Appearances / OWTK Kindie Music News

The Kid’s Music Debate on WHYY’s Radio Times

If you find yourself here because of this morning’s spirited debate on WHYY’s Radio Times regarding what music you should be playing for your young children, hey there.  Thanks for finding your way to OWTK.  If you are in a hurry, here’s my Best Kid’s Music Section and the rundown of my favorite albums and songs for families in 2011.  That should keep you busy for a while. I reckon you’ll find something that blows your mind, in a musical style that interests you and your kids.

If you have no idea what the first sentence of this post is about, hi to you as well.  Here’s the quick recap to bring you up to speed: I was a guest on this morning’s Radio Times on WHYY Philadelphia debating music for families with NPR music critic Tom Moon.  We each got to spin some tunes to defend our position and to let you the listener decide if all music is kid’s music or if music crafted with wee ones in mind deserves a spot in your rotation.  My position was the latter.

My position is, in fact, pretty simple. I think kid’s music – the modern, diverse, and sophisticated stuff I cover here – is worthy of your family’s time and money.  I believe strongly that songs about the childhood experience, ones crafted with nuance and a context most all kids could relate to, should be heard by kids and their adults.  Important point: you needn’t sacrifice musical quality to achieve this.  Are these bands The Beatles or Bach?  No, but who is.  I also believe that you should share with your kids the music that has impacted your life, both as a younger person (although, as I discussed on the show, I am in no hurry to let my girls hear much from The Afghan Whigs catalog) and today (there’s been a lot of Dawes and Middle Brother played around here the past 12 months).  That is all great and important from a parent-child bonding and musical development standpoint.  But the notion that children do not deserve songs that they can have a real, honest connection with is, frankly, absurd.  Songs about sibling relationships, songs about school, songs about why the moon always seems to be following you, songs about a balloon overcoming it’s shyness while you sleep, songs about popping a wheelie in a Big Wheel, songs about grandma baking cookies from scratch, and so on, are slice of life stuff that I have seen children fall in love with because it is about them.  And adults fall in love with because it is awesome.  I am talking about skilled songwriters tapping into their own childhood memories and singing songs, often in a 1st person / as-a-child voice, about all the stuff that is important to children right now. If this is pandering than so is the rapper singing about women and booze, or Bon Iver singing about bad breakups.  Every artist has an audience in mind.  That kid’s musicians think about childhood when writing songs shouldn’t have you dismissing the genre.

That there exists music that subtly touches on the things kids are experiencing right now with wit, grace, and chops is amazing and should be embraced not pissed upon.

Listen to the show here.

Here are quick links to the bands and songs I played on the show, in order:

**EDIT to Add: Something I forgot to squeeze into the show, forgot to add here, and frankly have never mentioned before anywhere.  I have this little theory about a potential secret value of kid’s music and it is this: you know how most every kid grows to 12 or so and then suddenly rejects their parents’ musical taste?  Yeah, well I’d be willing to bet that this is because they have never had their own relationship with their own music.  Up until their pre-teen years, all or most of the music they have heard has been spoon fed to them by adults because the adults in their life have approved of it, have wanted to instill in them the same passion for the same tunes.  Unlike the relationship kids are allowed and encouraged to have with children’s literature, film, museums, playtime, food, drink, and such, children have likely not taken ownership of music on their own terms.  Ever.  Thus, they flee the coop into the arms of, more than likely, hideous teen pop.  Parents cringe.  But, but, but what if kids grew up with their own music, from toddlerhood?  Music that expresses a view of and a viewpoint on the world that they can relate to as they grow up.  And what if they can share their enjoyment of their own music with the adults in their life, who in turn shares in the enjoyment of it with their children.  May this change the pre-teen music dynamic?  I dunno yet.  Give me a few more years for the experiment to yield results.   Interesting thought though, no?

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