It’s been quite a year. Big changes are coming to the Kids Can Groove household (to be revealed shortly!). While I’ve been busy on the home front, lots has been happening in the world of kids’ music and it is time to catch up on some excellent music videos.
Here are a few gems that have crossed my path recently, perfect to lovingly place in the back pocket of your favorite jeans. Or in any pocket you have handy.
“Smiles Are Contagious” – Bobby Beetcut While this isn’t Bobby Beetcut’s latest video (see “Energy” from Up in A Tree), “Smiles Are Contagious” is a catchy, timely contrast to the anxiety-producing (and frown-inducing) nature of current events. “What you put out comes back to you. When you feel love, you see that it’s true.” The video offers a powerful message behind a simple, yet equally powerful, gesture.
“Cousin Party” – Karen K Next up is some sweet country flare by Karen Kalafatas (of Karen K & the Jitterbugs) with a song and accompanying video that capture the joy and mischief of hanging with your ancestral brethren. “Cousin Party” is the second single release from Kalafatas’ bold solo effort, The Blue Bike Chronicles, which is meant to reach the more evolved, mature pre-tweenage crew. The single runs like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” but without the Louisville Slugger and automobile fury. You’ll dig it, as will your pre-tween.
“Love Light Shine” – KB Whirly & Mista Cookie Jar Sometimes in music, you get collaborations that seem to be written in the stars, and you wonder, “What took them so long?” So it is with the gelling of KB Whirly and Mista Cookie Jar, two soul-fueled, super funktified, multifaceted kids’ music masters. They are so very well paired and really smooth. “Love Light Shine” was produced by Patrick Hanlin of Josh and the Jamtones and the result is a groovy vibe with far-out visuals that just makes you feel allll kinds of good.
“Lemonade” – Justin Roberts What happens when life hands you lemons? You dress them up and cast them in your video “Lemonade.” The latest release from Justin Roberts’ forthcoming album of the same name, “Lemonade” celebrates the nostalgia and refreshment on the dog days of summer and the tradition of setting up a stand to earn your first dollars. Justin’s delightful style echoes that of Paul Simon, both in his lyrical wit and his on-screen demeanor. A real treat to watch.
“Dream Too Much” – Amy Lee Amy Lee is known in the grown-up world as the golden voice of Evanescence (see “Bring Me To Life”). Now, after having a child of her own, she has partnered with Amazon Music to premiere her debut album for kids. The album’s first single, “Dream Too Much,” peeks into the surreal landscape of a child’s dream world, complete with animated paper imagery (such as flying sandwiches and jellyfish). The song’s mantra “there’s no way you can dream too much” gives kids (and parents) permission to let their imagination run free and wild because “once in a while you’ll have dreams that come true.”
“Dance Like There’s Music In Your Pants” – Sara Lovell Bay Area artist Sara Lovell encourages all happy feet to get on up and dance. Just like singing, moving your body is a therapeutic way to express yourself and lift your mood. Whether you’re dancing in your room, with your kids or friends, give this video a whirl and get ready to shake it. “Dance Like There’s Music in Your Pants” also features a special guest appearance by the son of Tommy Shepherd, Jr. (Alphabet Rockers).
Telling my daughter “the sky’s the limit” feels powerful. Honoring her ideas and imagining all the possibilities with her creates moments that I hope feed her soul and open up her field of vision to look beyond the obstacles. And if an obstacle pops up, my wish is that she’ll know it’s neither the end of the story nor the end of the world. It’s just a bump on the road to reaching her goal.
The real reward, after all, isn’t “winning” or “nailing that project” but what we’ve learned along the way. How we pushed through the moments of frustration and desperation. And how we got stronger and more self-assured for all the sweat and angst. That’s what I want my daughter to know. It takes patience to fulfill your dreams and take action on brilliant ideas and it just isn’t easy sometimes. But the gold at the end of that rainbow is worth it.
