It’s hard to believe that it was just three short years ago that Fyütch first landed on my radar with his video for “Black Women in History.” Since then, he has had a lasting impact on children’s music both as a solo performer as well as a collaborator with other artists such as SaulPaul, Alphabet Rockers, Divinity Roxx, and Joanie Leeds. All of those performers, however, pale in comparison to Fyütch’s latest duet partner, his six-year-old daughter Aura.
On their new song, “I Am Love, I Am Light,” this dynamic duo shares affirmations set to an energy-filled beat that encourage listeners to echo confidence-packed phrases such as “I am brave,” “I am worthy,” “I am grateful, “I am kind,” and “I love me.” Fyütch brings a shining light to everything that he does and combined with Aura’s joyful spirit, the feeling of love in each word wraps itself around the listener. In a world that at times can feel a little dark and overwhelming, “I Am Love, I Am Light” is a beacon to be shared and celebrated by children and adults alike. Spread this heartfelt message not just during the month of love, but throughout the entire year!
In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is the Super Bowl. It seems like that is the only thing anyone is talking about on daytime shows, nighttime shows, entertainment shows, political shows. While one singer’s possible appearance to watch her boyfriend play in the game seems at times to be eclipsing the Super Bowl Halftime show’s headliner, it’s Usher that I want to talk about. Well, it’s actually Michael Jackson that I want to talk about, but that will bring us back to Usher.
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately, and hands-down, one of my favorites of the past couple of months is Thriller 40, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the iconic album from Michael Jackson. What I liked most about the film was that while it touched oh, so briefly on Michael Jackson’s relationship with his father and his brothers, the true focus of the film was the evolution of Jackson as a performer and the creation of this seminal album. The documentary doesn’t shy away from showing Jackson as someone who wants to be on top, and stay on top, and includes many examples of how that drive, combined with Jackson’s unending creativity, continues to put its stamp on music today.
The majority of the film is centered on creating Thriller and the immediate impacts that had on Michael Jackson, and in turn, he had on much of the world. Chock-full of archival audio, film footage, and present-day interviews, the documentary takes a deep dive into the album’s music- from the creation of iconic musical progressions and hooks to the concepts behind some of the best known videos. John Landis gives a very entertaining look at the creation of the iconic Thriller video, and there are interviews with celebrities sprinkled throughout. What I found most interesting though were the interviews with the people who were intimately involved in the creation of the music. The engineers, the musicians, and the backup singers. I also found the inclusion of interviews with choreographers Rich and Tone Talauega and dancers like Misty Copeland and Usher (told you we’d circle back) gave the story of Thriller even more depth. So many years out, we forget that before Michael Jackson, no one had taken the vast array of dance steps and genres and combined them the way that he did, and in a way that performers continue to do today.
His incredible talent as a dancer was on display when Michael Jackson headlined Super Bowl XXVII’s 1993 halftime show (you can find this performance online) and I imagine we’ll see reflections of that when Usher takes the stage tomorrow night. Jackson’s personal struggles may have eclipsed some of his musical brilliance in later years, but Thriller 40 was an enjoyable reminder that before all that, there was a young man with a creative vision for his music, his videos, and his career and he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him. Check out Thriller 40 and to paraphrase the immortal words of Vincent Price, “No mere mortal can resist the “music” of the Thriller!”
Hello Friends! I am so sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. I hadn’t had so much as a cold in 2.5 years and had evaded Covid for almost four years, but at the beginning of December, after spending the weekend with friends and enjoying some live Christmas music, Covid finally caught up with me. It left me with a cough and ongoing fatigue. Then, the first week of January, just as I was feeling a bit better, I found myself at the doctor’s office because I had caught a new virus that caused…coughing and fatigue. Needless to say that for almost two months, I only had the energy to make it through the day at work. Writing fell by the wayside. The Annual Children’s Music Roundup fell by the wayside. The hope to make last year’s interviews with the Best Children’s Album GRAMMY nominees an annual event fell by the wayside. All replaced by post-dinner naps.
Thankfully, I truly am feeling more like myself now and am ready to dive back into Kids Rhythm and Rockand the wonderful world of children’s music. I’m hoping to get caught up this weekend on all the emails I’ve neglected for the past few weeks. So please, keep sending me notices of your newest song, video, and album releases. I can’t wait to hear them and help share them with the world.
