I had never heard of Milkshake before we moved to Baltimore last fall, but I have become an all-out fanboy ever since. My son Jack, 3, and I have seen them play at the Lyric Opera House, the B&O Railroad Museum, and the Party in the Park. The shows are high-energy fun, full of sing-alongs, audience participation, and hundreds of free beach balls to bat around! And the nominated album, Great Day, is a burst of sunny pop and relatable songs about messy rooms, school, and playdates.
As you may remember, music is pretty important in our family. I've found that great kids' music is basically just great music. In fact, when Jack was born, I avoided "kids music" entirely and, instead, exposed him to the Beatles, Bob Marley, and James Brown. And I maintain that most "kids music" is oversimplified and boring. But the best of the genre is just great music, like Milkshake, with kid-friendly themes and some sing-along elements. We still play plenty of "adult" music at home and in the car—Jack's favorites are still the Beatles and Bob Marley, plus, now he likes the Strokes, Queen (which he calls "King"), and the soundtrack from Grease (dude could watch "Grease Lightning" on YouTube all day). But we've also found some "kid music" that we love. A couple suggestions: Really, any of the kids music from Putamayo, a world music label, is fantastic, but our favorite is Animal Playground, which features a Trinidadian version of "No More Monkeys," a beautiful Honduran song about birds, and South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Mbube," or "Lion."
Before I started exploring the kids' music genre, I found that Jack Johnson's music, with its mellow vibe and Johnson's mellifluous vocals, naturally appealled to Jack. "Better Together" became our family's unofficial anthem (it was already a special song for Brenda and me—the first dance at our wedding reception). Then, we discovered that Johnson actually released a kids music CD, the soundtrack to the Curious George movie. Sold!
When Brenda, Jack, and I still lived in New York, I heartily resisted the music of Dan Zanes. He's kind of the "Ur" kid's music guy there and young New York families of a certain strain (yupsters?) adored him the way pre-teens adore the people in those Twilight movies. But, over time, my thoughts on kids music softened and when I saw Dan Zanes do a charming performance of "Jump Up" on Sesame Street—our own kid-entertainment obsession—all was forgiven (though that carefully disheveled hair and hipster suit still rub me the wrong way).
Please pass along any recommendations. I'd love to make this a regular feature of the blog...