Tired of Teletubbies? Ragged on Raffi? Maybe you're just plain sick of kids' music that only kids can enjoy.
If so, don't be snowed by the title of the new children's music compilation For the Kids. True, the just-released disc features artists such as Cake, Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan, Guster, John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) and Tom Waits singing a mix of original songs, "Sesame Street" classics and toddler standards. But it works just as well in mom's office as it does in the rumpus room.
Released by Nettwerk America Records, the album is a fundraiser for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, the five-year-old initiative aimed at restoring music programs in public elementary and middle schools.
Though VH1 Save the Music has been helped by royalties from the series of VH1 Divas Live albums, For the Kids is the first album created specifically to raise funds for the program. "We wanted to have a CD that would be great for kids and that parents could enjoy as well," said Bob Morrison, executive director of the foundation. "The challenge was to find contemporary artists doing songs that were great for kids."
Some, like Cake, decided to put their unique spin on such "Muppet Show" classics as "Mahna Mahna," turning the silly song into a guitar-rocking, funky South-of-the-Border jam. Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson and Steven Page are natural Bert and Ernie manqué on their cover of the "Sesame Street" song "La La La La Lemon."
For several of the artists, the album was a chance to uncork original songs inspired by the births of their own kids, who no doubt rock a bit more than the average toddler. Former Del Fuego and current kiddie song superstar Dan Zanes gets his zydeco on in "Wonderwheel" from his Family Dance album, and Toad the Wet Sprocket singer Glen Phillips sings of the joys of being a play-at-home dad on a song he wrote especially for the album, "Have a Little Fun."
Like Semisonic singer Dan Wilson — whose wistful acoustic fantasy "Willie the King" envisions a world where moms and dads don't cry anymore — John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting was inspired to write an original tune using memories of childhood innocence.
In Ondrasik's case, it was the birth of his son, Johnny, that led to the creation of "The Hoppity Song," a pointedly silly romp.
When Sixpence None the Richer found out their first choice was already taken, they were thrown for a loop.
"We were envious that Sarah [McLachlan] took 'The Rainbow Connection,' " said Sixpence singer Leigh Nash. "We were at a loss and it took us a while to find a new song." Nash discovered her band's contribution on a CD of children's lullabies from the 1930s. "We were going to do 'Teddy Bear Picnic,' which is one of my favorite songs from that era," she said. "But it turned out to be too much of a stretch and, well, the lyrics are kind of creepy."
On that same CD they found a song they'd never heard of called "Goodnight Children Everywhere," which they arranged to create the sweeping majesty of an animated Disney classic. Other tracks on the album made sense for more personal reasons.
"I think Darius [Rucker's] version of 'It's All Right to Cry' was a particularly nice touch from someone who is a relatively new father," Morrison said of the Hootie & the Blowfish singer's take on the 1972 song from Marlo Thomas' celebrated Free to Be ... You and Me album.
Morrison says that to date, VH1 Save the Music has donated $21 million worth of musical instruments to 900 public schools.
For the Kids track list:
- Cake - "Mahna Mahna"
- Barenaked Ladies - "La La La La Lemon"
- Sarah McLachlan - "The Rainbow Connection"
- Guster - "I've Got to Be Clean"
- Dan Zanes - "Wonderwheel"
- Glen Phillips - "Have a Little Fun With Me"
- John Ondrasik - "The Hoppity Song"
- Billy Bragg w/Wilco - "My Flying Saucer"
- Darius Rucker - "It's All Right to Cry"
- Ivy - "Sing"
- Remy Zero - "Bright Eyes"
- Dan Wilson - "Willie the King"
- Bleu - "Snow Day"
- Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk - "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
- Sixpence None the Richer - "Goodnight Children Everywhere"
- Tom Waits - "Bend Down the Branches"