A while back, I stopped in to a record shop on the way to visit my family. I dug through the dollar bins and walked away with a record of lullaby versions of Jay-Z songs.
Here was “Hard Knock Life,” “Big Pimpin’” and “Heart of the City” stripped down to instrumentals and made with xylophones and tinny bells. The volume’s turned way down, perfect for bedtime.
How cute, I thought, and haven’t listened to it since.
I’ve been thinking about that record a lot lately since I had a baby. In my daughter’s first few months, we’ve focused on the big stuff: eating and sleeping, tummy time and talking. In the background through all of this has been music.
My husband and I are responsible for guiding this tiny human into the world. No pressure! Just as we’ll soon introduce her to foods that aren’t liquid, we’re also reading her books and poetry and showing her art. Eventually, that means watching movies with her. Right now, I’m wondering about how to DJ for a baby.
A sketch from “Portlandia” captures this so well. A group of parents gather in their preschool library.
One of the parents stands up and rails about the music found in the library. Some music needs to be banned from the preschool, he says, like Mike and the Mechanics.
What about “The Living Years” one of the dads asks. It’s a great song.
“What that is, is a gateway to other mediocre pop music,” the concerned dad’s partner says.
They go on to start a band that makes music for kids.
The parents in the skit are hilariously overly serious, yet one of the dad’s comments resonates.
“Our kids are sponges,” he says. “And when they leave here, what they listen to now will affect them for the rest of their lives.”
I think back to the time when I would check out the maximum number of books from the library as a kid. I was on my own to pick out my 12 books for the week. That meant I could read every vintage Nancy Drew book and choose your own adventure book on the shelves.
In hindsight though, I wish someone would have suggested something better than the Jackie Collins novels I burned through.
I’ve been thinking about music in the same way.
Lately, I’ve turned to WXPN for that station’s indie-ish variety of music and for Kids Corner.
We’ve had plenty of daytime dance parties, blasting Lizzo, Robyn or Tribe Called Quest. The “High Maintenance” playlists on Spotify are on heavy rotation, too.
She likes it all, even when I sing along off-key.
I know soon I’m going to have to start thinking twice about lyrics and language.
She’s far from sing-alongs, but I still want to introduce her to the music I love and give her the freedom to discover music that she loves.
But what if she loves Mike and the Mechanics? Just like those novels, maybe a good compromise is balancing Lucky Santangelo with something meatier.
One idea I like has you write the names of bands and artists onto slips of paper. Put them into a hat, and every week she draws one. That week, make that band your soundtrack.
Eventually, she’ll figure out what she likes.
Maybe that will be “Frozen” or the Wiggles. Maybe it will be Willie Nelson or Nina Simone.
In the meantime, I’m searching record store dollar bins for records we can discover together.
What are your suggestions for kids and music?