Want to introduce your small child to the favourite bands of your youth without scaring them with Little Earthquakes or Hounds of Love? Sam Brooks has you covered.
Have you ever thought “God, I wish I could listen to Evanescence with my kids but I don’t want to have to explain what happened to the rest of that band?” or perhaps “I love Jewel’s voice but I listened to ‘Foolish Games’ so much in the 90s and I can’t listen to it now without thinking of Batman Forever remember how that song was in Batman Forever?”
I’ve got you covered. I scoured the internet for the coolest bands of your youth (read: my youth) and found the kid’s music they’d made, and surprise: Most of it is pretty good!
Amy Lee (of Evanescence infamy)
Evanescence was the band of my 2003, thanks to the film Daredevil and the now extremely dated 2003 video where Amy Lee wanders about on the precipices of a skyscraper. I would replay their first album, Fallen, over and over again on our stereo. So the voice of Amy Lee, for me, is the voice of barely pubescent angst. And let’s be honest, we all think of Evanescence as Amy Lee and whoever else she needs to play the instruments. Her voice creates a strange pavlovian response where I start to feel melancholy when I hear it. I want to lean against the stereo speaker and meld my soul with Amy Lee’s so not only can I feel what she is feeling, but she can feel what I’m feeling.
So I was a little delighted to hear that she’d released a kid’s album called Dream Too Much, which was released through Amazon Originals, because all the rebels of your youth have been subsumed and absorbed into the system. It’s quite strange to hear that voice over a tinny ukulele, and while it’s jarring at first, it’s amazing how well her robust voice melds to this vibe. It’s like being hugged.
I can imagine falling asleep to this song, if the sound of ukuleles didn’t make me break into association hives. Bonus points because she somehow makes the lyrics “there’s a monkey in the band, the muffins are sleeping, and the tiger’s in the sand, oh no!” sound warm and soothing rather than banal as hell.
The Verve Pipe (of ‘The Freshmen’ infamy)
I only know of The Verve Pipe from this song, and so do you. Stop lying. You might’ve seen them live in the 90s, you might’ve bought this album for this one song, but you don’t know anything else by them. Maybe you love this song lots, enough to check out some of their other stuff now.
And if you love them, so can your kids. They released the helpfully titled The Family Album in 2009, and a more appropriately titled album called Are We There Yet? in 2013. Their stuff is poppy and fun to listen to, like most kid’s music, and the beer-soaked voice that feigned gravitas back in the mid-90s on that one song you know has matured into a nice beer-gut voice that reminds you of chubby Chris Pratt in his Parks and Recreation days.
Also the idea of ‘complimentary love’ is really adorable and I think we should also have that idea instilled in us from a young age.
Jewel (of ‘Hands’ infamy)
I am a big fan of Jewel, to be honest with you guys. Not only did she write the most unintentionally funny lyrics known to man (“Poverty stole your golden shoes/they didn’t steal your laughter”) but she’s had a few killer singles over the year (‘Foolish Games’, ‘You Were Meant For Me’ and the unfairly maligned ‘Intuition’).
It’s kind of expected that she might pivot to kids’ music, after a strategic pivot to country music and an even-more strategic pivot to dance pop. Jewel is here to stay, you guys. She’ll do whatever she needs to keep making music. I respect that. That’s gumption. And to that end, she’s released two albums of folksy children’s music, Lullaby and The Merry Goes ‘Round.
Anyway, the things you love about Jewel (the guitar, that voice that threatens to break into a yodel at the slightest inclination) are here. Also here? A cover of ‘She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain’, which I’ve never heard not sung by a reluctant Scout troop, and when it’s done by someone with Jewel’s considerable (and specific) pipes, it actually sounds quite nice. You might even call it a banger. I wouldn’t, but you live your respective truth.
Meredith Brooks (of ‘Bitch’ infamy)
Meredith Brooks (no relation, unfortunately) is maybe the most obscure name on this list, but you definitely remember ‘Bitch’. Because you’re a bitch, you’re a lover, you’re a child, you’re a mother, you’re a sinner, you’re a saint, and so on and so forth. (She also has two other pretty good songs, ‘Wash My Hands’ and ‘What Would Happen’ but you probably haven’t heard of those because they weren’t as gloriously ubiquitous as ‘Bitch’ was.)
She released an album called If I Could Be…, and the cover is pretty terrifying, but it’s actually pretty damn good. Her kids music is pleasant, as is most of this music (isn’t it strange how much unpleasant stuff we take in adult music that nobody would even remotely consider trying to make a child listen to, makes you think!). And again, like many of these picks, it’s mostly strange hearing the voice that I associate with the above song suddenly singing music that is frankly, quite silly! The edges of Brooks’ voice aren’t smoothed out, and there’s still that odd breathy quality that makes her special just as much as it makes her bizarre.
It’s also catchy as hell, and makes me wonder what great music we’ve missed out on post-‘Bitch’ because the music industry is never particularly great to women, but much less great to women over thirty.
Lisa Loeb (of Reality Bites infamy)
Lisa Loeb is the undisputed queen of children’s music, as declared by me, someone who is very much a newfound enthusiast in this genre, with five full albums in the genre. They are named, hilariously, Catch the Moon, Camp Lisa, Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-a-Long: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs, Nursery Rhyme Parade! and Feel What U Feel. She’s the Beatles of kids music, is what I’m saying. Or maybe the Dylan.
Lisa Loeb is also somebody you probably remember from the 90’s monster-hit ‘Stay (I Missed You)’, which is my favourite song without a real chorus and my favourite song about being kind of a shitty person to an ex-partner.
I am not a newfound enthusiast of Lisa Loeb’s. I did my Year 9 music project on Lisa Loeb. In 2004. When she had not had a proper hit for about ten years, and when you had to struggle to find her music anywhere, let alone as a child on dial-up internet who had access to LimeWire.
There’s something that is comforting about her consistent tortoiseshell glasses, her thin-as-hell-but-still-somehow-warm voice and the comfort of never being surprised. That sounds like shade, but sometimes what you need is an artist who you know will be the same throughout an album, and who will let you feel your feelings gently. She’s not going to go full Cher in Moonstruck ‘snap out of it’, she’s going to hold you by the shoulder and ask how you’re feeling.
She brings all of that feeling into her kid’s music, and it’s surprisingly profound and cool. I wish when I was a kid I listened to this, rather than being exposed to the likes of Republica, Garbage and Gloria Estefan. (I actually treasure all three very much, and encourage you to expose your children to them as well.)
“Feelings are such weird things / and they change and change and change” is something I wish I’d heard when I was two, twelve, twenty-two, and yesterday when I couldn’t get to sleep. It’s a reminder that music has a way of getting into our brains in such an insidious and sneaky way, and sometimes that can be used for good.
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