Kids Music Takes New York City by Storm!

Last weekend the GRAMMY awards left the sun and warmth of Los Angeles to celebrate the big 6-0 back home in New York City. Throughout the City that never sleeps the return of the awards were celebrated and it seemed like everywhere you went, there were announcements for concerts being held during the weekend featuring everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Childish Gambino. But it wasn’t just musical acts for grown-ups in town. NYC was also alive with the sound of children’s music.

 

The first of the two children’s music concerts that I was able to attend over the weekend was held Friday morning at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Sponsored by Kids Rhythm and Rock, Chicago’s own Wendy & DB performed two concerts to benefit the museum, VH1 Save the Music and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. These engaging, interactive performances had children up and dancing as they heard songs including, “Pink Flamingo,” “Watersong,” “Girl Superhero,” and the blissfully exhausting “HopScotch.” I don’t know about the little ones, but after those high energy performances, I was just about ready for a nap.

 

 

The second children’s music concert was on Saturday at New York’s Symphony Space as part of their “Just Kidding!” series. This concert, “Best of Family Showcase!” featured live performances by four of the five nominees for the Best Children’s Album GRAMMY. Hosted by Sirius XM’s Kenny Curtis and Mindy Thomas this hour-long musical extravaganza was a true delight from beginning to end.

 

 

Up first was everyone’s favorite drop of sunshine, Gustafer Yellowgold. Aided by his human friend (and creator) Morgan Taylor on guitar and vocals, Gustafer’s escapades from Brighter Side were brought to life for all to enjoy. Those awful “Hot Nights” and how fun it is when “I Jump on Cake” were just a few of the insights shared into Gustafer’s one-of-a-kind life.

 

 

 

Switching gears a bit after Gustafer and Morgan came a pre-recorded message from Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Nominated for their album Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World, the group expressed their gratitude for the nomination and performed the song, “Everything is So Stupid.”

 

 

 

Next up was Chicago-based Justin Roberts. Accompanied by producer Liam Davis, Justin performed the very relatable “Must Be This Tall” and “Dodgeball” before inviting Jason Rabinowitz from The Pop-Ups and GRAMMY winner Tim Kubart on stage to join in the title song from Justin’s album, Lemonade.

 

 

 

 

Lisa Loeb, who would go on Sunday to win the GRAMMY award, gave a lovely performance of several of the songs from Feel What U Feel including “Say Hello” and “Moon Star Pie (It’s Gonna Be Alright)” while accompanied by her co-producer Rich Jacques and her keyboardist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final performance of the all-star concert brought the crowd to their feet when Alphabet Rockers took the stage. This Oakland-based crew fundraised so that all of the kids who appeared on their nominated album, Rise, Shine, #Woke could make the trip to perform in New York. And perform they did!

 

 

This Best of Family Showcase! was filled with energy and a love and understanding of all those things big and small that are important in the life of a child. It’s impossible to predict what performers will appear at the showcase next year, but the one thing you can guarantee, is that when it comes to children’s music, whoever gets nominated will be absolutely amazing.

 

Last year was full of fantastic, smart, entertaining music for children. If 2018 is even half as good, it’s going to be a great year. Thank you New York City for embracing children’s music and giving it such wonderful places to shine!!

Best Children’s Album GRAMMY Nominees

This past year was another amazing one for children’s music. Whether you like the more traditional kids music, jazz, rock, folk, EDM, pop, world music or the blues, there was something for every family. To be considered for the 60th GRAMMY awards, albums had to be released between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017. Below are the five albums that are nominated for Best Children’s Album (click on the blue titles to see my reviews). The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, January 28.

Brighter Side performed by Gustafer Yellowgold

Feel What U Feel performed by Lisa Loeb

Lemonade performed by Justin Roberts

Rise Shine #Woke performed by Alphabet Rockers

Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Rise Shine #Woke Performed by Alphabet Rockers

Until now, social justice and children’s music aren’t something that I thought went together. But I was wrong. After listening to Rise Shine #Woke, the newest album from Alphabet Rockers, on repeat for the last two weeks, I am a firm believer that children’s music – children’s hip-hop in particular – is exactly where lessons on social justice belong.

Written by Alphabet Rockers main duo, Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, the music on this album takes on the big themes of inclusion, racism and lifting one another up and makes them accessible to children and families. Timely lyrics about things such as building walls between one another, as well as Michelle Obama’s important message, “When they go low, we go high,” are combined with tight beats to make each song unforgettable. Several of the songs have almost a 1990’s mainstream hip-hop feel (heartfelt rap lyrics combined with beautiful vocals) which makes them perfect for grade school listeners. The lyrics are powerful but never preachy nor didactic. One of my favorite songs is “What Are You?” which highlights the gorgeous vocal stylings of Kimiko Joy singing the refrain, “When they ask you what you are, you respond I’m a star, They don’t really know what they do, It’s no secret that you are you.”

In addition to Goings, this collection of songs features talented guest stars including Cactus Skidoo, Aaron Nigel Smith, Genevieve Goings, and Juan Amador. It’s not just the adults who are sharing the message though. A group of skilled kids rap on several of the songs making them instantly relatable to listeners. The album opens with the impactful interlude “Don’t Wait” which reminds us that we don’t need to, nor should we, wait until children are teenagers to start teaching them these important lessons. After listening to Rise Shine #Woke during these weeks of great discord in our country, it’s very clear that the time to teach these lessons to children of all ages is now.