Better Late Than Never: 2016 Children's Grammy Nominee Reviews

One of the embarrassing things about writing about the nominees for the 59th Annual Grammy Award for Best Children's Album is that even though I did so in late January 2017, many months after the 5 nominated albums were released, I had only reviewed one of the 5 nominees, Frances England's Explorer of the World.

So while I'm transitioning out of more intensive review mode into something... else, I did want to make sure I added a few words about each of these nominees.

As I went back and listened to these albums, or at least these following four albums, I was struck by the idea that these albums weren't necessarily albums that took incredible creative leaps beyond what the artists had done before.  Instead, these albums are good examples of the type of music some of kindie's most popular and consistent artists have to offer.

RecessMonkeyNovelties.jpg

Let's start with the act that's been the most prolific for the longest time, Seattle trio Recess Monkey.  The biggest -- and really only -- novelty of Novelties, the band's 13th (!) album, is the fact that it was released on Amazon Music and can only be purchased or streamed there.  Aside from that, it's another  solid collection of pop-rock songs pitched at your favorite ever-so-slightly snarky 7-year-old.  Yes, the song "Sweaty Yeti" is every bit as silly as that title might suggest.  Compared to other albums of theirs like Desert Island DiscNovelties dials up the clown prince factor, and dials down the emotional factor which, while never prevalent, sometimes played a supporting role.  But this is immediately identifiable as a Recess Monkey album and given the large role the band has played in encouraging other kindie musicians and their consistency (13 albums in, like, 12 years), the Grammy nomination was deserved.

BradyRymerPressPlay.jpg

Next we have Press Play, from New York's Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could.  If Recess Monkey's calling card has been silliness and high energy, Rymer's has been emotionally open roots rock, and he's been offering it for even longer than Recess Monkey, albeit at not quite as frenetic a pace.  (Press Play is Rymer's eighth album for families, dating back to the year 2000.)  Rymer sings unironically about the virtues of trying new things, being kind, and the blessings of family.  They're the kind of sentiments that, stripped of Rymer's energetic singing and his harmony-filled Little Band That Could, could feel cheesy or trite.  But Rymer's music has always managed to move past that and make those valuable notions on tracks like the country-tinged "Dress in Blue" and the horn-and-organ-aided "Chain Reaction" fun to dance to.  Rymer earned another Grammy nomination for Press Play, and it's because his music usually goes down as comfortable as a plate of burger and fries in the hometown diner the band is posing in an album photo.  

OkeeDokeeBrothersSaddleUp.jpg

The only one of this year's nominees who had previously won a Grammy (for Can You Canoe?), The Okee Dokee Brothers, came back with the final album in their three-part "Adventure Album series," Saddle Up.  As you can probably guess from the title, after traveling down the Mississippi River and up the Appalachian Trail, this time the duo went out west, spending a month on horseback in June 2015.  So there's more of a cowboy theme to their music, though I wouldn't describe this album as the boys going full Riders in the Sky.  As with the album's two predecessors, this album gently weaves a few more traditional songs (such as "Ragtime Cowboy Joe") into the originals.  One of the niftiest tracks is "Sister Moon and Brother Sun," which features Navajo lyrics on a story with Native American roots -- its mere presence on a "Western" album is, if not groundbreaking, at least noteworthy for its relative rarity.  The album features a slick DVD, and while the boys didn't earn another Grammy for this one, I think the three Adventure albums are definitely one of the most critically (and, comparatively, commercially) successful trio of kids' albums of the 21st century.  Fans of the Okee Dokee Brothers would likely have taken this just as much to heart as their two previous albums.

