Review: If I Could Be... - Meredith Brooks

IfICouldBe.jpgMay as well get it out of the way -- yes, it's that Meredith Brooks.

But a decade after that big hit (and what seems like a lifetime ago) Meredith Brooks has released a kids album, If I Could Be... that is 100% kid-safe. The album has been out there since last year but got its formal release late last month. It's a sugary pop blend that might surprise those listeners who, like me, might have expected a slightly more rock approach based on our memory of that one song. (And who might not have followed Brooks as she continued to write and record over the past decade.)

Because Brooks is a parent of a preschool-aged son, it's not surprising that the tracks are primarily geared lyrically at that age group. Brooks succeeds best when she simplifies the lyrics -- "Dance, Shake, Wiggle!" spends a good 50% of the song repeating those words in the album's most infectious chorus. It will be difficult for kids to resist that one. "What's Your Name?" has a fun chorus, too, with lyrics designed for kids to shout their name.

If there's something that keeps Brooks from kicking Laurie Berkner off her perch at the top of the preschool musician pile, it's the lyrics. Brooks has a tendency to be too wordy for preschoolers, I think, sometimes forcing a line for the sake of a rhyme. Sometimes I felt she was writing for 3-year-olds using lyrics a 6-year-old would understand. "In My Chair" is an exception -- the more I listen to it, I think it's a very well-crafted song, though the line "I love my chair / And it loves me" cracks me up every time I hear it. (Y'know, it's not so unreasonable to think a preschooler might think of a chair in that way.) Regardless of my quibbles with lyrics, the music here is well-produced -- it's high-quality pop music, a step above the person-with-a-guitar-or-bad-keyboard production of a lot of music for this age.

I think the music here will be of most interest to kids ages 2 through 5. You can hear samples from the 38-minute album at its CDBaby page. For those of you looking for a rock-guitar-focused album, you will probably be disappointed by the CD. But this is a decent album of pop tunes with a number of fun cuts. Perhaps as Brooks' son grows up and Brooks experiences some not-so-easy times with her child, maybe we'll get another album with a harder edge. Recommended.