After I listened to and watched Big Block Singsong’s album (Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits) and DVD (Big Block Singsong Volume One) a couple times, my first question was “Why have I not heard of these before?” I initially assumed that the fact it was a (relatively new) Disney Junior show meant that I was just out of the TV loop.
Turns out that the delightful series of 2-minute music videos date back to 2009, when Canadian illustrator Warren Brown and composer Adam Goddard (now Goddard/Brown) first unleashed Big Box Singsong, as it was then known, onto the world. (No such thing as an overnight sensation, right?) So I have nobody to blame but myself for not knowing about the videos until their move to CBC, Disney Junior, and Nick Jr. in the UK and inevitable worldwide conquest. Now there are 59 videos, 49 of which are the Season 1 pile which provide the 24 songs drawn for the album and DVD. I, for one, welcome our new big block overlords.
What’s the concept? Each video episode is about 2 minutes long and features an animated rectangular block with big eyes and mouth singing about a topic, usually themselves. “Monkey”? A gray-brown block with long arms singing about all the things he’s going to do meaning that it’s going to be a “two-banana day.” It’s almost a celebration. “Octopus”? A red-brown block with eight tiny dangling legs. The songs run the genre gamut, from folk (“Monkey”) to AutoTuned funk (“Sleep”) to Smile-era Beach Boys (“Nose”) to Queen (“Junk Food”). The lyrics have a light touch and a sense of humor, with very little didactic “do this” guidance.
The videos are inherently humorous (it’s a square monkey, after all), but the lyrics sometimes offer opportunities for visual jokes. You don’t need the visuals to enjoy the music, but there are definitely some videos (“Sleep,” for one) that add an extra layer of enjoyment. While there's a unified animation style, of course, the different video and song concepts mean that if your kid is bored with one song, hang on, there'll be an entirely different one on shortly.
The music and videos are most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 6, but both music and videos (especially the videos) will probably tickle the funnybone of kids (and adults) considerably older than that. The album and DVD are each roughly 45 minutes in length (with the DVD available with a French-language option of course). You can get a complete list of places to watch the videos here, which includes the kid-friendly Disney Junior page.
The most difficult question may be, “if I get only one, which do I get?” Sixteen of the songs including “Nose,” Sleep” and “Mad” are on both the album and DVD. The advantage of the DVD is that you get the visuals in a format that doesn’t require an internet connection. The advantage of the album is that you get the incredibly-awesome “Princess,” a track which doesn’t appear on the DVD, and, potentially, portability via CD or mp3 player. If you don’t need multiple languages on the video, the cheapest and perhaps the easiest combination might be to get the standard-definition version of the 24 videos on the DVD via iTunes for just $6.99 and download “Princess” as an individual mp3 track.
So, yeah, I’m late to the party, but better late than never. Big Block Singsong is ten tons of fun. After listening and watching, your kids’ll probably have a two-banana day, too. Both the album and the DVD are highly recommended.
Note: I received an electronic copy of the album and physical copy of the DVD for possible review.