By Claire McMurray
My daughter and I spend a lot of time in the car together. Each week we go to the library to choose some new CDs to listen to as we drive, and each week I cringe in anticipation of what we will find. Occasionally, we stumble upon some enjoyable and entertaining choices that we both like. More often, however, my daughter nods enthusiastically along in the back seat while I contemplate knocking myself out on the dashboard and sinking into blessed unconsciousness. Before I became a mother I had no idea of the vast landscape of children’s music and the horrors it can present to its unsuspecting listeners. I now know better.
This is why I am launching an appeal to anyone in the children’s music industry willing to making our collective listening experiences less ear-splitting, gut-wrenching, and soul-sucking. On behalf of all parents who must listen to music with their children, I present the following list of what we beg you to ban immediately:
1. Off-Key Singing: There is nothing endearing about discordant warbling or tuneless screeching, even if done by children. This is why we leave music-making to the professionals.
2. Banter Before and After Songs: Little children already have the attention spans of gnats. Just get down to business and spare us all the needless chitchat in between the musical numbers.
3. Children Shout-Singing: When we push play and children begin bellowing at us at the volume of mating elephants, we know there is only one thing to do: pretend the song is “broken” and subtly skip to the next one. Music should soothe the soul, not make the hair stand on end.
4. Adults Singing Like Children: There is no need for a musician to disguise her voice, pretending to be three-year-old Polly singing about her dolly. Just let the adults sing like the trained, skilled experts that they are.
5. Invented Songs About Broccoli, Bubble Gum, Homework, etc.: Some contemporary songs that aren’t “classics” can be inventive, fun, catchy, and enjoyable. But we’re talking about maybe five percent of all new songs written for kids. The vast majority of them really add nothing to the canon. They simply cover inane subjects like smelly armpits and ear boogers or overdone topics such as homework, clingy younger siblings, and yucky vegetables.
6. People Singing in a Fake British Accent: This is as obnoxious in a song as it is at a Renaissance festival. There is nothing wrong with hiring actual British people to sing or with simply recording American versions of these ditties for those of us who live in the New World.
7. Lullaby Baby Versions of Songs We Used to Think Were Cool: Nothing makes us feel more dated than finding that our once-favorite bands, like Nirvana, have ended up as sleep aids for screaming newborns. Thank you, music industry, for reminding us how old and uncool we have become.
I’m sure that I sound like a real grouch by now. However, I assure you that most of us occasionally enjoy listening to music with our children. It’s can be a fun way to bond together, and there are some truly wonderful choices out there: classics passed down over the centuries, songs with toe-tapping rhythms and evocative lyrics, music from other cultures and traditions, and pieces that remind us of the true delights of childhood. It’s just that we have to weed through so much junk to find these gems. If there is anything to be done to facilitate our weeding, we beg you to do it. We are, after all, half of your listener base. If you afford us some consideration and respect, we promise you our eternal gratitude.
And who knows? We might even begin singing along.
About the Author
Claire works at the writing center of a Midwestern university. In her free time she enjoys playing with her young daughter, kickboxing, running a book club for mothers, and writing about parenting.