SecretAgent23SkidooInfinityPlusOne.jpg

Last on this list of reviews is the actual Grammy winner this year, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a previous nominee and first-time winner for Infinity Plus One.  Skidoo continues to be the most vibrant practitioner of hip-hop for the younger set -- nobody else is as consistently intricate lyrically and musically.  I don't think Infinity Plus One is quite as... weird as its predecessor The Perfect Quirk, but it is far out, man.  Literally.  Because as you might guess from the album art, Skidoo's got a serious deep space vibe going on here.  A song like "Pillowfight Pillowfort" seems in the distant past at this point.  I'd say the whole album is more space-inspired than space-themed (the killer track "Secret Superhero" isn't really about space, for example), but in more than a couple places he proves to be a huge Carl Sagan fan.

As always, one of the secret weapons of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo albums' high repeat listenability is the depth of the musical arrangements.  You might hear "hip hop" in terms of the album description and think there's no connection with, say, Brady Rymer's roots-rock, but tracks like "Young Soul" and "Long Days & Short Years" would not sound out of place at all on Rymer's album.  (Actually, can we get a Skidoo/Rymer collaboration?  Thanks in advance.)  Infinity Plus One is a very solid collection of songs targeted more at the upper elementary school crowd, and while I think any of Skidoo's albums are a worthy entry point to his work for your family, this newly Grammy-crowned work is definitely an excellent place to start.  I'd recommend all these albums -- hopefully I've given enough clues to suggest which might be most appropriate if you're entirely new to kids music.

FrancesEnglandExplorerOfTheWorld.jpg

Very finally, I would be remiss if I didn't re-remind you of the review I did for Frances England's Explorer of the World, the other album nominated in this category.  I described it as "more experimental than most kids music," and if the four albums above are more refinements of the artists' individual artistic paths, I think Explorer shows off England's exploration (appropriately enough) of new paths, particularly in the music arrangements.  Tracks like "City Don't Sleep" feature sonic collages featuring everything but (and probably including) the kitchen sink.  This album was every bit as worthy a Grammy nominee as the four albums above, and I just didn't want you to forget about it as you were considering the albums above.

 

59th Grammy Award Nominations for Best Children's Album

... or, as I call it, the final victory of kindie.

Last month, the nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards were announced, and while I continue to be less than completely convinced of the value of Grammy awards for kids music, there's no doubt that the awards are still considered a Big Deal throughout the recorded music industry, kids' musicians included.

First, let's list the five nominees in the category of Best Children's Album:

Explorer of the World cover

Explorer of the World cover

Explorer of the World

Frances England

Frances England Music

Infinity Plus One cover

Infinity Plus One cover

Infinity Plus One

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Underground Records

Novelties album cover

Novelties album cover

Novelties

Recess Monkey

Recess Monkey

Press Play cover

Press Play cover

Press Play

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Bumblin' Bee Records

Saddle Up cover

Saddle Up cover

Saddle Up

The Okee Dokee Brothers

Okee Dokee Music

 

The Grammy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 12 -- the biggest awards in the evening, the rest of the awards (including this category) that afternoon.  And unlike most of the nominees, the kids' nominees take the opportunity to play a benefit concert the Saturday the day before the concert.  This year, the concert is on Saturday the 11th, and if you've got kids and live in Los Angeles, it's worth checking out getting tickets.  (You can read more about the history here.)  I went to last year's concert, and, yeah, it's a good time -- the public is unlikely to get to hear these five artists play together.

The annual Grammy weekend has also become the closest West Coast analogue to KindieFest/Kindiecomm, thanks to an annual industry-only luncheon also held on Saturday the day before the awards ceremonies.  This year is no exception (details here), and for those musicians who haven't had a chance to attend either the Grammy-related luncheon or the East Coast gatherings, it's definitely worth considering whether a day or two in the L.A. area might be within your budget.


I've been writing this site for more than 12 years, and when I started, the word "kindie" hadn't even been coined.  Yes, artists like Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner, and Justin Roberts had released multiple albums, and of course artists like Trout Fishing in America, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer and Raffi were walking along the paths Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, and others had created.

When I researched the Grammy nominations for the kids music awards (non-spoken word) handed out in February 2004 and February 2005, bookending the start of this site, I was a little surprised to see that it wasn't a collection of Disney retreads -- both years are pretty solid collections of albums from artists familiar to this site.

