I always enjoy it when an artist moves beyond their typical musical stylings and tries something new. That is exactly what Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band did recently with the video for their latest single, “Alien Babies From Outer Space.” This fun, quirky, electronica-filled tune is brought to life with retro-fueled imagery that recalls the early days of science fiction films. Children will love bopping around to the beat while watching the escapades of the adorably portrayed alien babies who are “coming to take us away!”
If you’ve been on social media in the past couple of weeks you’ve probably seen people posting about the 10 Year Challenge, which is just a picture of you from 10 years ago and one from today. As I was mulling over how to celebrate the release date of You Are Not Alone, the beautiful new picture book from Alphabet Rockers, I remembered this challenge and decided to take a stroll down memory lane and check out some of their early albums from my local library’s prolific music collection. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the first album I picked up…
…was from 2012!! That’s right! A decade ago, before they became the powerhouse champions for social justice they are today, Alphabet Rockers was creating a dance party of “learning, fitness, and early literacy.”
Fast forward 10 years to today and the debut of You Are Not Alone.
While Alphabet Rockers still believe in the things that made Go! so special, their messages have changed to reflect the world in which we live. You Are Not Alone is a bright, engaging picture book which encourages young readers (and as you’ll see below, young viewers) to love who they are, to celebrate all identities, and to “use their voices against hate.” The illustrations beautifully tell the story and when combined with the lyrical prose (“You don’t know me, but I bet you see the sun rise and set like I do…If you really knew me, when you’d see me you would think: You are Powerful, You are brave, You are brilliant”), makes readers want to reach out a hand to those around them and say, “You are not alone. I got you.” To learn more about how the story for You Are Not Alone came about and the process of creating the illustrations, visit We Need Diverse Books for a Q&A with Alphabet Rockers and illustrator Ashley Evans.
Check out the companion music video and song for You Are Not Alone below.
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s fourth annual Children’s Music Roundup! For those of you new to the blog, each year rather than doing a best of list, instead, I compile a list of my favorite albums.
2021 was an amazing year for children’s music with innumerable new artists making their way into the spotlight while more established acts continued to create incredible music and forged new musical partnerships with those they met along the way. Let’s say hello to 2022 by taking a look back at “the year that was” in children’s music. Don’t see your favorites listed below? Add them in the comments!
Be Mindful, Be Kind
Music to guide our everyday lives.
- A Mind of Your Own performed by The Bright Siders
- Maybe by Next Year performed by Kid Pan Alley
- Frogs and Birds performed by Lindsay Munroe with Raffi
- Yoga Dreamland performed by Putamayo
Fun, fantastic tunes to brighten any day.
- A Colorful World performed by Falu
- You Are Magic performed by Allison Faith Levy
- 28 Days performed by Little Miss Ann
- Make it Happen! performed by Stacey Peasley
- I Am performed by Shine and the Moonbeams
This was always my favorite Jeopardy! category. In this case, it’s a fun way to group the jazziest jazz, the quirkiest tunes, and songs on some popular topics together.
- Seconds performed by Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots
- It’s for You performed by Flula Borg and Go Banana Go!
- What Kind of World? performed by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats
- Planetary Promenade performed by Billy Kelly
- From My Head to My Toes performed by Music with Mandy
- Ponderosa Bunchgrass & the Golden Rule performed by The Oot N’ Oots
Regional Superstars You Should Know
It’s easy to forget that our talented local performers aren’t well known all across the country. Here’s some from the past year everyone should give a try.
- All Together Now performed by Esther Crow (New York)
- Music Makes Me Happy performed by Katie Dwyer (New York)
- The Grumpytime Club performed by Carrie Ferguson (Massachusetts)
- Sing Your Song Performed by The Harmonica Pocket (Washington)
- All Together performed by Kathryn the Grape (California)
I dare you to try and sit still while listening to these albums!
- Crayon Kids performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
- Ready, Set, Go! performed by Divinity Roxx
- Invisible performed by Father Goose
- Family Tree performed by Fyütch
- Slow Clap performed by Koo Koo Kangaroo
Unique Musical Stylings
There was nothing else quite like these albums this year.