LA-based group Mista Cookie Jar and The Chocolate Chips (MCJ) are one of the biggest champions of bringing positive messages into households. This family ensemble is eager to reach young, developing minds and to inspire thinkers, dreamers, and those of us young at heart.
Today I am proud to premiere the first video in a series of video releases this week celebrating MCJ’s forthcoming album, Music is Everywhere (release date: March 11, 2016).
“Hold on to Your Dreams” is an all-natural fam jam that calls attention to a critical part of the dream equation. The act of encouraging kids to hold on to and follow their dreams is a big piece, and the love and support we offer as parents is the charge in the formula that gives our kids the surge to “keep goin’, keep holdin’ on.” To travel carefully over each bump.
Role models come in all forms and MCJ and the Chocolate Chips are making their mark. In just over a year, they have written 13 songs (one song per month) as well as produced their own videos. In “Hold On To Your Dreams” and with their forthcoming release of new songs and previously released singles this group has become a shining example of what it means to persevere. They have done it as a family, showing that having a solid family foundation fuels the flames that lead to glorious results. And that makes it all worth it in the end.
Keep up with Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips this week through their official site, FB page and Twitter. You can also subscribe to their YouTube channel to get updates on new video releases. Below is a brief interview with Mista Cookie Jar about this week’s plans and a brief behind the scenes look the making and meaning of “Hold On To Your Dreams.”
KCG: Tell us a bit about how the song and video cam about. How did you start making music with Tembra and Lyrin?
MCJ: Our friend Tembra and her daughter Lyrin have been in the Chocolate Chip crew from the very beginning. Lyrin is like a cousin to my kids, Ava and Lucas. They grew up together. Tembra is childhood friends with Jenna aka Missis Cookie Jar. “Hold On To Your Dreams” has been around for years, honed and crafted over late night jam sessions and bonfires. Tembra and Lyrin moved up to the redwoods a few years ago from LA, so we’ve continued the tradition of family sing-a-longs and camping when we go up north to visit them in. This video captures the spirit of enjoying the wonders of nature in Northern Cali with friends and family. Cell service is terrible so it’s a nice treat to have some phone detox QT with the whole fam bam.
KCG: The album and this song particular has a real “lived-in” vibe. I’m sure this has a bit to do with your song-a-month mission and EP release. Can you tell us a bit about your songwriting/recording process?
MCJ: Our new album, Music is Everywhere,has an organic quality to it which I believe is something to appreciate. It’s this soulful approach to playing music that is becoming a rare bird, especially for younger tech-savvy generations. I’m happy to toss my hat in the ring and go back to the roots — especially before I switch it up again with some banging beats!
KCG: What’s in store for this week?
MCJ: Everyday this week, Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips will be dropping 5 new music videos – one new on each day – leading up to the world premiere of our 3rd album, Music is Everywhere. This release process was totally inspired by the marketing stunt for Weird Al’s last album release. We wanted to really make the new album an event, ya know? I’m excited to share all the videos! Don’t wanna give too much away, but there is some claymation, some ballet, some live stuff and even cutting edge 360 video technology — you know, where you either have one of those Oculus head sets or you just move your phone around or scroll with your finger to see the YouTube vid in 3D.
The songs on Music is Everywherehave mostly all been released as singles or on an EP during my single-a-month run this past year. But there will be a couple brand spanking new tracks on the record — one of which will be released with a video on the same day of the album release.
Music is Everywhere will be premiering March 11, 2016 on Zooglobble. Stay tuned via the aforementioned links to get the latest and greatest updates.
Friends and random acquaintances routinely ask me, “Why do you listen to kids’ music?” I’ve asked myself the same question many times.
In poking through my Top 20 albums of 2015, an answer snuck up on me: the joy of music discovery. To be presented with and to explore new music is exhilarating –like discovering a whole new color or flavor. Sharing this passion with my daughter Emily (now 7 years old) is great fun and such a bonding experience. She is growing, and the music is growing with her.