Also, don’t forget that the GRAMMYs are this Sunday! The GRAMMY for Best Children’s Album will be given out during the 66th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. You can live stream this ceremony Sunday, Feb. 4, at 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET on live.GRAMMY.com and on the Recording Academy’s YouTube channel.
Ahh, it’s November. That glorious time of year when the temperature drops, the leaves fall off the trees and we prepare for one of the most celebrated meals of the year – Thanksgiving dinner. While tables will be filled with sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, carrots, green beans, and mashed potatoes, the star of many of these meals is the turkey. But what if the turkeys don’t want to come to dinner? What if the turkey is too busy working as a private investigator? These questions and more are answered in delightful new videos from Stacey Peasley and Todd ‘n’ Tina.
First up, in Stacey’s “The Turkeys Run,” children will get rid of their wiggles as they act out the adventures of the turkeys who don’t want to end up on your plate for Thanksgiving Day. The adorable animation perfectly captures the spirit of these wily turkeys as they race to escape capture. Then, in Todd ‘n’ Tina’s new video, “Undercover Turkey,” Penny the turkey certainly won’t have time to come to Thanksgiving dinner because she is busy working undercover and trying to catch the town’s bagel thief. The simple puppetry and amazing turkey hat will have viewers chuckling as they enjoy this exciting tale.
Watch these videos while making whatever delectable morsels you’ve chosen for the big meal and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the GRAMMY® Award Nominations! The 66th annual GRAMMY® award nominations were announced on Friday. To be eligible for the award, a children’s album must contain at least 75% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children and released between October 1, 2022 and September 15, 2023. The depth and variety of children’s music this year was truly incredible. Congratulations to all of the nominees and to all the artists who created such amazing music this year. The GRAMMY® Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 4.
Ahhhhh! Performed by Andrew & Polly
Ancestars Performed by Nnenna Freelon and Pierce Freelon
Hip Hope for Kids! Performed by DJ Willy Wow!
Taste the Sky Performed by Uncle Jumbo
We Grow Together Preschool Songs Performed by 123 Andrés
Released on World Mental Health Day, “So Glad You’re My Friend,” written and performed by Laura Doherty and Reggio “The Hoofer,” is an important song any day of the year. The lyrics call out a whole list of things that you can do when you’re feeling down including – think of a happy place, put on a favorite song and sing along, and make a friend and walk together and talk together. Friends since their earlier days as teaching artists at Chicago’s famed Old Town School of Folk Music (Laura teaching music classes, Reggio sharing his talent as a master tap dancer), this is the duo’s second collaboration. Featuring Laura’s signature folk-pop sound, “So Glad You’re My Friend” combines Laura’s soft, crystal clear voice with Reggio’s slightly gruffer tone to create a soothing song that leaves the listener feeling cared for and loved. While the message of the single is mainly directed at the person feeling low, it’s also the perfect reminder that you never know what someone else is going through, so never be afraid to reach out and say, “So Glad You’re My Friend.” Take a listen.
One of the many great things about children’s music is how it can make learning fun. Sometimes it’s little things like ABCs or counting to 10, but other times, it’s bigger things, like scientific concepts. Over the next two album spotlights, I’m focusing on amazing albums that take science and make it fun. First up is the water-themed album, Aqua Phonic, from Marko Polo. In his second album for families, Marko Polo, aka Mark Pagano, a teaching artist based in St. Louis, takes listeners from the smallest drop of water to the greatest oceans of the world.
The eight tracks in this collection are equal parts informative and entertaining with each having a tone that perfectly matches with the song’s subject matter. The album opens with “We Are Water,” teaching children the properties and science of water before digging into some of the inhabitants of this incredible resource. This is followed by the rock-tinged “Axolotl” a tune crafted by Pagano and a group of middle schoolers about the oddly adorable amphibian before turning to a reggae-infused beat to tell the tale of the “Sirenia,” the manatees who were mistaken for mermaids. This is followed by the psychedelic world of the “Coral” before introducing everyone to “Walrus Sings,” a pop tune based on an article from National Geographic.
Along with the animals, Pagano also focuses on water as place. He takes listeners to the deepest depths where everything glows at the “Bottom of the Ocean” before taking them back into the light with “Follow the Water.” This lovely duet with New Zealander Claudia Robin Gunn features a melody and lyrics that eddies and flows just like the current of the water. The album closes with the beautiful, “Drip Drop.” This final track, so skillfully designed, aptly details the water cycle while also speaking to the experience of parents and caregivers – “Time keeps moving like a river/Feels like it’s going quicker as I watch you grow.”