- Young Maestros, Vol. 1 performed by Tracy Bonham (these could be showtunes)
- Black to the Future performed by Pierce Freelon (Afrofuturism)
- Folk for Little Folk, Vol.1 performed by Gordie MacKeeman (award-winning fiddling)
- Okay to Be Different performed by SaulPaul (rap)
- The Beat Bach Symphonies performed by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (rap with a symphony orchestra)
- The Strawberry Band performed by The Story Pirates (music based on children’s stories)
Visiting with Old Friends
- Let’s Go! performed by Laurie Berkner
- Love Me for Who I Am: The Remix performed by Brady Rymer
- Sharon, Lois & Bram Best of the Best Live performed by Sharon, Lois & Bram
- We’re All Fruit Salad performed by The Wiggles
Wide World of Music
These albums feature music in Spanish, Spanish and English, and music from as far away as New Zealand.
- Activate performed by 123 Andrés
- Pachamama performed by Flor Bromley
- Danilo & Chapis, Vol 1 performed by Danilo & Chapis
- Esperanza performed by Sonia De Los Santos
- Sing Through the Year performed by Claudia Robin Gunn
- A Mi Me Gusta Ser Yo *It’s Ok To Be Me performed by Twinkle Time
With a Little Help From My Friends
2021 was a year of amazing partnerships and collaborations.
- All One Tribe performed by 1 Tribe Collective
- Let It Out! performed by Mil’s Trills
- Let Love Be Your Guide performed by Dan & Claudia Zanes
I admit it. I capital “L” love Christmas music. For as long as I can remember, it has always played a big part in my holiday season. As a child, stopping by my grandmothers’ homes and listening to their Christmas records featuring crooners like Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole was always something to look forward to. Singing in the second grade holiday play where I got to dress like an angel and sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” solo is still a childhood highlight. As is joining in with my dad as he washed dishes and practiced a packet of carols for his factory’s Christmas party. But my favorite memory of all was going to church on Christmas Eve. The church would be dark except for a few flickering candles while the choir and the congregation sang Christmas hymns. The story of Jesus’s birth would be told through Bible readings and songs and as the birth grew near, the lights would slowly rise and the music would grow until it felt like it was filling my soul with joy and love.
Over the years, the way that I celebrate the holiday and the people I celebrate with may have changed, but the love, joy, and peace that Christmas music brings me still remains. I used to wait to break out the Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, but over the past few years, that date has moved up and up. Now, more often than not, I find myself listening to a holiday tune or two right around the first of November. After all, it’s never too early to celebrate love, peace, and joy.
And speaking of joy, there have been several new Christmas songs released by family music artists this season. Today, I’d like to highlight three songs – all original and all full of holiday cheer.
Let’s kick things off with “Merry Christmas to You!” written and performed by Kymberly Stewart for her YouTube show Miss Kym’s Music Place.
Our next song takes us from the preschool set to something the older kids in the family and adults will enjoy. “Merry and Bright” is written and performed by Laura Doherty. The accompanying video lovingly showcases the many local gems found in Andersonville, the Chicago neighborhood Laura calls home.
Finally, to wrap things up, the jazz-infused “Fly Through the Sky” written and performed by Jazzy Ash. Focusing on the flight that Santa and his reindeer take on Christmas night, this delightful lyric video plays like an interactive storybook and will enchant viewers young and grown.
The holiday season is in full swing and you know what that means…lots and lots of delicious food. The kind of food that tastes so good you always have to go back for more. That is the same feeling that you will have when listening to Seconds, the follow-up to Ben Tatar’s 2014 debut family music album Food! This delicious collection of ten songs about everything from pizza to greens to sweet nectarines will definitely whet your appetite. Featuring an underlying jazz/swing band base, each song is given its own flavor from the Cajun flair of “Jambalaya” to the Motown groove of “Can You Write a Song About Broccoli?” and the 1970s lounge act vibe of “Peanut Butter!” While each song has its own unique melody, they all have rhythmic lines that will get listeners moving and grooving; none more so than the funky “Back to the Buffet” which aptly captures what pre-pandemic buffet-going was like. You’ll have such a good time listening to Seconds that you’ll want to come back for thirds and more!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the GRAMMY Award Nominations! The 64th annual GRAMMY award nominations were announced yesterday. To be eligible for the award, a children’s album must contain at least 51% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children and released between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. The GRAMMY Awards will be announced on Monday, January 31.
ActÍvate performed by 123 Andrès
All One Tribe performed by 1 Tribe Collective
Black to the Future performed by Pierce Freelon
A Colorful World performed by Falu
Crayon Kids performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Introducing Triple Rainbow, the latest kindie group to come out of the Portland, Oregon area. Today marks the release of “You Are Magic,” the title track off of their debut album. The video for “You Are Magic” is an explosion of color mixed with pure joy as the wonders of the imagination are played out in fun snippets that bring the lyrics to vibrant life. One of the great things about the video is that the costumes, props, and decorations are presented in such a way that while they look great, could still be recreated by viewers or encourage families to use their imaginations to create their own at home.