For me, music discovery is more than just the songs at face value. It’s uncovering the stories behind the music; it’s connecting with the music makers and understanding the magical, teeny bits of real life, of real people that make the album art come alive. The artists that make up the kids’ music genre are welcoming and supportive and it’s been a pleasure to dive into what drives their creativity and thus, bring their stories to life. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again! A time filled with anticipation and excitement for the recording arts industry. As the 58th Annual Grammy® Awards get closer, so does the annual children’s Grammy nominees benefit concert. This event is always exciting as it brings a rare opportunity to see award-winning artists from around the U.S. perform under one roof. And it’s open to the public! For families looking for a special Valentine’s Day gift this is a sweet treat to indulge in for the little music lovers in your life (and for yourself, really).
This year’s list of Grammy® nominees for Best Children’s Album is unique because all five are independent artists representing a nice variety of styles including jazz, indie-pop, folk, and even bilingual Latin American. See below for more info on the artists, as well as a special Grammy playlist! Continue reading →
For the past couple of years, our family has been taking little weekend trips during Thanksgiving. Our extended family is scattered throughout the United States so we typically focus the rest of our holidays and travel efforts on visits with them. This Thanksgiving, we spent some time at Legoland in San Diego. While we were waiting on line for the 4D Legends of Chima movie, we met a family who has been coming to Legoland every Thanksgiving for the past 12 years. Chuckling, as he was talking about family holiday plans, the dad said “I know we’re crazy but we love it. It’s just what we do.” What he said didn’t strike me as crazy, though.
Family traditions are special and memorable, and quickly become beloved habits. They form bonds, are reliable, and give children a sense of ownership and something to look forward to. It made me happy to think that traveling with just my husband and my daughter could turn into a special holiday tradition for us.
Our family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas. Chanukah brings songs of peace and celebration as we light the menorah. With regard to Christmas, we prep in our own home by playing the CD A Charlie Brown Christmas as soon as our tree is up. No decorating takes place until the music is playing. It’s simply something that sets the tone, and gets us in the mood for the holidays. We also visit with our extended family for Christmas, and watch as Em wakes up to find filled stockings and gifts under the tree. In the evening, we launch into a post-dinner dance party battle. It’s a rager and it’s so fun! No surprise that music is the centerpiece of our holiday celebrations.
Sharing stories of tradition and hearing from the family during our Legoland trip, added a feeling of connection and another element of joy for me this holiday season. It was a nice reminder that amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, there are sweet, sentimental moments to be grateful for. Besides, it’s always fun to hear other people’s stories.
As an addition to holiday music posts, today’s post features friends and artists sharing their holiday traditions from their own childhood, things they do with their families now, and of course some music. Continue reading →
I was decorating our tree with my daughter Emily the other night and when I heard her singing along with “Frosty the Snowman” it seemed like everything was quiet in that moment. Music is such a significant part of the holiday season and it never goes out of style. This year brings another great bunch of variety to add to your classics. They also make excellent holiday gifts/stocking stuffers! Giving the gift of music is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy!
Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidayscontains 9 tracks that start from Halloween and end with New Years. What I love most are the combination of musical styles and the creative approach this Virignina-based trio takes towards traditional tunes. In many ways they remind me of They Might Be Giants. “Christmas Brie,” for example, features some punny dialogue around the words “Christmas Tree” and is layered over some Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz. The Peanuts quality of this song goes well with the album cover which also reminds me a bit of scenes from the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. “The Dreidel Song” honors a traditional Chanukah game and “Wenceslas” echoes all the gratitude, love and giving of the season with a memorable story set to the toll of beloved holiday bells. Happy Holidays will help you glide through the last quarter of the year and send you happily sailing into the coming new year.
