Tag Archives: CD Review

CD Review: Quest for Zhu (Music From the Motion Picture)

Two years ago, Zhu Zhu Pets were the hottest toy of the Christmas season, the 2009 version of Tickle Me Elmo, or Cabbage Patch Kids, and, as such were so popular that they were, ironically, impossible to find. Oh, Zhu Zhu Pets are, it is my understanding, robot hamsters that make little robotic hamster sounds and they squirrel around on the floor and burrow into plastic tunnels that you can buy for them to burrow into.

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They’ve spawned. Satisfied with their dominance of American popular culture for a while, the Zhu Zhu Pets want more. More! This week, the Zhu Zhu Pets begin their multimedia empire in earnest. They’re going to have a float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And on that float will be pop singer Savannah Outen, a YouTube star and Radio Disney sensation. Outen will be singing songs (with Zhu Zhu Pets and 130 hand-picked young singers) from the Zhu Zhu Pets new animated movie The Quest for Zhu, which stars a bunch of Zhu Zhu Pet characters singing familiar, kid-friendly pop and rock classics, along with originals by Outen and American Idol finalist Thia Megia. And that’s the music part of the media phenomenon: the soundtrack to Quest for Zhu.

I know, I know. Likable, chubby, CGI rodents with high pitched voices performing “What I Like About You,” “Celebration,” “Let’s Groove” and “ABC.” Yes, I know. It’s…familiar. But song choice is important. The Chipmunks, in their latest incarnation, which is what matters to you, the parent of a child, are horrible. The boy Chipmunks are smug and crass.

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The girl Chipmunks are sexed-up, lazy girl stereotypes.

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I’d much rather hear the Zhu Zhu Pets sing “ABC,” a song originally sung by children, to children, then hear the Chippettes tell their boyfriends to put a ring on it. Plus Outen and Megia have nice voices, and know their strengths: there’s nothing wrong with innocuous kiddie-pop, and something musical for kids to have of their very own.

CD Review: The Deedle Deedle Dees, “Strange Dees, Indeed”

Are the Deedle Deedle Dees the smartest band in the kindie music scene? Possibly.  I once heard Queensryche called “Egghead Bang” for writing rock music that was far smarter than what any of their counterparts were doing. The same applies to the Deedle Deedle Dees. “Egghead Kindie” could easily describe their new their album Strange Dees, Indeed. It’s an eclectic mix of smart songs with anything but your traditional topics used in kids music.

It’s not every day that a kids record comes to your desk with a song called “River of Blood.” Of course, the song is about your circulatory system, and the chorus is catchy all get out. “The River of Blood keeps on flowin’ / The River of Blood keeps on going.”

Musically, the band displays a mix of old school traditional music of ragtime, blues, jazz, swing and numerous others. “The Golem” is a klezmer-style song that will have you singing “Listen to the big feet go bum! bum! That’s the sound of the Golem when he comes” at random parts of the day. The chorus is so good, it gets stuck in your head after the first listen.

Songs about Abigail Adams, Marie Curie and Sacagawea are other topics included on Strange Dees, Indeed. Ever heard of Phineas Gage before? Neither had I, but that didn’t stop the Dees from writing a song about him. Cliff Notes version: He survived an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain’s left frontal lobe.  Like I said, not your typical kids’ music fare.

Strange Dees, Indeed is different, unique and impossible not to fall in love with.

This album is geared towards older kids; most of the lyrical content will fly over the head of kids under four years old. Curious about how these songs came about and interested in helping educate your kids on the topics covered in the songs? Read with your kids, straight from the band, plus lyrics right here.

Buy the new CD, straight from their site. Listen to the tracks below.

CD Review: The Chickadees, The Froggy Hop

There’s a lot of mindless kids’ music out there, the kind of stuff that makes me question why kids’ music is even a separate genre unto itself. The ridiculous, corporate, often brand-promoting junk with a carefully contrived mix of barely educational messages and hollow silliness prepared by people who have never met a child, the reason why I mostly just let my kid listen to whatever music I listen to, minus the songs with inappropriate material.

The Chickadees, thankfully, are not that kind of kids’ music. It’s a passion project from singer/songwriter Mary Karlzen (who had a great album come out in 1995 called Yelling at Mary) who, has followed the career path of other indie rock cult faves Dan Zanes and Ralph Covert and gone into kiddie entertainment. Karlzen’s approach is more than just good music kids can call their own—the Chickadees (a fairly clever name, as the band is entirely female) profess an environmentalist message. All kids are inherently environmentalists; they love animals and they love being outside. Pop culture and entertainment can help solidify those feelings, and that’s what the Chickadees aimed to do with their second album, The Froggy Hop.

It’s a pleasant country folk romp, a good fit for songs about being outside. The Froggy Hop has two main themes: how animals are amazing (“Tiny Little Caterpillar,” “Animal Babies”), and save the planet, kids (“Planet Protectors,” “Reduce, Recycle & Reuse”). A little didactic? Sure, but you can’t be subtle about important stuff with pre-schoolers. In that regard, the Chickadees are like Rage Against the Machine, except friendly, approachable, and concerned more with pollution than Zapatistas.