Earlier today, Maggie wanted music do dance around the living room to. So I put on a playlist I keep called “Maggie”. This playlist contains all the children’s music on my computer — Raffi, Rockabye Baby, and so on — together with a random assortment of songs that Maggie has previously shown herself to enjoy.
At some point during our marathon dance session, there was this:
Mixed into the playlist of kids music for Maggie, there is Lady Gaga. I wonder how Maggie will perceive Gaga’s music once she’s grown.
— Mr Topp (@mrtopp) March 3, 2013
This got me thinking: what is kid’s music?
I’m not sure I have an answer. For me, kid’s music is divided into three categories:
- Music produced with the intention that kid’s listen to it.
- Nursery rhymes & lullabies.
- Music I associate with childhood.
I’m not a fan of the first category; it seems to be made up of songs which nobody would buy for themselves, but are expected to buy for their children. And outside of two songs (Twinkle, twinkle little star and Teddy Bears’ Picnic), Maggie seems to prefer music made “for adults” to that made with children in mind.
The second category is hard to separate from the first, but I do so for three reasons:
- The songs tend to be traditional.
- The songs tend to be short.
- They tend to be sung by parents, rather than played recordings.
There is something nice about these short rhymes that everybody knows, sung by a parent. They connect childhood to childhood.
It’s the third category that I find most interesting. Because the songs I associate with childhood go beyond the Raffi and the nursery rhymes. It’s filled with pop songs from the late 50s and early 60s, and it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I realised that my childhood had not been spent listening to children’s music, but rather the songs that my mother liked from when she was a pre-teen and a teenager.
And as a kid, it was these songs that I would listen to repeatedly. I thought they were for kids — for instance the sountrack to Stand By Me was surely in our house because Stand By Me was a movie with kids in it, so they were kid’s songs. Right?
In fact, the album is full of big hits from when my Mom was 12 years old, written for adults. Or at least teens and tweens (which is really the target audience for most popular music). It’s like a movie coming out now (or in 2016) where the soundtrack is basically The Greatest Hits of 1989 (or at least A Bunch of Awesome Songs: 1987-1992). I would totally buy that. My Mom totally bought that. And those songs are the soundtrack of my childhood now; kid’s music.
All of which makes me wonder why we waste money on kid’s music — music that we don’t particularly want to listen to. Maggie likes it, to be sure, but she likes the things we like better.
And I’m pretty sure that one day she’ll hear Lady Gaga and Beyonce singing Telephone, and think it’s a fun song for kids.