluge kids get. Hallelujah!

Choire: There’s something very sexual about ‘Family Affair,’ about ‘Crazy in Love,’ and even ‘Hey Ya!’—and it just sounds filthy coming from the kiddies. That’s the problem with pop music: content eradification. Words have no meaning. Shit. I’m starting to like this version.

Sarah: I used to work at a foster home where the absolute most hilarious thing was watching this eight-year-old sing TLC’s ‘Bootylicious.’ She danced like a stripper, did the butt-jiggle, everything. It was disturbing as hell, but impossible not to enjoy. What’s my conclusion? Home schooling.

 

The Langley Schools Project, ‘Desperado’ [site]

Choire: Genius. How good is that? Did you see the documentary where the kids from the Langley school were reunited? It was kind of… dispiriting. They were all terribly ordinary. Maybe that’s not dispiriting—maybe that’s beautiful.

Leslie: This version of ‘Desperado’ is already familiar to me, and the one thing about it I like is the weird feeling it’s being sung by the little creepy ‘Don’t go into the light!’ lady from Poltergeist. This was a favorite of mix-CD makers in 2001 and while I listened to it a few times without feeling particularly agitated, the novelty long ago wore off, and I fear, just in time for a follow-up record. I don’t possess the necessary level of irony to enjoy the Langley kids, because I always think that kind of attention is a therapy issue waiting to happen—people loving you because you suck in a way they find darling.

Sarah: Unbelievably, I still like this song, and this is one of the better versions I’ve heard. I dig the simple piano. Her phrasing is simple, none of that pretentious American Idol yodeling. It sounds appropriately vulnerable, like a little kid pleading with an alcoholic parent. Although it does sound like she has a bit of a head cold.

Choire: Ah, the ugly face of irony has been produced. The Langley explosion was really unclean, it’s true. (Maybe it was, oh, THE U.S.E OF GAMELAN INSTRUMENTS?) But I’m so busted: I want people to love me because I suck in a cute way. Is that wrong? Is that self-infantilizing? Do I semi-like Langley Schools because, in my mind, I’m still in junior high?

Sarah: Wait, I disagree that it’s ironic. Maybe I’m just a sucker, but I like this because it’s pretty, because I love kids and the girl sounds sweet. And screw the haters: This song is not that bad.

Leslie: Be sure to call me when her Behind the Music special gets made.

 

Jane Sapp, ‘Without Freedom,’ We’ve All Got Stories—Songs from the Dream Project

Leslie: If I wanted to go to a President’s Day pageant for third-graders, I’d—well, I’d go to a President’s Day pageant, wouldn’t I?

Choire: There’s sort of a tricky tautology going on with their epistemological ideas of freedom, not to put too fine a point on things.

Sarah: Freedom is this song ending. This isn’t Fame. This is Shame.

TMN: Jane Sapp, a ‘musician, educator, and cultural worker,’ started The Dream Project as a way for kids to write and perform music, helping them learn to express themselves through art. This is from their album We’ve All Got Stories.

Choire: Sarah’s right: This is totally the Anti-Fame. It’s the Anti-Flashdance, it’s the Anti-Footloose. And no, we don’t all got stories. Is this what’s wrong with the reality TV culture of America—the idea that we’re all ‘special?’ Because, really, lots of us aren’t. Just because America’s Next Top Model contestant Shandi was plucked out of a Wal-Mart or Home Depot in Wyoming or Idaho or whatever, well, that doesn’t mean we’re all diamonds in the rough. Some of us are just the silt and shale you have to get out of the way to get to the expensive stuff.

Sarah: This song is a perfect example of the problem with programs that ask students to ‘express themselves through art.’ Many cannot.

Leslie: Turner would abandon his theory of community and liminality if he heard this. I wouldn’t welcome these kids back into my community if I could get them out in the first place.

 

Arthur and Friends: ‘D.W.’s Brass in Pocket,’ Arthur’s Really Rockin’ Music Mix

Choire: Is that Jon-Benet I hear? Is Sparkle Motion involved in this? Are these children’s pimps playing the instruments? Do they also do a cover of Apollonia 6’s ‘Sex Shooter?’

Leslie: I can think of no greater crime against humanity and rock music than this cover of ‘Brass in Pocket,’ although the refrain sums up the motivations eloquently: ‘I’m special, so special / and I got to have some of your attention / Give it to me!’ But pumpkin, you don’t deserve my attention, and frankly, your mom lied, you’re not special, you’re not even average. Shut your pie hole.

Sarah: This child needs nothing more than a community theatre in middle America with a high tolerance for Sondheim and jazz hands. Major theatre geek alert! Actually, this song is kind of amazing.

TMN: Yes, this is a cover of ‘Brass in Pocket,’ and it’s taken from the album Arthur’s Really Rockin’ Music Mix, as performed by the cast of the popular PBS animated series, Arthur and Friends. Arthur is a cartoon aardvark, and this version of the Pretenders’ classic is sung by his sister, D.W.

Choire: I’m with Sarah. This song is kind of amazing. It somehow got assimilated into my iPod and sometimes it starts playing at random, and it makes me kind of happy. I do still find it PSYCHOSEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE, however.

Leslie: Make it stop! Make it stop!

 

articles featuring children reviewing music: 1, 2, 3

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers