There’s a lot to be said for aggressive, soul-pushing, complex music that opens your mind and heart to a new way of thinking, but today I want to discuss the complete antithesis of all that: kid’s music. The music I remember on cheap cassette tapes and colorful CDs that will always hold a special place in my heart is still produced in large volumes, and some of it is great. I’m not talking about the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or even the classic “The Wheels on the Bus.” I’m talking about something a lot stranger.
There’s this subset of music written for kids that actually delivers enjoyable value for adults. They are structured similarly to regular songs, but the lyrics are just so inexplicably ~silly~. There are two main names here that I want to bring up:
Barry Louis Polisar
Popularized by his presence in the zany 2007 film Juno, Barry Louis Polisar is one of my favorite artists of all time. He makes enjoyable, simple, folk music that is hard not to bop along to, but the thing that makes his music special is the lyrics. Remember we are talking about kids music, so there is nothing revolutionary here, but it is just so unapologetically weird that makes it impossible not to love. My favorite song of his is “I Have a Dog and My Dogs Name is Cat” off of his album My Brother Thinks He’s a Banana and Other Provocative Songs for Children. It is the kind of thing that would make a little kid giggle, and because we all have a little kid inside of us, I can’t help but love it too.
It leaves you with the thought “what on earth did I just listen to?” and an unshakable smile on your face.
They Might Be Giants
The other artist that I want to briefly discuss is They Might Be Giants (expect a longer winded post on them later). A lot of kids our age have strong childhood memories of their album: No!. In my opinion, They Might Be Giants makes music that appears like its for kids, but is actually enjoyable for people of all ages. Of course, like Polisar, their lyrics are either strange (like my favorite, “Doctor Worm”) or educational (see “Meet the Elements”) which are both pretty enjoyable tunes.
So why do I occasionally listen to music made for people 10-15 years younger than me? Because I like to feel like a kid. Not everything we do needs to change the world, sometimes it can be fun to just hear a story about a dog named Cat or a man who is a real and actual worm.