Since 1959, the Grammy Awards has featured a category dedicated to albums for kids. It often goes to albums that are really for kids, like Elmopalooza! (1999) and The Adventures Of Elmo In Grouchland (2000) and Elmo And The Orchestra (2002), but occasionally the academy recognizes music that doesn’t make you want to throttle a furry Muppet.
Dan Zanes is a Grammy voter and past winner — he took home the gramophone statuette in 2007 for Catch That Train — and he’s particularly well versed in the difference between what he calls “children’s music” and “family music.” The latter is the stuff that you can enjoy, as opposed to simply tolerate, with your kids, and it’s what he’s dedicated his career to since 2000. The former frontman of 80s rock band The Del Fuegos, Zanes is now better known as a musician with crazy command of world music, played through the lens of a kid. He’s like David Byrne, but with more tubas and less whining.
The family music scene’s very own Brooklyn hipsters, The Pop Ups are a synth-pop band that, if you don’t listen too closely to the lyrics, wouldn’t sound out of place in a bar scene on Girls.
A roots rock version of Zanes, Rymer made his bones with the band From Good Homes, which is sort of a New Jersey-ified Dave Matthews Band. His family music is cut from the same cloth — lots of acoustic guitars and melodic vocal arrangements, but with lyrics about food and hugs.
Skidoo is an MC and hip hop producer who sounds a little like De La Soul, circa 3 Feet High And Rising, if they were rapping about elementary school instead of high school.
This bluegrass duo won the Children’s Grammy in 2013, and their new album is more of the same. You could throw these guys on stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and no one but the really stoned people would notice they were singing kid’s songs.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education And Changed The World Audio Books
The category includes both music and spoken word albums, and this reading of Malala Yousafzai’s bestselling memoir is the only non-music nominee. Considering how well spoken her father is, it’s probably worth a listen.
Of course, there’s plenty of great music not nominated for a Grammy this year, too. Here’s a Spotify playlist of some of Zanes’ favorite family music. Again … no Elmo: