Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s third annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year I compile a list of my favorite albums, then organize them by categories that change from year-to-year. Normally I would have had this list up by the middle of December, but 2020 being 2020, it threw a last minute curveball that delayed things a bit.
The past year was a time filled with incredible challenges for children’s music. The pandemic found performers having to completely redefine how they brought their music to the masses, racial and social justice came to the forefront, and the GRAMMY controversy spurred the children’s community to action. Through it all though, one constant remained – children’s music continued to grow in ways that left listeners enthralled, enriched, and entertained. So let’s say hello to 2021 by taking a look back at the year that was in Children’s music. Don’t see your favorites in the list below? Add them in the comments!
Note: There has been a lot of discussion in the past few weeks regarding albums by BIPOC performers. I have denoted those albums with an (**).
Wide World of Music
Fiesta Global performed by Flor Bromley**
Live in LA performed by Aaron Nigel Smith & 1 World Chorus**
Songs Across the Pond performed by David Gibb and Brady Rymer
The 63rd annual GRAMMY award nominations were announced on Tuesday. To be eligible for the award, a children’s album must contain at least 51% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings and be released between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020. While there are glaring omissions from this list (which I intend to share more on next week), this post is to celebrate the well-deserved accomplishments of this year’s nominees. The GRAMMY Awards will be announced on Sunday, January 31.
Singing a solo can be an amazing experience, but there is nothing quite like singing along with a group of people to make you feel like you belong. When you’re singing with your friends and family, it doesn’t matter if you hit all the right notes or sing a wrong word once in a while. What matters is that you sing with all you’ve got. If you’re like me and you live in an area of the country where staying at home is encouraged, you might see businesses and churches in your town, or ads on TV, using the phrase “In This Together.” What better way to show that we are in this together than by singing along with one another? Below are just two of the amazing songs out right now that encourage us to warm up our voices and sing with all our hearts.
In the first video, Ben Rudnick performs “Monster NO!” a quiet catchy tune that encourages children to wash their hands (and dance and jump around) to keep the monster (aka: the virus) away. Sing it with gusto – and don’t forget to wash those hands! The second video, “If You Want a Song” is a track from The Okee Dokee Brothers’s new album, Songs for Singin’. Joined by a whole host of familiar faces and voices, this tune will have you singing and dancing in no time. So grab your loved ones; it’s time to have a sing along!
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 KindredPerformed by Renee & Friends Under the Big UmbrellaPerformed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could Ageless: Songs for the Child Archetype Performed by Jon Samson
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
This fall The Okee Dokee Brothers returned with Winterland, the follow-up to their “Adventure Album Series.” This new album finds the GRAMMY Award-winning duo of Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing celebrating the cold and snowy winter season. This collection of 16 songs is a beautiful combination of music that embraces the wonders of this unsung time of year as well as some important life lessons. The album opens with “Blankets of Snow,” a great reminder that the cold weather outside is what leads to the warmth and coziness inside. On the opposite end of the cozy spectrum is “Ice Fishin’ Shack” an ode to a past time that is not for the winter faint-of-heart. And don’t miss the tale of the poor, misunderstood “Abominable Yeti,” who it turns out is an upstanding citizen and overall nice creature.
Musically, the entire album, produced by GRAMMY Award-winner Dean Jones, is a treat to listen to, with The Okee Dokee Brothers signature Americana folk style evident throughout. A few of the unique standouts include “Keep Me Warm” which is inspired by the community singing of traditional Irish songs in local pubs, “Slumberjack,” a song that is a nod to the shanties of Canada’s Maritime Provinces and is their first a cappella number, and the raucous “Howl,” a tune influenced by a dog sledding trip in the Boundary Waters.
Along with the songs lauding winter and all that comes with it, are songs that provide important life lessons. The song “You, You, You” is the most pop sounding track on the album and encourages children to be true to themselves, “And you you you, you were you-ing like/ You do. I just love it when you you.” The circle of life is addressed in “Great Grandmother Tree,” which allows children to talk about death in a less frightening way. And finally, there is “Snowpeople” which asks whether or not we have to “wear” our genders.
Winterland is filled with so much depth. It entertains while also teaches us to love nature and one another all year through.
