As a music teacher working in an elementary school I always wondered what it would be like—and how I could work around—introducing a song by a band with a name like Barenaked Ladies."Boys and girls, I’d like to share a song today by the group called Barenaked Ladies. But they’re not really ladies or naked. Umm… what I mean is they are a group of guys from Canada who make some really great music and you’re going to love this song.” First would come the giggles and silliness from the students probably followed the next day by an e-mail from the principal who received an APPC (angry parent phone call).
Well, that situation may arise for some music teachers, because Barenaked Ladies released a great new kids’ album in May.
“Snacktime!” by Barenaked Ladies, Desperation Records, $11.99 CD, $15.98 CD and Children’s Book Combo, www.bnlmusic.com; ages 5-11.
BNL fans will be happy to know the band’s famous blend of humor, emotion and social awareness are all in play on this 24-song CD. They start out with"7 8 9,” a fully developed song around the classic kids’ riddle,"Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate (8) 9.” The band also collaborated with Emmy-nominated animator Nancy Lennert (“Blue’s Clues” and"Little Bill”) to create a hilarious western-themed video for the song. You can see the video at YouTube.com—just type"7 8 9″ in the search box.
Next comes"The Ninjas” with its perky and singable pop feel. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along:"The Ninjas are deadly and silent/They’re also unspeakably violent/They speak Japanese; do whatever they please/And if you tear off the masks they’ll be smiling.” This is a perfect example of how BNL craft their songs—lyrics about"deadly and silent” Ninjas are juxtaposed with an upbeat and melodic music track. Very clever!
The band’s skillful songwriting continues on the next track"Pollywog In A Bog.” There have been dozens of songs written about the amazing transformation of a pollywog, but I have yet to find one that captures the"educational” aspects so well while at the same time keeping the musical inventiveness a priority.
“Drawing” is a song that helps promote the educational nature of the process of creating art. This 1:44-minute song gets right to the point and supports the state of imagination. Here’s an example:"There’s a spaceship over my house at night I just know it. I just know it./With my imagination I can see it. With my pencils I can draw it./On a piece of paper I can show it to you.” Again, I can think of scores of songs for kids that address imagination, but the band shows that it actually takes a little imagination to write a song about imagination.
And that leads us to"Crazy ABC’s.” The band’s true artistry shines again as they take an overdone concept and make it fresh and new. Here the band decides that their alphabet song ought to feature words that do not sound like their first letter. For instance,"A is for Aisle, B is for Bdellium, C is for Czar.” And they don’t just throw them out there for the listener, they often take time to playfully explain and define some of the trickier words. And as good parents and teachers know, slipping educational content in through the back door is a great strategy.
When asked in an interview on ChicagoParent.com what prompted the band to venture into music for kids, BNL bass player Jim Creeggan replied,"We have a lot of kids. We’ve talked about it for awhile, and we’re at the point now where the oldest child of Ed is 11 and my daughter is 6 months, so it seemed like perfect timing.” Let’s just hope they get inspired again.
It is refreshing and exciting when true musical artists like Barenaked Ladies decide to release an album for children. Too many of today’s"children’s music artists” seem to be more interested in their careers and image than the quality of their music. But I digress. The important thing to note is that there are many more fun, creative and musically exciting songs on"Snacktime!” So be sure to stop by BNL’s Web site (www.bnlmusic.com) where you can buy the CD, the CD and Children’s Book Combo or download individual mp3 files of songs.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.