Last year, when the 54th Grammy nominations for best children's album were announced, I couldn't help myself and wrote a piece on the results that very night. Clearly, I was stunned and I needed to write something to get all the thoughts bouncing around my head out of there and onto the page.
This year? Well, it's been two weeks, and I'm finally finding the time to write about the 55th Grammy nominations for best children's album. Why the difference? Well, first let's list out the nominees themselves:
Can You Canoe? - The Okee Dokee Brothers [Okee Dokee Music LLC]
High Dive And Other Things That Could Have Happened... - Bill Harley [Round River Records]
JumpinJazz Kids - A Swinging Jungle Tale - Featuring Al Jarreau, Hubert Laws And Dee Dee Bridgewater - James Murray and Various Artists [JumpinJazzKids]
Little Seed: Songs For Children By Woody Guthrie - Elizabeth Mitchell [Smithsonian Folkways Recordings]
Radio Jungle - The Pop Ups [The Pop Ups]
It's true that I like the list of nominees more than I like last year's list. (Note: I haven't heard the JumpinJazz disk, so am totally clueless regarding that nomination, though I recognize a few of those artists in the title of the album, which in my less generous moments I feel cranky about.) But that by itself shouldn't make this list better than last year's. Just because I like the Pop Ups (fairly new on the scene, this is just their second album) a lot more than Papa Hugs doesn't make the list better or more legitimate.
I think more importantly, for people who follow the kindie scene, four of those five nominees are going to be very familiar. This in itself is a big change from last year, when a couple of the nominees drew a collective "who in the world is that?" Is that an improvement? I would say that it is. I think in order for the category to have any legitimacy, it's important artists recognized as very longtime participants and artists recognized as among the most popular be represented in the nominee list. They shouldn't be the only artists represented, but the presence of Bill Harley (a former winner and nominee with more than 30 years of experience in the field) and Elizabeth Mitchell (recording on the venerable Smithsonian Folkways label and a major, popular star) gives credence to the slate.
I'd seen some statistics from last year's nominees that suggested membership and participation in Grammy365, the Grammys' own social networking site for its members, significantly drove the nomination results last year. Nominees last year had literally hundreds times more members than well-known previous nominees. I would hesitate to attribute causation, but without a doubt there was correlation. The Grammys have always been at least in part a personal popularity contest; Grammy365 just made it that more obvious.
So in the wake of the nomination list, I wondered how the kindie community that didn't get nominated would react. Would they decide to completely abandon the Grammys? Or would they embrace the social networking that clearly is now required in the niche categories. It seems like the answer is clear. Folks looking to grab a nomination next December, your path is now set -- make a really good album and prepare to spend more time at your computer.
OK, enough faux-serious consideration of the Grammy nomination process. What you really wanted to know is why I threw a Breakfast Club reference in the title of this post. Well, as I was thinking about the "gang of disparate outsiders" that a nominee list in niche genres like this one can sometimes feel like, my thoughts turned fairly quickly to the John Hughes teen classic about 5 (ding! blog post!) kids from very different cliques brought together in detention one Saturday. So, without further ado: How the 55th Children's Music Grammy Nominations Are Like Characters from the Movie The Breakfast Club.
Okee Dokee Brothers: If you canoe halfway down the Mississippi River, then you clearly have some sort of athletic ability, much like Emilio Estevez's wrestling character Andrew Clark. Joe and Justin are rebels against the idea of kids spending their time indoors, but they are, without a doubt, the nicest rebels you will ever care to meet. (Also: not that Charlie Sheen is in the movie, but I find it amusing that you'd never really know that Sheen and Estevez -- two guys with different last names -- are, in fact, brothers while you could totally believe that the brothers-in-band-name-only Joe and Justin are also brothers in real life.)
Bill Harley: The veteran (in the kids' music field), Harley is clearly the John Bender of the group, the slightly older kid (let's face it, Judd Nelson didn't look like a kid at all), delivering sage advice. And just like Bender and the school library, this is likely not his last trip to the Grammy breakfast club.
JumpinJazz: I haven't heard a peep out of this album, the folks behind this album, or, well, anything. I didn't know this album existed until it was nominated. They're even more unknown than Ally Sheedy's basket case Allison Reynolds. I am, however, looking forward to whatever musical collaboration the Okee Dokee Brothers and Jarreau and Bridgewater and the rest provide us when they hook up at the end of the Grammys.
Elizabeth Mitchell: Elizabeth Mitchell is as close to kids music royalty this field gets (I tend to think of Harley more as the long-serving court jester), so I've assigned her Molly Ringwald's character, the "princess" Claire Standish. She comes from the privileged background of being a Smithsonian Folkways artist and so has the fine lineage. Yet this is her first time in the Grammy kids music breakfast club.
Pop Ups: Which brings us to the last nominee, the Brooklyn duo the Pop Ups, and the last kid in detention, Anthony Michael Hall's Brian Johnson, the nerd of the group. I'll admit it, I'm pressed to find a logical connection here (not that the connections above aren't tenuous at best), but I think it's fair to say that if you're willing to go all in and not just record kids music but create a whole puppet musical multiple times over, then you have a bit of nerd in you as well.