Best Children’s Album GRAMMY 2023 Nominees

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the GRAMMY Award Nominations! The 65th annual GRAMMY award nominations were announced today. 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 October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022. 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 5.

Into the Little Blue House performed by Wendy & DB

Los Fabulosos performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

The Movement performed by Alphabet Rockers

Ready Set Go performed by Divinity Roxx

Space Cadet performed by Justin Roberts

Sing & Soar Performed by Nanny Nikki

Sing & Soar is a wonderful introduction to Chicago-based children’s artist Nanny Nikki. This debut EP perfectly showcases Nikki’s gorgeous alto vocals as she sings about subjects that children can easily relate to. Several of the six songs in this collection are slow pop tunes with just a slight dusting of folk undertones, creating music that is upbeat but laid back at the same time. “Almost Made It” is a well-crafted track that with each verse tells of a progressively older child who is trying to accomplish something (potty training, encouraging a friend, making a basket) and remembers mama’s words of encouragement “Don’t give up/Don’t give in” and that she loves them. “Abczzz” is a catchy new take on the alphabet song featuring a guest appearance/rap by SaulPaul while “I Can’t Hear the Moon” is a beautiful lullaby about all of the wondrous things in life (the moon, stars, clouds, love) that exist but make no sound and leaves listeners feeling like they are wrapped in a hug. Also included is a remix of “Playground Day” from the GRAMMY-nominated album All One Tribe. This joyful song is a celebration of the many activities that you can do when outside – climbing, running, sliding, jumping, digging, riding a bike. Nanny Nikki’s first album really does as promised – it sings and it soars!

Song Spotlight – “Spooky Kooky Halloween Song”

It’s hard to believe, but Halloween is only 13 days away! There’s really no better way to celebrate than with a song that’s spooky, kooky, and a whole lot of fun. The result of a magical partnership between kindred spirits Kelli Welli and Nanny Nikki, “Spooky Kooky Halloween Song” is no trick, just a treat. Joining forces, Kelli and Nikki created a tune that while never scary, still captures the essence of this haunted time of year. Children will especially enjoy the way each eerie sounding verse transitions into a chorus that demands that they dance around and be kooky. Get a preview of “Spooky Kooky Halloween Song” below then head to your favorite streaming service to add it to your list of Halloween favorites! 

Video Spotlight – “Homemade Halloween”

As a child of the 80s, I grew up having a great appreciation for homemade costumes. My mom was incredibly creative (If you showed her an egg carton, she came up with half a dozen uses for it. Show me an egg carton, I see an egg carton.) – she could knit, crochet, paint ceramics, and most importantly, sew. Whether it was a new blouse or dress, doll clothes, or holiday decor, she could do it all. And when it came to Halloween, my mom’s creativity and skill really got a chance to shine.

Each year as October 31st rolled around, my sister and I were allowed to let our imaginations run wild. Once in a while we got a store bought costume, but for the most part, our costumes were homemade. We would often combine items from around the house with things that my mom made. One year, my gym shorts and tennis shoes were the perfect accompaniment to an exotic bird mask while the next year, I raided my mom’s closet for jewelry and scarves to be a fortune teller. My sister on the other hand went a little grander, portraying things like a Hershey’s chocolate bar, a jack o’lantern, and a slice of watermelon.

I had forgotten about these costumes until I watched the video for Esther Crow’s new holiday song, “Homemade Halloween.” As soon as I heard the opening lyrics to this rocker of a tune, my Halloween memories came flooding back. One of the things I love most about this song, aside from the nostalgia factor, is that not only does it encourage creativity, but also sustainability – a theme that runs through much of Esther’s music. If the kids in your life haven’t chosen their costumes yet, watch “Homemade Halloween” for inspiration then look around the house to see what wonderous outfits you can create.

Song Premiere – “Little Blue House”

For a very long time, only a handful of musical genres were represented in children’s music. Then came kindie music which started to break away from the “traditional” styles and sounds that were offered for kids. With the door now open to artists from outside that traditional mold, we’ve begun to see music that truly reflects the listening preferences of families by spanning a multitude of genres including country, rock, jazz, hip hop, and now, the blues.

With their new album, Into the Little Blue House, Chicago-based Wendy & DB (Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs) give a Master Class in creating the blues for young listeners. Combing their love of entertaining and educating children through music, Wendy & DB crafted a collection of songs that both teach children traditional blues tunes as well as introduces listeners to songs that lift them up in both mind and spirit. The album is given layers of depth with guest vocalists and an entire crew of Chicago blues musicians.

“Little Blue House” is the perfect first track for Into the Little Blue House . With lyrics that encourage listeners to feel free to express their feelings and really be themselves, “Little Blue House” strikes all the right chords as it welcomes young folks into the rich world of the blues. Take a listen below. Into the Little Blue House will be available on Friday.

Song Premiere – “Sing Together”

So many wonderful collaborations popped up in the past couple of years that blended artists and genres that we never would have previously imagined. I’m so excited today to add a new partnership to that list -Jazzy Ash (Ashli St. Armant) and Red Yarn (Andy Ferguson).  I’m not sure what took this duo so long to get together but I’m glad that they did because the combination of Jazzy Ash’s jazz infused style and Red Yarn’s folk/Americana sensibilities perfectly combine to create music that tells stories and entertains all at the same time.

Their full-length EP, Sing Together will be out on October 7. Today, however, it is my pleasure to premiere “Sing Together,” the title track from their upcoming album. This folky tale features a wide variety of woodland creatures who each have their own unique voices but when they sing together, they create a beautiful song. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, “Sing Together” will do just the trick. Enjoy!

