Same Old Song

Could someone please explain to me the appeal of the nursery rhyme to the two-year-old musical palate? In theory I understand it; tried and true, loved for generations, blah, blah, blah. But WHY? I don’t get it. They are jaunty little tunes for sure, but so is the Ramones’ entire catalog. And much to my chagrin, my son still walks around the house singing Ring Around the Rosie instead of Rockaway Beach. But to be fair, what kid wouldn’t love a little ditty about the Bubonic Plague?

This is a rare instance when I’m actually thankful for The Wiggles and their nauseatingly helpful DVD collection on this very subject, because the words to these songs have been buried in the deepest depths of my brain since I was a kid. I’d hoped they’d automatically resurface once I became a parent, but not so. I realized I could fumble through a verse of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Or I could confidently belt out most of  B-I-N-G-O – not to brag, but as a 7th runner up in my second grade spelling bee such things come easy to me. But trying to recall most of Mother Goose’s shockingly prolific musical career, I’m pretty much useless. If you need someone to rap every word of Salt & Peppa’s ‘Shoop’ poorly and without rhythm, I’m your girl. But nursery rhymes are best left to the professionals.

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“I am not capable of logical reasoning, therefore would not benefit from a formal education system.”

Truth be told, most of these narratives require me to suspend disbelief to a degree I am simply not capable. Take Hickory Dickory Dock, for instance. I’m meant to believe there is a mouse agile enough to scale vertical surfaces without some type of suction-cup apparatus a la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible? Sorry, not buying it. And then there’s the social negligence! I take no issue with Mary or her little lamb. If you’re an ovine-enthusiast, fine. Who am I to judge? But hauling that wooly bastard to school? You stand to give everyone in that whole place lamb-rabies. You won’t catch Little Bo Peep pulling that crap.

The more obscure, out-dated, or vaguely morbid the song, the more my son seems to enjoy it. My gentle attempts at reprogramming by exposure to my own musical tastes only seem to strengthen his resolve. He’ll indulge the Beatles, Bowie, Elvis Costello, or The Essential Daryl Hall & John Oates for mere moments before demanding I make with the London Bridge. And so, defeated, I oblige. I smile and pretend hearing the same irritating songs 7,000 times a day doesn’t make me want to puncture my own eardrums with a rusty fondue fork. I just put a different tune on repeat in my head and pretend the actions to Itsy Bitsy Spider are actually an interpretive dance to Ziggy Stardust. Sigh. The things we do for our kids.

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Pandorable

Let’s face it folks, kids music is fucking horrible.  I’d like to say I have always been too cool for school in that regard, but I think my parents may assert that “Alvin and the Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits” still qualifies.  One could argue that technically that would still qualify as rock since it is Beatles covers, but I digress.  Things are on the upswing to be sure, thanks in no small part to shows like Yo Gabba Gabba that are a sly nod to hipster parents’ music library.  Artists like They Might Be Giants and Cake are also hopping on the kiddie music train, resulting in a widening selection of downright enjoyable fare.  But much to my chagrin, the irritating classics endure.  Not unlike cockroaches after a nuclear holocaust.  Don’t even get me started on Mickey Mouse – that shrieking eunuch voice is enough to make me puncture my own eardrums with a dull blue violet Crayola.  And riddle me this, Itsy Bitsy Spider; why should we reward you repetitive idiocy with a commemorative song?  If the rain repeatedly and mercilessly washes you out, why oh WHY would you go up the spout again?  Is this not the very definition of insanity?

So in an effort to provide appropriate children’s fare, I look to Pandora Internet Radio to help me craft the perfect kids’ station.  Starting with Yo Gabba Gabba as my base, a judiciously applied series of ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ has yielded a playlist that is bordering on tolerable.  It is still a work in progress, but here are just a few gems and turds encountered so far:

  • Harry Belafonte “Jump in the Line” – Not sure who invited you to the party, but sure glad you came!  Apparently Trinidadian calypso music is a great way to solicit a diaper-clad rump shake.  Thumbs up!
  • Kids Bop “Firework” – The dregs of the Top 40 sung by future show choir rejects and B-squad amusement park performers?  That’s a big pass.  Thumbs WAY down.
  • The Belle Stars “Iko Iko” – This one has to go simply because I can’t shake the Rainman connotation.  “Hot water burn baby!”  Pass.  Thumbs down.
  • Michael Franti & Spearhead “The Sound of Sunshine” – Hmm.  Not my cup of tea really, but it provokes  baby dance moves the likes of which I’ve never seen.  Thumbs up.
  • Goo Goo Dolls “Iris” – Wait, what the hell?  Pandora, I demand you explain yourself!  When I click what I like to call the “WHY GOD WHY?!” button, Pandora states the following:  this song was selected due to its sweeping melodies and heartbreaking lyrics.  Really?  Well, I guess the kid has to learn sometime.  He’ll be only the wiser for learning about love and loss and the tender age of two.  Remind me later to pen a thank you note.  Thumbs up!

3 different versions of the Hokey Pokey, a barrage of Elmo and Co., and a sprinkling of Raffi all passed without incident.  I managed to quell my hipster snobbery because the boy was enjoying himself (and they only give you six skips an hour).  Will keep you abreast of the progress as I continue on my search of happy, fun, child-friendly fare that doesn’t make me want to bludgeon myself to death with a Nerf bat.  For everyone’s sake, let’s hope we don’t encounter any more Mickey Mouse along the way.