But I think it's fair to say that those lists come more from a folk-music tradition with some gentle pop thrown in.  I think that the Dan Zanes nod in 2005 is the only album that could safely plant both feet in the "kindie" tradition as it's been most popularly understood -- pulling in rock and other musical traditions beyond folk and pop, and not dependent upon music labels for funding and distribution.

This list, on the other hand, while pulling in elements of folk music and pop, feels like its heart comes from indie rock and some hip-hop.  At this point Brady Rymer (nominated for multiple Grammys) and the Okee Dokee Brothers (winners and nominated multiple times) seem like Grammy royalty, and only Rymer had released an album before 2005.

And unlike lists of recent years, on which Rymer, the Okee Dokee Brothers, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo had previously appeared, there was no "exception" this year.  No non-kids artist making an album for kids, no spoken-word recitation of a book, no... nothing.  Just five artists all easily described as kindie stars, with roughly 35 albums for kids between them.  I don't want to say it's the perfect "kindie" list, because that implies a qualitative hierarchical distinction that I'm not trying to make.  But I'm not sure I could come up with a list that is... more kindie (as it's currently defined in terminology and example) than this one.


I don't want to say "my work here is done," but I think it's fair to say that one of my goals when I started this site more than a dozen years ago -- raising the visibility of great kids music that drew upon a broad range of musical styles -- has been accomplished.  I'm not taking credit for any of it -- that belongs to the artists themselves -- but I think it's time for me to think (again) about how to further expand the visibility of kids audio to an even wider audience, and to think (much more) about how to further expand who creates kids audio to an even wider creator base.  Because the two are related, and the two are how when we talk about kids music a dozen years from now, somebody will talk about a Grammy list that builds upon the paths the Okee Dokee Brothers and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo further blazed, but doesn't include them, either.

Tim Kubart, Kids Music Grammy Winner, First Among Equals

Cover of Grammy-winning album Home

Cover of Grammy-winning album Home

In the insular world of kids music, news that Tim Kubart won at the 58th Grammys the award for Best Children's Album for his album Home spread quickly and was met with universal acclaim.

In part, it's because Home is a really good album, filled with as many big pop hooks as you might find on a Taylor Swift album.

But there were lots of good albums nominated (the Fids and Kamily Awards agreed with my own assessment), and this was a year in which I would have been satisfied with whichever of the five nominees -- which also included Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly, Lori Henriques, Gustafer Yellowgold, and Jose-Luis Orozco -- won this year's award.

Now, outside the kids music world, well, I'm going to assume that that outside world is pretty big judging by the number of hits my site's received in the past 18 hours or so on pages such as that Home album review up there and my rundown of the list of nominees.

That's why it's what Tim did after his name was called and he and his bandmates jogged down to the stage to accept the award is what will endear him for a looooong time to the rest of us who've spent years in this genre.

58th Children's Music Grammy nominees at Lucky Strike Live

58th Children's Music Grammy nominees at Lucky Strike Live

In his speech, which you can view here, Tim thanks a kajillion people in the many different roles he plays -- at one point, after thanking the "Tambourine Army," Kubart says, "I know a lot of this doesn't make sense, but it does to a lot of people."  Simply by naming his fellow nominees by name and giving a shout-out to the fact that they were all independent artists (and first-time Grammy nominees, to boot), Kubart gave a boost to the genre.  I'm sure that the other four nominees were disappointed that they didn't win, but Kubart's good-hearted nature and generous speech made it easy for them on social media to congratulate Tim.  (As somebody noted on Facebook in a status update, "my thumbs are broken from hitting 'Like' so much.")  It was really a "first among equals" sort of moment, and while kids music has many good ambassadors, and needs them all (and more) to reach that wide world still unaware of the excellence in this field, there are few I can think of who wear that suit as well and as gracefully as Tim.