View the video for “Snowpeople” below and read this interview The Okee Dokee Brothers did with Fatherly about the origin of the song.
Nature and all of the wonders of the great outdoors have always been a keystone of the music that The Okee Dokee Brothers make, and today’s debut of the single “Countin’ On Me” was no different. As part of their ongoing partnership with the Minnesota Zoo, the musical duo has written a gorgeous song about conservation. Evoking images of the grasses on the prairie, bison herds, flowers and critters in the forest, The Okee Dokee Brothers combine beautiful instrumentation and subtle animal sounds with lovely lyrics like the chorus, “They might seem small, but when you look at them all, their message is bigger than it’s ever been, we gotta build this home again” to create a song that you will want to listen to again and again. Available on iTunes, all the proceeds from the song’s sales will go to the Minnesota Zoo’s conservation efforts. A beautiful song for a beautiful cause.
What a great month March is turning out to be for the release of picture books by the fantastic folks in children’s music. On March 7, we said hello to Thousand Star Hotel by the GRAMMY winning duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. This retelling of “The Fisherman and His Wife” illustrated by Brandon Reese features Mr. and Mrs. Muskrat who live near a big river. An accompanying CD includes the audiobook for the story as well as 11 songs performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers.
Also making a splash on March 7 was Dive In! by 2017 GRAMMY nominee Recess Monkey. Illustrated by Rob McClurkan, this interactive undersea adventure will delight young ones as they participate in the escapades of Burt the Blobfish and Sir Sebastian Stockingbottomham.
Mark your calendars! March 21 is the date for the release of the amazing Laurie Berkner’s new book, We Are the Dinosaurs. This combination of the lyrics from Laurie’s hit song “We Are the Dinosaurs” and adorable illustrations by Ben Clanton is sure to be a hit!
And in a #FBF Flashback Friday, I’d like to highlight Zar and the Broken Spaceship by children’s music extraordinaire, Dino O’Dell and illustrated by Santiago Germano. This is the story of three friends who meet the alien Zar, learn a lot about team work as they help him fix his spaceship and make a new friend along the way. One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each storytime.
Do you have a favorite picture book by children’s musical artists that you like to use for storytime or in the classroom?
Forget about Adele and Beyonce and the acts that performed during the prime time GRAMMY’s show. I want to talk about children’s music and the GRAMMYs. This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the Children’s GRAMMY Award Nominees Benefit Concert in Los Angeles. All five of the performers/groups nominated in the Best Children’s Album category performed during a family concert to benefit the Symphony Jazz Orchestra’s music in the schools program. And what a concert it was!
The show opened with Frances England performing songs from her album, Explorer of the World. Normally, I wouldn’t note what someone was wearing but since you can’t tell from the picture, I want to mention that Frances had on the most adorable dress that looked like maps of the world. Perfect. During her set, Frances brought onstage Carlos Aguirre to join her for “Ballad for a Beatboxer.”
Following Frances England were three time GRAMMY nominees (and one time GRAMMY winner in 2013), the Okee Dokee Brothers. Their set of Americana songs from the album Saddle Up included “Jackalope” and “Somos Amigos” which included special guest and recent Latin GRAMMY winner for best children’s album, 123 Andres.
Things got even livelier when Recess Monkey took the stage. And yes, that is a pink suit that Jack is wearing. 🙂 They played songs from their album Novelties. Four days later and I still find myself singing, “Time to Make the Donuts.”
Then, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo took the stage. The room turned electric as all the kids were encouraged to get up and dance their hearts out to the unique hip hop sounds. The high octane performance contained songs from the album (which would win the GRAMMY the next day), Infinity Plus One.
The final act of the concert, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, took the stage and kept the energy going with songs from their latest album to be nominated for a GRAMMY, Press Play. The concert ended with a finale featuring all of the performers gathering on stage for one final song.
What a concert! Can’t wait to see who will be taking the stage next year!!
The 59th GRAMMY Award nominees were announced today and, as always, they are fantastic. The Best Children’s Album category is filled with amazing artists, each with a unique sound. If you don’t own them, pick them up today. They all deserve a spot in every library collection.
Frances England, Explorer of the World
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Infinity Plus One
Recess Monkey, Novelties
Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, Press Play