A huge part of Jewish tradition is centered around music – song, and especially dance. Each one significantly contributes to the practice of traditions and observance. So the fact that Josh and the Jamtones, known for their high energy kindie jams, put out an album that promises to be a “Holiday Xxplosion” (double X for Xtra Large fun!) just makes sense, and is awesome. Though there are plenty of songs for Jewish families out there, the Jamtones bring a hip, cohesive alternative to the fold.Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is a collection of 14 songs in both English and Hebrew. The prayer for peace, “Oseh Shalom” sounds even more on point backed by some equally harmonious reggae rhythm, while the more secular “Amen,” a Bluegrassy/Big Band track encourages gratitude in a bold way. “Amen” is such a joyful song, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself engaged with this song while clapping along. Chanukah specific songs include a rollicking ska-drenched version of “Oh Chanukah” – super danceable for those ready to turn their living room into a mad Horah dance party – and a swingin’ version of “Dreidle.” Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 offers families a one-stop destination ready for a happy set of celebrations throughout the year. We are a family that celebrates both Christmas and Jewish holidays and having an album with popular Jewish songs all in one place has been an especially welcome convenience.
Andrew & Polly– Other Days
Representing the West Coast is the wonderfully warm duo of Andrew & Polly. They are offering up a sweet little gift of 4 songs celebrating tradition and family. As a bonus gift, the duo teamed up with master collaborator Mista Cookie Jar in “L.A. Christmas” which delights with festively mellow sun and sand style. Together they remind us that regardless of whether you’ve got pine trees or palm trees (or are rockin’ a Hawaiian shirt), this is simply the season to fill up on love and just sway together. The beauty of Other Days is that it truly can persist beyond the holiday season. Though half of the songs include holiday specific references, “Thank You for the Box” and “A Mapmaker’s Song” go beyond the boundaries of this time of year, and feature what makes Andrew & Polly so lovable – a little whimsy and a whole lotta charm. Ending with “A Mapmaker’s Song,” families will relate to the sentiment that home truly is where the heart is.
Greg Page, otherwise known as The Yellow Wiggle, has embarked on a solo path with a new production group called Yellow Entertainment and a children’s program called Butterscotch’s Playground (available through DVD ). Just in time for the holidays, Page has produced a holiday album full of original and traditional songs which display vocal chops that easily put him in even footing with some of the holiday’s best crooners. Page’s voice, like Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and even Ol’ Blue Eyes, is full of the same smooth characteristics that have made the aforementioned notables significant voices of the season. Here Comes Christmas! will be nostalgic for adults reminiscing on their own childhood traditions while gleefully making new memories with little ones to reflect back upon when they are grown. Beloved tunes such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” among other favorites found in this collection are why music has become such a staple for invoking the holiday spirit. The arrangements are preserved to the tee for the most part, although “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets wild and wooly as it features guinea pigs, goldfish and puppy dogs with a bonus of goat’s milk (which is made into…well, you’ll have to listen to find out! No holiday spoilers here!). Among the aforementioned albums in this post Here Comes Christmas! is a comforting and familiar place to return to, just like coming in from the cold and being handed a warm mug of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. This is definitely an album you can just spin while gleefully trimming your Christmas tree. Every now and then you might just catch yourself singing along and then smiling as you look around and see your little ones joining you in the chorus.
Here Comes Christmas! also contains 4 bonus songs from Butterscotch’s Playground and is available from iTunes and the official Butterscotch TV website.
One of the most iconic soundtracks of the season is The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration is truly prized and unforgettable.
Adapted and conducted by Stephen Simon and narrated by Jim Weiss, Maestro Classics presents music (performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra) that tells the story of this enchanting ballet.
This retelling of The Nutcracker is punctuated by the majestic sounds of the ballet in the background. Jim is a master storyteller and his enthusiastic narration will adorn children’s imaginations with lavish scenes full of wonder featuring Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the battle with the Mouse King, and the dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker will always conjure up feelings of Christmas and this album is truly an excellent gift of the season. Maestro Classics is dedicated to fostering a love of classical music and their storytelling series will help children pair important works with time honored soundtracks, thereby identifying with the music (independent of the story) later on. Combining a story with the music also serves as a great resource for children who may not already be familiar with or who may not prefer classical music or songs without words.