Jose-Luis Orozco and band at Lucky Strike Live, Feb. 13, 2016

Jose-Luis Orozco and band at Lucky Strike Live, Feb. 13, 2016

I should note that, yes, I did party with Grammy nominees on Saturday.  The five nominees all played 3-song sets in Hollywood at Lucky Strike Live for an audience of bouncing kids.

I hung out at the back for the most part, listening to musicians I'd known for many years.  While I hesitate to call them "friends" because I respect the distance and perspective necessary to observe and critique the genre, these are musicians whose effort I respect and whose company is worth having.  That photo I took above with the nominees all together?  I saw similar photos from the ceremony itself on Monday.  While I've had lots of mixed thoughts over the years about the Grammy Awards and their value, if they can bring together artists once a year on the West Coast to party and celebrate what they do, then in my book, they've done enough.

Partying with the 2015 Children's Grammy Nominees

Logo for 2015 Children's Grammy Nominees concert

Logo for 2015 Children's Grammy Nominees concert

Growing up, Beth Blenz-Clucas and Regina Kelland didn't have the same opportunities to see kids musicians that our kids have today.  When I asked the two of them what memories they had of seeing concerts when they were kids, they couldn't really come up with a good answer.  Sure, they took some music lessons, listened to music on the radio, did arts activities in school.  There's definitely a shared history of Disney soundtracks -- both mentioned Mary Poppins.  They went to a few classical music concerts with their parents or a school field trip.  But a concert meant just for them as kids?  Not really.

Fast forward a number of years, and Blenz-Clucas and Kelland are couple of the best-known publicists for the children's music genre, Blenz-Clucas with Sugar Mountain PR and Kelland with To Market Kids.  And in addition to promoting individual artists' musical efforts, for the past several years they've produced a benefit concert held the same weekend as the Grammy Awards.

This year's nominees for the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Children's Recording feature five first-time nominees, all of them independent artists (with Jose-Luis Orozco nominated for his very first album with Smithsonian Folkways).  And for the seventh straight year, the benefit concert will feature the children's album nominees.

Covers of 2015 Children's Grammy Nominee albums

Covers of 2015 Children's Grammy Nominee albums

On Saturday, February 13, all five nominees -- Orozco, Tim Kubart, Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly, Lori Henriques, and Morgan Taylor (aka Gustafer Yellowgold -- will perform at this year's concert, held at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.  It's a unique opportunity to see these five artists performing separately and, perhaps, together.  When asked about favorite memories from past concerts, Blenz-Clucas and Kelland both remembered the group singalongs -- Brady Rymer and everyone singing "Mony Mony" last year, the group including Elizabeth Mitchell and Alastair Moock singing Pete Seeger the year before.

Alastair Moock and Elizabeth Mitchell at Children's Grammy Nominee concert in 2014.

Alastair Moock and Elizabeth Mitchell at Children's Grammy Nominee concert in 2014.

Beyond the special nature of the performances, the concert is notable also for its benefit nature.  Because it's a volunteer-run enterprise, Blenz-Clucas, Kelland, and the other producers (which have included Karen Rapaport McHugh, musician Cathy Fink, producer Tor Hyams and booker and current event co-producer KC Mancebo, with Mancebo's husband David Tobocman providing a lot of assistance) have always charged money for the show to at least cover the cost of facility rental and the technical crew.  Beyond the expenses, ticket revenues go to benefit a group that works with the age range that the nominated artists typically target -- that is, kids roughly 10 and under.

In past years, the proceeds have been donated to Mr. Holland's Opus (one year the monies went to help the organization buy harps) and Little Kids Rock.  This year's beneficiary is the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra's Music in the Schools program.  And while the SJO was founded in 2001 dedicated to "perpetuating the uniquely American genre of symphonic jazz," its Music in the Schools program has a much broader focus of providing year-long sequential, comprehensive music education in Los Angeles County schools to more than 3,000 students per week.  SJO founder and music director Mitch Glickman says he's "thrilled" that they'll be the beneficiary of this year's concert, which will help them further expand the residencies the Music in the School program provides.

