As much as 2009 was a great year for kids music, I think it might have been even more the year of the kids music video. In past years, coming up with 16 good kids music videos, let alone 20, was hard work. This year, it was hard, but not because there wasn't enough good stuff. There was too much good stuff.
I'm still not sure why that is -- while you have your fair share of material developed for DVDs or TV pilots, there are still plenty of videos on this list that seem created solely for the purpose of promoting a song or album (and perhaps amusing their creators). But it doesn't really matter, does it? Here, then, are my 20 favorite kids music videos from 2009 (2009 defined roughly as March 1, 2009 - February 28, 2010), starting off with the #1 video of the year... (or you can watch the whole list at my YouTube playlist of these 20 great kids music videos).
1. They Might Be Giants - "Meet the Elements" [YouTube]
Videos are flavor enhancers -- they don't do much for a bland song, no matter how technically proficient or cool the visuals are. But a good video can go a long ways toward implanting a song into the brain. And combine a great song with a great video, and you can put this result at the entryway to They Might Be Giants' wing in the Kids Music Video Hall of Fame.
3. Billy Kelly - "People Really Like Milk" [YouTube]
It's hard to animate a song that's all about funny wordplay that doesn't just re-hash the funny wordplay. Not only does this video enhance the wordplay, it is all -- song and animation -- the work of Billy Kelly. He's a triple threat! (OK, a double threat, unless you count his ability to upload to YouTube.)
4. Recess Monkey - "Marshmallow Farm" [YouTube]
Proof that you can make a good video for relatively little money (and without animation), Recess Monkey created a whole series of videos that showed tons of imagination making up for the lack of tons of cash. And though I wanted to include "Sack Lunch", I think this is the best of the bunch.
5. Tim and the Space Cadets - "Superhero" [YouTube]
I know, this video from Tim and the Space Cadets is a wee bit sentimental, and the song is merely good, not great, but when you see videos with production values like this, it resets the bar for everyone else in a good way.
7. Caspar Babypants - "Itsy Bitsy Spider" [YouTube]
If Recess Monkey videos have mini-budgets, Chris Ballew's Caspar Babypants videos have micro-budgets. But they're so well-considered and edited smartly, that the minimalist approach pays off big time.
8. Rocknoceros - "Pink" [YouTube]
Bright and shiny and juuuuust this side of hyperactive is a phrase that I would never use for the fabulous trio Rocknoceros, but it's one that fits well (and appropriately) with the video and song. In a good way.
9. Debbie and Friends: Willy Won't Smile for the Camera [YouTube]
Debbie Cavalier has spent a lot of time crafting a unified image on her album art, website, and videos, to her (and her music's benefit). The videos have a distinctive look and feel, and this is the best of the bunch.
10. Randy Kaplan - "The Ladybug Without Spots" [YouTube]
Another cool song, another animated video (that's six of the top 10, if you're counting). Why is that? Well, I think part of it is that the obvious tropes of standard music videos (wind machines, rapid-fire editing, and stories told obliquely interspersed with band/musician shots) just don't work for 5-year-olds. But smiling ladybugs and Randy Kaplan's storytelling? Kidvid gold.
11. Readeez - "Counting for Pleasure" [YouTube]
Wait - I can only pick one Readeez video for this list? Who made up that stupid rule? Oh, I did. Sigh. If I did this tomorrow, I'd probably come up with another Readeez entirely. They're all pretty darn good.
15. Clementown - "Ed" [YouTube]
Perhaps it's not fair that Clementown based its songs on poetry from illustrator Calef Brown, because it meant that they had the inside track on, you know, animation. But, hey, maybe other artists should do more of the same...
16. Dan Zanes and Friends featuring La Bruja - "Pollito Chicken" [YouTube]
As you'd expect, a Dan Zanes video is a high-quality production, and this one is no exception. I wouldn't have expected so many ties, but there's no accounting for tastes.
18. Ben Rudnick & Friends - "A Frog Named Sam" [YouTube]
The live-action stuff of Ben Rudnick and the band is pretty run-of-the-mill, but the animation interludes are excellent. (And, yeah, it's a cool song.)
19. The Hipwaders - "Field Trip" [YouTube]
The Hipwaders have always been interested in videos, doing a whole bunch for their Kindie Christmas disk. This one, from their Goodie Bag EP, is a little clunky, but has a distinctive visual style.