Any self-respecting parent who's gotten high and hooked up and read Camus and shit wants their offspring to grow up cool. And in today's ultra-competitive child-rearing environment, we all know that hipness starts at home.
So, the popularity of the Rockabye Baby series is understandable; it's a series of albums featuring “lullaby” versions of rock or rap artists' greatest hits, everyone from Blur and Nine Inch Nails to Jay-Z.
Put out by a label run by David Lee Roth's sister (seriously), they're instrumental and stripped of hard guitars and deep bass, while retaining the original songs' recognizable melodies. The main difference is that they're utterly, utterly unlistenable.
We get it — parents are sick of boring kids' music. But these albums are not like Pixar movies that are enjoyable for the adult references and touchstones. The problem with the Rockabye Baby works is that they're stripped of everything you liked about the originals.
That and because they're all fucking xylophone.
You may not hate the Rockabye Baby songs upon first listen, as there's novelty in hearing a familiar radio tune rendered in G-rated fashion. But put one of these albums on for more than, say, 15 minutes — at least as long as today's hyper-stimulated kids need to get to sleep — and you'll wish you used protection.
Part of the problem is the sonic neutering and, yes, that every one I've heard has fucking xylophone from top to bottom (and I've heard a lot of them). This is understandable, since they're lullabies. But it goes deeper than that. These are songs that once meant a lot to you. They soundtracked your make-out sessions, your dark depressions, your great emotional victories, whatever. And the reason you liked them was because of how powerful the music was, how edgy and raw the emotions conveyed were. There was anti-authority and, yes, anti-parent sentiment in these tracks.
To have these strong symbols of your identity pureed in a blender, then, is a major letdown.
But it's not just the Rockabye Baby series that's the problem…
It's most all kids music. Fuck Raffi and Kimya Dawson and Kidz Bop and all that pandering shit. They Might Be Giants' kids' series (Here Come the ABCs, etc.) are cool, but strictly from an educational perspective; we'll concede that there's nothing wrong with making learning “fun.”
But if your goal is to simply get your kids in touch with their musical sides — or to simply rock out with them — all of this crap is unnecessary. Why? Because kids can handle adult music.
In fact, kids love adult music. They don't need it watered down. When I put on T.I. or the Ramones or Guns N' Roses my 16 month old doesn't cry or grimace or ask for his mommy. He dances his little butt off.
In fact, if I deprive him of his favorite tunes for a day or so he begs for them in his own little way — by standing near the stereo and reaching his arms up.
It's adorable. Will it make him cool? Maybe. I sure wish I'd gotten an earlier education in genres like punk and, um, trap rap.
The main argument against playing adult music for children is, of course, the lyrics. Because God forbid that a kid hear a few sung swear words; they might reinforce all the swear words he's hearing from his classmates, grandparents, and on the television.
If it really bothers you, of course, there are always radio edits. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying kids have super sophisticated ears and will enjoy everything you enjoy. In fact, my son got visibly upset when I put on TV on the Radio the other day. (Although that just might be because their stuff is subpar.)
But if you think kids' delicate little eardrums require delicate little music you're wrong, because they don't. Sure, don't blast it too loud, but know that appreciation for a driving backbeat and a hummable melody is universal, even among the toddler set. Just so long as it's not smothered in xylophone.