In any case, the concert starts at 11 AM on the 13th, and tickets for the concert ($15 in advance, $20 the day of show) are available here.  And while I certainly recommend attending the show if you're in the L.A. area with kids that weekend, if you're not around, Sirius-XM's Kids Place Live, whose fearless leaders Mindy Thomas and Kenny Curtis are emceeing the concert, will be broadcasting the show a couple times that weekend.

Perhaps the concert isn't quite as exciting as seeing Queen (Kelland's favorite group) in concert, but look at this shot from last year's show, which included the Pop Ups.  It will be celebratory.

The Pop Ups perform at the 2014 Children's Grammy Nominees concert in February 2015

The Pop Ups perform at the 2014 Children's Grammy Nominees concert in February 2015

Beyond the concert, the weekend also features an adults-only, industry-only luncheon afterwards close by to the concert.  The concert, in fact, grew out of a luncheon organized in 2005 by Lynn Orman to celebrate Ella Jenkins' Lifetime Achievement Award and a networking event coordinated by Karen Rapaport McHugh a couple years later.  While in past years they've had speakers (John Simpson's talk on SoundExchange and Bill Harley discussing Artists for Sake Kids were a couple highlights Kelland and Blenz-Clucas recall), this year they've decided to forgo the guest speakers so as to maximize the one-on-one networking time for the attendees.  As Blenz-Clucas noted, even the Los Angeles artists don't get together too often given the size of the region, so it's an opportunity for them to get together.  And as great as events like KindieComm and Hootenanny are, their East Coast setting can make it harder for some West Coast artists to attend, so hopefully this provides them more of an opportunity to network.

It, too, should be a lot of fun, and I'll be there to join in the festivities.  If you're in "the biz" and want to join, drop Blenz-Clucas, Kelland, or Mancebo a line, and they'll direct you where you need to go.

KC Mancebo, Cathy Fink, Regina Kelland, Beth Blenz-Clucas at 2014 Children's Grammy Nominee concert

KC Mancebo, Cathy Fink, Regina Kelland, Beth Blenz-Clucas at 2014 Children's Grammy Nominee concert

Photo credits: Pop Ups in concert (McCarthy Photo Studio); Alastair Moock and Elizabeth Mitchell in concert, KC Mancebo, Cathy Fink, Regina Kelland, and Beth Blenz-Clucas (Jodye Alcon)

58th Grammy Award Nominations for Best Children's Album

I am of mixed mind when it comes to the Grammys.  I'm a fan, of course, of celebrating outstanding achievement in the kids' music world, but sometimes the nominees have been... interesting.  Which isn't to say that we should celebrate or denigrate a process depending on how much we personally like or dislike the results, but given the tremendous fluctuation from year to year of what type of albums are getting nominated, in the runup to this morning's announcement of Grammy nominees, I deliberately kept a low-key attitude.

But, hey, setting aside any qualms I have about the Grammys and kids music generally, the list of nominees for Best Children's Album at the 58th Grammy Awards was announced this morning, and it is a fine, fine slate of nominees, including some of the best (and nicest) folks in the kids music genre.  It features four newer artists and one legend, Jose-Luis Orozco, who, though his album tends somewhat more toward the folk/educational sound that may not catch as many modern listeners' ears as some of the other nominees here, is, as I said, a legend who I was surprised to find out earned his first Grammy nomination this morning.  It's well-deserved.

In any case, here's a list of the five nominees and some links to let you explore further.  The Grammys will be awarded Monday, February 15, with the awards in categories like Children's Album to be awarded earlier that weekend.

Come Bien! Eat Right! cover

Come Bien! Eat Right! cover

¡Come Bien! Eat Right!

Jose-Luis Orozco

[Review]

Bilingual album celebrating healthy eating, Orozco's first album on Smithsonian Folkways

Dark Pie Concerns cover

Dark Pie Concerns cover

Dark Pie Concerns

Gustafer Yellowgold

[Review]

Funny enough this should appear under Orozco's album -- this is all about food, too.  But about as far away as possible from that album in style, lyrics, and just about everything else.  Wonderful, but in its own way.

