Tag Archives: Children

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: Daddy a Go Go, “Come On, Get Happy”

Daddy a Go Go – Come On, Get Happy: The Best of Daddy a Go Go, Volume 1 (2009, Boyd’s Tone)
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I had never heard of Daddy a Go Go, the kiddie-rockin’ alter ego adopted by singer/songwriter/stay-at-home-dad John Boydston, before opening the envelope that contained Come On Get Happy, but that’s just simple ignorance on my part: Boydston has released six albums of kids’ music since 1998, won multiple awards, and earned press in publications like Newsweek and the Washington Post. For lucky album number seven, Boydston has decided to collect and remaster 15 of his greatest “hits,” including “Daddy’s Diaper Blues,” “I Think I Might Be a Dog,” “Nana Nana Boo Boo,” and “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee,” a song so stupidly titled I almost threw away the CD.

I’m glad I didn’t, because Come On, Get Happy is really pretty charming. My friend the Lovely Mrs. Davis has designated Boydston a member of the “goofy dads” genre, which is true, I guess, except that I find Daddy a Go Go a lot less goofy than much of the kids’ music I listen to. And really, pretty much the entire genre is goofy — some of it is obnoxiously overt, and some of it is less caffeinated, but I don’t think I’ve listened to a single children’s album that didn’t make liberal use of cornball humor. In that context, Come On, Get Happy is really pretty sedate; musically, I’d liken it more to NRBQ than most children’s music (and yes, I’m aware that the Q has released a kids’ record). Given that I’m a huge NRBQ fan, it should come as no surprise that I really enjoyed most of these songs (notable, unsurprising exception: “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee”) — they have the pleasantly lo-fi production aesthetic of a lot of the great old indie rock records of the ’80s, which is weird, given that Boydston didn’t start recording them until the ’90s, but whatever. The album also highlights Boydston’s taste in covers, which ranges from the obvious (the title track) to the wonderfully semi-obscure (Harry Nilsson’s “Best Friend”). Continue reading

CD Review: The Laurie Berkner Band, “Rocketship Run”

The Laurie Berkner Band – Rocketship Run (2008, Two Tomatoes)
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A year or two ago, Jack’s Big Music Show was my daughter’s favorite thing to watch on TV. It was one of the first shows she really got into, actually, and I liked it too — it offers plenty of bright colors, with nifty-looking puppets designed by Sesame Street vets, positive messages, and a parade of cool guest stars (my personal favorite: Andrew Bird as the dulcimer-fixing Dr. Stringz). Due in part to the typically transitive tastes of children, and in part to the show’s abnormally long, Sopranos-style hiatuses, Sophie moved on from Jack’s fairly quickly; ordinarily, I might have encouraged her to keep on watching it, not least because I’d already invested in at least one Jack’s DVD — but in this case, I was actually sort of happy to watch her enthusiasm fade. Why? Because each episode features a pair of music videos, and many of them feature Laurie “Oh God, Not Her Again” Berkner.

Berkner is an extremely popular kids’ musician who has been selling oodles of albums for over a decade — at this point, she’s pretty much her own media empire; sort of the Oprah of kids’ music, with albums, DVDs, and even a book under her belt. Personally, I find her unsettling — I don’t trust anyone whose facial muscles are strong enough to support all that smiling, and she has the shake-you-by-the-lapels singing style of a Junior Miss pageant contestant — but kids and parents loooooooooooooove Laurie Berkner, to the extent that Rocketship Run, her first album in six years, is a very big deal. It’s also pretty good, actually, which, perversely, only makes me hate her more.

Rocketship Run represented a first for me: Instead of ripping it to my hard drive and listening to it with my daughter, I waited until she and my wife were going on a car ride together, and handed it off for them to share on their trip. This accomplished two things: First, it saved me from at least one round of listening to the album, and second, it would give me an objective pair of opinions I could trust before I filtered Rocketship through my grumpy dad’s-ear perspective. It was a big hit, of course — my wife actually said the words “I love it,” and my daughter immediately insisted on having the album on her iPod. All 24 freakin’ tracks of it. Continue reading