I absolutely love accidentally stumbling upon incredible new music – be it an artist, a song, or a cover I’ve never heard before – doing so is truly one of the bittersweet moments in life. On one hand there’s the euphoria that comes from the discovery, knowing that, personally, I’ve just tapped into a previously unknown vein of enjoyment. On the other hand there’s the dysphoria of acknowledging the staggering number of other musical discoveries out there that I’ll never make. I often lament the limited time and aural inputs the universe has given me, as they considerably hinder my ability to experience even an infinitesimally minuscule fraction of the amazing music that exists within it. However, I do digress.
Back in 2005, I had one such bittersweet accident when I spent the better part of a day searching my public library’s music catalog for every artist I currently had on my iPod. Being the completist that I am, I simply wanted to acquire all of available recordings of all of my favorite bands. That’s when, shortly before I realized such an endeavor is nigh futile, I stumbled across For the Kids.
Released in 2002, For the Kids is a 16 track compilation album of headlining artists either performing covers of classic children’s songs, or their own original kid-friendly tunes. From Cake to Barenaked Ladies, Tom Waits to Guster, Remy Zero to Sarah McLachlan, For the Kids is wall-to-wall awesome. On top of that, a portion of the proceeds from its U.S. sales benefit VH1’s incredibly important Save the Music Foundation, which helps purchase new musical instruments for public school music programs nationwide. If that’s not the typification of a win-win situation, then such a situation has never existed. Additionally, there are two more For the Kids albums, For the Kids Too! and For the Kids Three, that have been released, and I can’t wait to check them out!
Now, when it comes to children’s music, I believe all of it in the world can be divided into that which parents love and that which parents loath. Unfortunately for us parents, the latter division is considerably greater than the former, and the former itself contains an even smaller subset that is mutually agreeable with both parents and children. What is fortunate, however, is that For the Kids falls into that very tiny football-shaped sliver of this particular Venn diagram. Much like Here Comes Science, which I reviewed here, For the Kids will have you and your kids rocking out and signing along. Whether it’s Cake’s catchy cover of Piero Umilani’s Mah Nà Mah Nà or Billy Bragg and Wilco’s musical interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s previously unsung My Flying Saucer lyrics, there’s enough tempo to keep you tapping.
Of course, with the aforementioned Sarah McLachlan and Tom Waits, there are tracks that take the slow road too. McLachlan covers Rainbow Connection by everyone’s favorite frog and her rendition is both hopeful and haunting. While Waits lends his gravelly gift to his original lullaby Bend Down the Branches. Additonally, Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviasuk contribute the most beautiful damn version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star you’re ever likely to hear.
Typically on a compilation album with 16 tracks and as many artists, it would be easy to nitpick a few of them, but I honestly can’t find a single one that I’m not in love with. Some of them are silly, some of them are serious, and all of them are awesome. If you have kids, or even if you don’t, you seriously need to get your hands on a copy of this album. I hope after you’re done listening to it, the bitter is minimal and the sweet is maximal.