Home album cover

Home album cover

Home

Tim Kubart

[Review]

Pop hooks.  So. Many. Pop. Hooks.

How Great Can This Day Be cover

How Great Can This Day Be cover

How Great Can This Day Be

Lori Henriques

[Review]

Tickles me pink to have Henriques' jazz and jazz-inflected songs on this list of nominees.

Trees album cover

Trees album cover

Trees

Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly

[Review]

Sui generis album about the natural world from two of kindie's most unique artists.

Who Needs the Children's Music Grammy Anyway?

Before I start, let me get a few things out of the way:

1) Congratulations to Neela Vaswani for her Best Children's Music Grammy at the 57th Annual Grammys for her recording of the young adult version of I Am Malala, the memoir from Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.  Yousafzai has already changed thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of lives, and her story deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

2) Congratulations as well to Vaswani's fellow nominees The Okee Dokee Brothers (Through the Woods), The Pop Ups (Appetite for Construction), Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (Just Say Hi!), and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (The Perfect Quirk).  From their social media posts, it sounds like that they did the Grammy thing right, partying, socializing, and being gracious when Vaswani won.  (And it sounds like Vaswani was just as gracious to her fellow nominees.)

3a) I am not now a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the membership group that runs (and votes for) the Grammy Awards, and I'm not sure I ever will be as even were I to get enough credits for voting membership (and I'm probably pretty close), its benefits aren't worth the cost to me. So you can take the rest of these comments with several grains of salt associated with being an outside.

3b) Also, I help run a kids music award site.

4a) The Grammys are mostly meaningless, but...

4b) Lots of people take the Grammys very seriously.

Those last 2 points are up for debate, obviously, but I'm not going too far out on a limb with those comments.  And with the small kerfuffle amongst some members of the kids music community (and I heard it from both musicians and fans) about the Grammy for Yousafzai's audiobook, it seems harder to deny that latter point.

5) I've not heard the Grammy-winning audiobook.

That's another big grain of salt to take with my argument, but on the other hand, I'm not going to be arguing about the relative qualitative merits of the nominees and winner.


How did we get here?  Well, in spring 2011, NARAS announced it was combining the Children's Musical Recording and Children's Spoken Word fields into a single category.  There was no specific reason cited for the return to a single category (the default from 1958 through 1993), but clearly the low participation in the Children's Spoken Word category played a role.  And although I feared that it would lead to even more big names and crowding out of independent musicians, exactly the opposite happened -- independent musicians ruled the day.

In fall 2012, the Grammys moved to a special nominating committee for children's music, and that certainly gave independent musicians a shot they might not have had under the old system.  Having said that, the list of nominees in winter 2011-2012 were pretty independent as well, so I don't know how much of an impact the special nominating committee has necessarily had on the independent status of the nominees.  (The makeup of the nominees, well, that's not a conversation I'm going to get into.)

But the nominating committees have done yeoman's (and yeowoman's) work in the category, so the comments that follow should in no way be considered an impugnment of their effort.  They listen to well over a hundred entries -- believe me, I know what that's like -- and their interests are certainly in the elevation and promotion of children's music and the production of cultural entertainment for children as a whole.

The inclusion of the audiobook version of I Am Malala didn't seem to (publicly) annoy some musicians and fans until it won the Grammy. While I was much more prosaic about the matter (see 4a above), I was not unsympathetic to the argument.  For me, the best analogy would be if, alongside all the other nominees for Best Picture at the Oscars, the list included a filmed version of, say, Love Letters, or some other play with simple staging.  Not a musical or a play like Into the Woods, which was reimagined for the big screen, but a simple 3- or 4-camera recording of the play on stage.

