2019 Children’s Music Roundup

Welcome to the second annual Kids Rhythm and Rock Children’s Music Roundup! Oh what a year 2019 was for children’s music with a cornucopia of sounds, fantastic messages and moments of fun combining for a true wealth of musical riches, Whether you check the CDs out from the library or listen to them on your favorite streaming service, all of the albums below are definitely worth a listen (or two, or three…). 

 

Best Animal Album Covers
Come for the covers, stay for the amazing music!
Swamp Romp Performed by Johnette Downing with Scott Billington   
Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

 

 

Be Mindful, Be Kind     

   

 

 

 

The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers
Kindred Performed by Renee & Friends
Under the Big Umbrella Performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Ageless: Songs for the Child Archetype Performed by Jon Samson

 

Unique Musical Stylings

    

 

 

 

Finding Friends Far From Home: A Journey with Clara Net Performed by Oran Etkin
Shake It and Break It Performed by Randy Kaplan
Earworm Performed by Sean McCollough

 

Based on a Podcast

 

Backstroke Raptor Performed by The Story Pirates

 

 

 Regional Superstars You Should Know

                                                                         

 

 

 

Put Your Arms in the Air Performed by Cowboy Andy (based in Montana) 
Kith & Kin Performed by Duke Otherwise (based in Wisconsin)   

 

Bilingual/Spanish Albums

          

 

 

 

Canta las Letras Performed by 123 Andrés
Love is Te Quiero Performed by Alina Celeste
Buenos Diaz Performed by The Lucky Band
En la Radio Performed by Nathalia

 

We Only Have One Earth
These albums each contain several songs that celebrate the flora and fauna on this rock we call home. 

     

 

 

 

Can You Feel It? Performed by Jessa Campbell & the Saplings
It Takes a Village Performed by Ginalina
Positronic Performed by Marsha and the Positrons

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dads

      

 

 

 

Which One Am I? Performed by Howie D
Growing Up Performed by Josh Lovelace

 

The Long and the Short of It

      

 

 

 

All I Do is Hop Performed by Grin Brigade (29 tracks)
The Robot Performed by Ants Ants Ants (4 tracks)

 

Thank You, and Goodnight!

Album cover for Now That We're Home

 

Now That We’re Home: Lullabies & Love Songs Performed by KB Whirly

2020 Best Children’s Album GRAMMY Nominees

The 62nd annual GRAMMY nominees were announced yesterday. To be eligible for the 2020 awards, an album had to be released between October 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019. This year’s selection of nominees for best children’s album includes a few familiar faces as well as the introduction of some newbies to the GRAMMY competition. (Special shout out to Kaitlin McGaw for being the only female lead performer in this year’s crop of nominees!) The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, January 26.

Ageless Songs for the Child Archetype performed by Jon Samson

Flying High! Performed by Caspar Babypants

I Love Rainy Days performed by Daniel Tashian

The Love Performed by Alphabet Rockers

Winterland Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers

Song Premiere – “I Know You See Me” performed by Alphabet Rockers

In 2017 Alphabet Rockers landed far outside the realm of traditional children’s music with their groundbreaking GRAMMY-nominated album Rise Shine #Woke. Named to School Library Journal‘s Top 10 list of 2017 that album taught listeners that you are never too young to start a conversation about social justice. Filled with powerful lyrics and engaging rhythms and rhymes, it was the must have hip hop album of the year. Now, almost two years later, Alphabet Rockers are back and better than ever with their new album, The Love.

Recorded on land originally inhabited by the Ohlone people and produced at Zoo Labs in Oakland, California, The Love is a massive musical collaboration incorporating more than 60 guest artists who perform alongside Alphabet Rockers founders Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd.  The themes of love and belonging continue from Rise Shine #Woke to The Love but this time rather than the focus being social justice, the group is turning their attention to gender justice with the goal of the album being to honor the diverse identities within our society. Once again featuring well-thought out, powerful lyrics, The Love is an album that everyone should listen to.

Today it is my great honor to debut the track, “I Know You See Me.” Written as a response to the daily harassment experienced by a transgender/gender non-conforming parent of a four-year-old, this song takes that experience and makes it into something positive.  “I Know You See Me” begins and ends with a gorgeous string performance that captures the emotion of the main character in the song. At the beginning of the track, they are walking down the sidewalk when someone says horrible things to them. Rather than giving that person the power, they embrace their belief in themselves and when Tommy’s character breaks into a hard driving rap, he flips the script and rather than harassing them,  tells them, “You’re the powerful one/All assumptions be gone/You’re the ultimate you just do what you do and I’ll see you thru.” It’s a powerful message of love, acceptance and understanding. A message that we all could stand to hear and to share, no matter how we identify. Learn more about the Alphabet Rockers at www.alphabetrockers.com and listen to “I Know You See Me” on Spotify or Amazon The Love is available to stream now, and will be available on CD beginning August 8.

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 Joy, 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.