Each CD set comes with an activity booklet which includes bite-sized educational features such as The History of Ballet, a few lines of music for “Overture to The Nutcracker,” information about the Harp, a brief bio of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and some word games. In addition to The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics offers other timeless pieces as part of their Stories in Music series which brings the magic of theater, classical music and storytelling into a very accessible space for families, whether you are listening at home, or traveling in the car.
The following songs are from one of our favorite holiday albums, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which features a mix of Christmas, Chanukah and seasonal songs. “Candle Chase” has a nice rhythm similar to the beat found in many Jewish songs. Perfect for celebrating around the brilliant glow of your menorah.
Laurie recently came out with a new video for “Children Go Where I send Thee” which also features 2-time Grammy nom Brady Rymer. It’s such an infectious version of this classic song which is featured on an equally heartwarming and upbeat album. You’ll love it. “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is featured on both A Laurie Berkner Christmas andLaurie’s recently releasedLaurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.
Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmashere.
As a native of New Jersey, and a resident of California, the sounds of this song, and seeing Santa give the shaka (aka “hang ten”) sign makes me smile. Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam’s new holiday track, “Summertime Santa” rings with jingle bells and some good ol’ Jersey Rock n’ Roll. So what does Santa do in the summertime? He hangs up his big red winter coat, and heads down the shore to unwind, basking in the glory of all that the boardwalk has to offer. Didner and the crew conjure up some classic Springsteen sounds with this happy holiday number. Check it.
A good blend of original and traditional tunes keeps the music of this season feeling fresh. Each one of the albums and videos mentioned in this post, as well as those from previous years, is guaranteed to fill you up over the coming holi-days!
You know, you become an artist, you become an observer of life, and you digest life by making art about it. – Liz Phair
Life inspires art. And it’s pretty cool to witness the inspirational evolution of a musical artist especially when it fills a gap in the world’s musical jukebox. Boston singer-songwriter Karen Kalafatas, leader of Karen K & the Jitterbugs, is branching into solo territory and breaking ground with her new series The Blue Bike Chronicles, inspired by her daughter, Becca, and vivid memories of her own childhood.
Still working in parallel with the Jitterbugs, Kalafatas is journeying into new creative turf as she witnesses and processes the shifts in her 8-year-old daughter, the changes she needs to make as a parent to an older child, and the mirror that reflects her own 8-year-old self.
The kids’ music genre is expanding to include a broader range of ages. But still there aren’t many songs with lyrics that ring true to the experiences and emotions of the “in-betweener” age. This pre-tween 7 to 9-year-old crew is making a major leap from early childhood to, well, middle childhood. They’re straddling the space between the safety and comfort of cuddling up with mom and dad and the instinct to break free and take life by the reins. Through The Blue Bike Chronicles, Kalafatas boldly directs her artistry toward crafting songs that speak to and nurture this magical in-between stage.
There’s so much heart in this series; accompanying the songs is a short story, vulnerable and real – Kalafatas’ nostalgic recollection of a bittersweet childhood moment that begins with “Lucy had a blue bike.” The story transports you to that innocent age when what matters most is your best friend. Friendships forge lasting memories, and moving away from your best friend is one of the worst things that can ever happen. Kalafatas poignantly reinforces how young minds connect emotionally with the world.
“We spent nearly all of our time together – playing spy in the grassy field near the middle of the [Army] Base; reading books with our backs on the cold ground, knees up, and our faces to the sky; buying candy from the Candy Man with our hard-earned spare change (think ice cream truck, only candy); and riding our bikes.
“As it happens with moves, nothing was running on schedule. And if we were going to make our plane back to the States, we had to leave. Without a goodbye. Without Lucy.
…I was heartbroken.”