All of the tracks on You Are Magic are written and performed by family band Triple Rainbow whose members include Jared Mees and his daughters July (9) and Piper (4). Mees describes the band’s vibe as being like, “Green Day meets Shel Silverstein and Sia at a Flaming Lips show inside a children’s museum.” Whether the track has a rock, techno, or pop feel, the message of kindness, understanding, and creativity shines through. The album cover for You Are Magic, was designed by Ryan Berkley after being given the directive to make it one part Green Day and one part Dr. Seuss and features characters from each of the the album’s songs. You Are Magic will be released on January 21, 2022 but is available for presale today.
While you wait for the album to be released, enjoy the video for the title track, “You Are Magic” below.
As I mentioned in my last post, October is one of the favorite times of the year at my house. One of the reasons for that is that our wedding anniversary is on October 31. We chose that date specifically because it was Halloween (and it was a Saturday). Guests wore costumes, there was a jack o’ lantern on the top of the cake and the reception was decorated with giant tombstones. While the wedding and reception celebrated a more modern version of Halloween, the invitations and the rest of the graphics all featured classic Halloween images like the one to the left. As soon as I started watching the video below, it immediately reminded me of those images and transported me to a different time.
EVT Kids is making a name for themselves on the children’s music scene. Yvette and Tom lead this bilingual family band with their two daughters joining in the fun. The video for their latest song, “Spooky Halloween Night,” features gray and black illustrations reminiscent of Halloween artwork from several different time periods. The vocals harken back to a bygone era that brings eerie jazz elements to the song making the tone just spooky enough to enjoy but not too scary to listen to. Make sure to watch all the way to the end so that you don’t miss a surprise rap that somehow fits right in. The melody to “Spooky Halloween Night” will haunt you (in a good way!) for days to come.
Before you celebrate your own spooky Halloween night, make sure to take a listen to the new Halloween EP Little, Wild and Spooky! from New Zealand children’s artist Claudia Robin Gunn. This three song collection includes “Spooktacular!” a clever counting song that includes suggestions for different types of vegetables that you can carve, “Leaf Skeletons” that imagines what would happen if the skeleton leaves at the bottom of the pile started dancing, and “Friendly Monsters” that celebrates dressing up, costume parties, and imaginary friends.
Little, Wild and Spooky! is available on most streaming services and can be previewed on Claudia’s Bandcamp page.
That’s it for the Halloween editions of Kids Rhythm and Rock! I hope you have a thrilling All Hallows’ Eve filled with all the tricks and treats you dream of!
Oh, it’s so good to be back! After an unexpected hiatus, it feels great to once again be surrounded by the talent, generosity, and kindness of the children’s music world. And what better time of the year to return than during the magical, mystical, pumpkin-spiced delight that is October. So much incredible children’s music debuted while I was gone, and we’ll get to that in the coming weeks, but for today, I want to celebrate the season that in my house is “the most wonderful time of the year” by featuring new videos that shine a spotlight on two upcoming holidays.
The first video is “Halloween Crew” from Little Miss Ann. The muted, almost sepia tones, of the animation perfectly match the slightly spooky lyrics which appear on the screen. Children will love singing along while pretending to be different members of the Halloween Crew.
The second video is for a Spanish language song from Colombian-born, Los Angeles-based Nathalia, that celebrates Día de los Muertos. Beautiful, brightly colored animation highlights all of the elements that go into honoring the lives of loved ones who have come and gone. Lyrics are available in both Spanish and English on Nathalia’s website.
While everyday should be Mister Rogers Day, the official celebration as declared by Mister Rogers’s home state of Pennsylvania is May 23. Why May 23? It’s the 143rd day of the year which also happens to be Mister Rogers’s favorite number. But 143 is not just any random number. In fact it holds a lot of significance. For Mister Rogers, 143 symbolized “I Love You.” I is one letter long, love is four letters long and you is three, hence 143. Veteran children’s performer Andy Z has taken 143 and created a lovely song in the spirit of Mister Rogers and his philosophy of kindness and love. His video, “1 4 3,” explains the meaning of 143 set against a colorful, joyful animated background. As the normalcy of life returns, it’s more important than ever to remember that we need to continue to care about one another and show that care in big and little acts of kindness. Don’t just sit there, get out and spread the love!