I have a suspicion that if that happened, movie fans (and those in the industry) would go apoplectic.  A movie, not just based on source material from another medium, but faithfully recorded from that medium, no matter how good and faithfully recorded, would not feel right amidst other movies which were, well, more movie-like.


All of which wouldn't matter except for 4b above -- (some) people care.  They care deeply about the Grammys.  Beyond the possible benefits of increased album sales and easier bookings (I gather those benefits are tangible but modest), I would guess that the thrill of recognition from your peers motivates many musicians who enter and the thrill of seeing your friends win.  And when four popular artists with critically-acclaimed albums inside kindie's tight-knit community have a chance to win a blast of recognition on a broader stage and don't get it, it can feel like a blow.

And here's where I make my radical, not entirely serious, but not entirely joking either, proposal:

Let's get rid of the Children's Music Grammy.

First, I'm not sure how useful a Grammy nomination or victory is in terms of album sales or album bookings.  I suspect it varies by album, and I'm not sure that the Grammy recognition is necessarily the defining point.  I'd love to see some actual data on that, but it's not going to be available the way that people can track the impact of an Oscar nomination on box office ticket sales.  It would surprise me if the collective amount of work (if not actual money) artists spend on submitting recordings for entry doesn't exceed the value of increased album sales and directly attributable bookings for the nominees and winner.

[Side note: I would be very happy if I never saw another artist ever again announcing that their album has been successfully admitted for Grammy entry.  I understand if people are excited, and I don't mind if people talk about it as the first, hopeful step towards a nomination, but bragging about it as if it's a major step towards a Grammy is akin to me bragging that my successful filing of my taxes on TurboTax means I'm thisclose to getting a $10,000 refund.  Stop it.  It's not pretty.  Rant over.] 

Certainly the Grammy Award itself can't have a meaningful impact on the visibility of children's music upon the world generally -- it's telecast on an afternoon webstream.  The concert held the Saturday before the past few years has certainly had a larger impact comparatively than the award, but there's no reason why it has to be done Grammy weekend, and there are other concerts that raise the visibility of children's music just as much.

The bigger issue is that of peers, and who exactly the peers are who are voting for the awards. It's not just the peers of people who play music primarily for kids and families.  It's (if they choose to vote in the category) the metal heads, the polka stars, the major label publicists, and the question for me as an outsider is, how valuable is that feedback.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read a kids musician say something along the lines of "I don't really think about kids when I'm writing, I just try to write a good song," I'd have a brand-new iPhone 6 rather than this much older version with a cracked screen.  But I believe artists when they say that, and I'd like to see those artists be able to move much more in that world.

Instead of being considered for a Children's Music Grammy, perhaps the Okee Dokee Brothers should be considered in the Best Americana or Best Folk Album categories.  Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Best Rap Album, maybe?  The Pop Ups might fit in Best Pop Vocal Album, and Brady Rymer might also join in the Best Americana field.  And I Am Malala could compete in the Best Spoken Word Album category.

That's the thing, the Children's Music field is there because of the audience, but all those other fields have diverse audiences, theoretically.  The Pop Ups' Appetite for Construction has stellar production values, witty lyrics, and catchy choruses, and a big, beating alterna-poppy heart -- why shouldn't it compete against other albums that feature the same things?  Trying to choose from the 5 nominees just because an 8-year-old might listen to all of them is a little outmoded in an age where an 8-year-old might also listen to Katy Perry or Beyonce or Imagine Dragons.

I guess I'm just getting tired of the angst -- or what I perceive to be angst -- and I'm wondering if the genre is expending more energy than necessary on the Grammys.  (I'm writing this way past my own bedtime, so I'm clearly engaging in a little bit of pot calling the kettle black here.)  Maybe it's time that we started to focus a little more inward -- celebrating with and by the musicians who most know what it's like to make music for this segment of the world -- and a little more outward, being louder about the quality recordings that hold their own against others regardless of audience age.

Getting rid of the Children's Music Grammy wouldn't solve those issues, but I also think we wouldn't miss it nearly as much as we think it would.