Pagano’s mastery as a songwriter is clear throughout the album as he elevates each tune, sharing facts while setting scenes and telling stories. He is occasionally joined by guest vocalists, but it is his voice that remains front and center, often reminiscent of the vocal stylings of Justin Roberts. Aqua Phonic would be a great addition to science units or family playlists.
The 24th AnnualLatin GRAMMY Awards will be held on Thursday, November 16, in Seville, Spain. In preparation for the big night, take a listen to the five Spanish language albums that were nominated this week in the Best Latin Children’s Album category.
Hip hop as a genre within children’s music has been steadily growing over the last few years with artists like SaulPaul, Fyütch, and GRAMMY-winners Alphabet Rockers leading the way. A new voice arrived on the scene this week – Mega Ran. Born in Philadelphia and now living in Phoenix, Raheem “Mega Ran” Jarbo has been making a name for himself over the past 15 years as a nerdcore rapper, often rooting his music in beats from video games and crafting lyrics built around the world of wrestling. This month he debuted his first album for children, Buddy’s Magic Toy Box.
From the first beat of Buddy’s Magic Toy Box, listeners are drawn into a world of affirmation, inclusion, and joy. Being new to children’s music, Mega Ran takes what he does best – be an entertainer and storyteller, and perfectly adapts that to a new, younger audience. Each song is carefully crafted, marrying lyrics with the talents of special guests and surprising musical genres like ska-punk, jazz, and R&B. The album opens with “Count Me In” an ode to the classic “Pinball Number Count” by the Pointer Sisters (which if you’re of an age, like me, you can still sing from memory). Not only does “Count Me In” teach listeners to count to ten in English and Spanish, but it also includes easy to follow rhymes and backing vocals by a group of children layered over an electronic beat. Over the course of the next eleven songs, Mega Ran tackles topics such as bullying and friendship and includes a kid-accessible history of hip hop. On the earworm, “That’s Okay (feat. Kadesh Flow),” he addresses the experiences of people of color or other folks who have hard to pronounce names, and in the very powerful “Big and Scary,” Mega Ran faces head-on the painful struggles that occur when you are a kid who has a body type different than those around you. [For a similar perspective from a young girl’s point of view, pick up Vashti Harrison’s picture bookBig.] The album is rounded out by the gentle flow of the end-of-day lullaby, “Goodnight, Baby.” Buddy’s Magic Toy Box is available on your favorite streaming services and is not to be missed!
Learn more about Mega Ran and his new album below.
What was the transition like for you moving from making music geared more toward adults to making music for kids?
It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. I spent a ton of days just brainstorming before I started. I was really in my own way – overthinking the process when it wasn’t too different than writing the songs I had done prior. I just wanted to focus on making sure the message was clear and concise, and that the choruses were bright and fun.
Several of your songs are rooted in your own experiences. Why was it important to you to use those personal memories in creating this album?
I’ve had the biggest experience in my adult life that inspired this record – fostering and then later adopting my first son. It’s been a life changing moment and has changed the direction of not only my music, but has me thinking about my legacy and what I bring to the art form and culture. It’s led to a really fun transition that I think will be a part of me forever.
You are known for making video game/nerdcore hip hop. What advice would you give to kids who struggle because they are nerds or have interests outside of the so-called mainstream?
I don’t think the nerds struggle is nearly as tough today as it was a few decades ago. Kids are pretty free to be themselves these days without too much pushback from society, but I’m sure there are bullies and haters everywhere. So, for kids who like things that are a little outside the norm, I’d say to embrace that difference and be yourself. It’s so much more fun standing out than fitting in.
Kids love reading the Guiness Book of World Records. You’re in the Guiness Book for having the most songs that reference a video game. Was getting the world record a goal that you had for yourself? What’s it like to be a Guiness Book of World Records holder?
It’s insane! I’ve read those books when I was young and to be in one is an absolute dream come true. I’m thankful for Guinness for recognizing my strange world and my contributions. I got an opportunity to travel to London and go to the Guinness offices, where I played songs and received a plaque with my name on it. An absolute perfect scenario, a wish fulfilled. I’ll never forget it.
Buddy’s Magic Toy Box contains such great messages and is so entertaining. Will there be more children’s music in your future?
Absolutely! I have a ton of other concepts in mind! I’ll see how things go but I absolutely see myself creating more children’s music. My producers have sent a ton of beats over that have inspired me in new ways. So I’ll do it as long as I’m inspired!
Anything else that you would like to share with us?