 

Sing Together – Jazzy Ash and Red Yarn

Video Spotlight – “Davy Jones’s Locker”

First recorded in 1726, the term Davy Jones’s locker has always called to mind images of a murky, watery grave inhabited by an evil spirit of the sea; and at first glance, this version from New Zealand’s Jackie B and the Mini Band is no different. Soon though, three fearful little pirates find themselves learning the importance of kindness and friendship. Jackie Bristow’s lyrics and music (including a haunting chorus that will draw listeners in and won’t let them go) combine perfectly with animation by Brad Goosen and illustration by Edmund Ifflen to create a visual adventure that elevates the song’s storyline, taking it in an unexpected direction. Rich with details, children will discover new surprises with each viewing.

Jukebox performed by Street Corner Symphony

For the last decade, I worked in a community where the majority of families had at least four children, which meant at any given time they were struggling to find music that would appeal to a range of ages and musical tastes. Often the solution to this dilemma was musical or movie soundtracks. Now there’s a new option – Street Corner Symphony. What began in 2010 as an a capella group created to compete on the second season of NBC’s The Sing Off (they were the runners up) has developed over the years into a deeply talented quintet who recently released Jukebox, their first album of family music,

From the first note to the last, this collection entertains while lifting the spirits. The title song is signature Street Corner Symphony, capturing that doo-wop sound and pairing it with clever lyrics with a child inquiring, “hey daddy, what is a jukebox?” followed by asking about a boom box, and finally an iPod. This track along with “Ode 2 Phone” which is a fantastic 90s power ballad about losing phone privileges (and the fear of losing everything on the phone during that down time) will have great tween and parent appeal. Street Corner Symphony keeps things moving with a version of “Atomic Dog” that would make George Clinton proud, and a groovy beach party tune all about “Swimming.” And move over “Cha Cha Slide” – there’s a new dance in town that’s going to get everybody moving and it’s called the “Street Corner Shuffle!” 

Jukebox isn’t just good for getting you moving. As the band said, “We wanted to write about simple truths on this album. Being able to express yourself is such an important practice for the whole spectrum of life so we wanted to encourage expressing love and gratitude.” And that is exactly what they have done. From the second track which gleefully encourages children to “Be Brave” when confronting big and little things in life to the techno-esque “Kindness is Timeless” and the good advice in “Attitude of Gratitude,” that message comes through loud and clear. And nowhere is that love more evident than on “You Make Me Love,” a beautiful duet between father and son Maurice and Matthew Staple, whose love for one another and those around them can be felt in every single word.

Jukebox is a real triumph. Welcome to family music, Street Corner Symphony! We’re glad you’re here.

The Light is a Little Dimmer

The world of children’s music experienced a devastating loss recently with the unexpected passing of Morgan Taylor. The creative force behind Gustafer Yellowgold, a little drop of sunshine come to Earth, Morgan’s talent as an artist and a musician led to two GRAMMY-nominations as well as Audible’s award for Best Children’s Audiobook. Over the past few days there has been an outpouring of love from those who were friends with Morgan and those whose lives had been brightened by his music. Even though I never had the privilege of meeting Morgan, I was fortunate enough to see him perform in 2018 at the Children’s GRAMMY-nominee concert in New York City. When he first appeared on stage, you weren’t sure what to expect from this unassuming guy carrying a guitar, then the magic began and Morgan put on a truly delightful performance that was a treat for the ears and the eyes. The world may be a little darker place without Morgan Taylor in it, but through the legacy of Gustafer Yellowgold, his light will live on. A GoFundMe page has been created to assist Morgan’s family.

Moonwalking performed by Young Folk

Josh Lovelace returns with his third album for families, this time under the moniker Young Folk. Much like his last album (Growing Up, 2019), Moonwalking is filled with songs that will appeal to adults, entertain children, and will continuously be in demand. A talented singer-songwriter, Lovelace knows how to make parents chuckle and when to pull on the heartstrings. The title track “Moonwalking” opens the album and sets the tone for a seamless sound that lifts the spirits from beginning to end. Most adults will laugh along with the guy in the second track who likes to think life hasn’t changed much since becoming a parent but admits he’s just “a cool dad…in a minivan.” That pop sound continues on in songs like the fun imagination-filled “Mommy’s a Mermaid” and “Silly Time,” the perfect storytime break with a running time of only 1:15 minutes.

The theme of caring for one another comes out in the rockabilly laden “Wash Your Hands.” While it might feel like this message is no longer needed, if you’ve been in a public restroom lately, you’ll know that many people could use a reminder like this. It’s not just the humans who get special treatment on Moonwalking. A certain four-legged friend does too. “Rosie Cat” is a touching song about the love that comes when a feline joins the family. This song in particular spoke to me. As a former dog lover, when I rescued my kitty cat Coal almost 10 years ago, I too “never thought I’d love a friend like that.” Featuring a catchy refrain that begs for listeners to sing along, I may have serenaded Coal with the lyrics Coalie Cat instead of Rosie Cat, but that will just stay between us.

After taking us moonwalking and on perfect day beach adventures, Lovelace slows things down, first with “I Believe in You,” a gorgeous love letter to his children that will have young listeners asking you why you’re crying as you take in the words “Know that you will always be enough…You can always fall back on my love” and finally, with the closing track, the original lullaby, “Goodnight My Dear.”

With Moonwalking, whether Lovelace, as Young Folk, makes you laugh or makes you cry, he definitely leaves you feeling loved. A perfect album for family listening!

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