Which One Am I? Performed by Howie D (yes, that Howie D!)

I have to admit that I was surprised and pretty excited to see a family album by Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough come across my desk. After listening to their music for the past twenty years, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this album. I wondered what Howie D’s take on music for families was going to be and how he was going to handle his association with The Backstreet Boys. Would he try to distance himself from the group in order to establish himself as a solo performer of music for children and not mention the group, or would he slide a quiet  note of thanks into the liner notes? Well, there is a thank you note, but Howie D did so much more. He completely embraced his history with the group and played up his role as the “lesser known” Backstreet Boy with the amusing opening track, “Which One Am I?” Mixed in with questions asking if he’s that guy from that group (*NSYNC, Menudo) are fun lyrics that pay tribute to each of his Backstreet brothers.

With that issue out of the way, the album settles in to tell the tale of nine-year-old Howie D, the insecurities he faced and how he overcame them to find his own way. Adult Howie D serves as co-writer, along with Tor Hyams and Lisa St. Lou, on the eleven original tunes in this collection that span a wide variety of musical genres and really showcase Howie’s array of talents. Every song is a knockout featuring top-notch melodies, vocals and production value.  Standouts include “Monsters in My Head” which has a Lenny Kravitz-vibe that totally fits the tale of the monsters that only come out at bedtime, “Shy” which calls to mind Frankie Avalon’s hit, “Earth Angel,” and the slyly reggae-themed “Worry” about many of the concerns that a child may have. There is a fantastic R&B groove on “Pollyanna’s Shadow” while touches of the tango and the Blues also make appearances before the power ballad “The Me I’m Meant To Be” reaches in and grabs your heart.

Listeners will no longer be wondering “which one is he?” by the end of this album. Instead they’ll be saying, “Howie D? Don’t you know? He’s the one making amazing music for families!” Crossing genres and generations, Which One Am I? is sure to be a hit!

Check out the charming video below for “No Hablo Espanol.”

Canta las Letras performed by 123 Andrés

In the `1970s The Letter People, a literacy program to teach children how to sound out the consonants and vowels in the alphabet, was developed. This program gave each letter its own identity and made the beginning stages of learning phonics fun, Once introduced, The Letter People captured children’s imaginations and made them clamor for more. Who can forget being introduced to the inflatable for the letter “F” Fancy Feet then being assigned to design your own fancy feet and having a parade up and down the halls at school. Or the letter “T” Tall Teeth that featured the largest set of teeth you had ever seen. Each letter was unique in what it taught but they were all the same in that they entertained children while they learned. Listening to Canta las Letras, I felt the same excitement as I did when I first met The Letter People.

On their newest album, 123 Andrés takes the letters of the Spanish alphabet and elevates them from a single song that teaches the order the letters come in, to 38 songs that give each letter and sound combination their own musical identity. The songs are arranged in alphabetical order and composed using the rhythms and sounds that are found throughout Latin America. Many of the tracks feature animals such as “Cinco cerditos,” “El guepado,” and “Katy la koala” or body parts like “Cabeza, codo, corazon” and “Con mis ojos” while others directly speak to the letter such as “La H no suena” and “Aqui está la Q.” Also included are songs about double letter sounds, “La C y la H chocaron” and “Las llaves” as well as a pair of songs about combinations of consonants – “Amigable” and “Gracias a la letra R.”

123 Andrés infuse all of their music with an unbridled joy and this album is no different. With over an hour of original songs, Canta las Letras is the perfect musical learning tool not just for families who are native Spanish speakers but for anyone learning Spanish as a second language as well. Never didactic, but always educational and entertaining, this album is ideal for the classroom, storytimes, or family listening.