The story beautifully sets the backdrop for The Blue Bike Chronicles and the gentle weaving of perspectives from childhood to parenthood and back again.
“My daughter is eight now, the same age I was when I met Lucy. She is full of wonder and joy and amusement, and sometimes sorrow and pain. And in her presence I am reminded that we, as parents, as adults, as humans big and small…we are all on a journey to find those moments of joy. Of connection. Those moments of reading on our backs while tasting the sugary sweets of candy and friendship. Those moments that take us back to the very best of ourselves, wrapped up warm and comfortable in our childhood memories. Those moments of Lucy.
My road has taken me many places, and I’m still riding, still looking for the next adventure around the corner. My daughter is too. And I hope one day she’ll look back and remember ‘a blue bike’ and the girl who rode it, the childhood love who lives on in the mind’s eye and heart. Waving furiously. Reminding her to take those precious moments and memories along, blessed companions, as she bravely peddles her way into the future.”
Let’s face it; every stage of childhood embodies a particular magic. The beauty of the pre-tween stage is that these kids are still young enough to enjoy music that appeals to their vivid imaginations, but are on the cusp of using their imaginations less and less in juvenile ways. They are becoming more independent, self-aware, thoughtful and intentional mini adults. But family time is still appreciated, secrets are still shared, social status is not even a blip on the radar and the world is still filled with wonder. What they hear and see adds substance to what they understand as reality, but the lines between imagination and reality are still a bit blurry. With The Blue Bike Chronicles, Kalafatas creates a moving narrative that grows along with her daughter, and captures the essence of this stage with memories they can share together.
The best part? The musical quality rivals the “Top of the Pops.” This is pretty boss because the gap that needs to be filled for this “in-between” stage is pretty darn big. The Blue Bike Chronicles elegantly weaves together themes about Family (with “Cousins Party”) and Connection (with a rendition of “I’ll Stand By You”) in a playful and powerful way that keeps pace with the catchy pop music sounds and styles that are so attractive – and addictive – to kids.
It’s complicated because pop music isn’t all bad, right? On the one hand, there’s certainly value in songs like Beyonce’s “Girls Rule the World” or T-Swift’s “Shake It Off.” On the other hand, I want my own 7-year-old daughter to be able to relate to lyrics that help her understand herself better and the emotions that go along with entering and navigating a bigger, more mature world. But who doesn’t need a song for those belt-it-out diva moments with your invisible microphone? It’s true that the world can be a pretty scary place, but the last thing I need is for her thinking that twerking makes it all better (it doesn’t, right?).
Like books, music helps us gain a sense of self and offers us space to feel. Through this new creative venture, Kalafatas reveals herself as both a musician and an author, seeking connection by sharing her beautiful story with both her daughter, and girls her daughter’s age, to create long lasting memories. That is priceless.
The series’ first single, “Without You,” officially releases today and it’s a pop masterpiece. It’s crafted with all the ingredients of a radio-ready pop song, but with meaningful lyrics that express two perspectives: that of an 8-year-old ready to bust out of school and cavort on the playground, and that of a parent going through the motions of their own busy day while thinking about their child at school. I challenge any parent to listen to the song and not be moved by the way the two come together in the end. The parallel universe drawn between parent and child is so relatable – it gave me goosebumps.
“Without You” easily rivals the best of any Disney theme music. In my mind, I’ve already cast it as the intro to a new TV show. Maybe a “dramedy,” spilling over with friendship and laughter and confident young girls exploring the ups and downs of their world. In a real way.
The Blue Bike Chronicles is a love letter to the tender “in-between” stage. Join the ride and receive a free download of “Without You” by subscribing to The Blue Bike Chronicles.Starting today, for $20 you will become a VIP Blue Bike member eligible to receive a new song a month for 8 months – between now and end of school year (“8” for Becca’s age, too). The bonus: a free album containing all of the singles at the end of your adventure in Summer 2016.