Friday, February 13, 2015

Babypants Perchance to Sleep, at Night to Slumber

We're always excited when we get a new release from Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew, formerly of THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES). It's been awhile since the last CD of original tunes (RISE AND SHINE). Before that, Chris "kindie-fied" a bunch of Beatles songs for BABY BEATLES. So like I said, we were excited to receive the new CD... of bedtime and lullaby songs!

I've discussed it before and my main bugaboos about the children's music genre are (in no order of importance) world music, message songs, and sleepytime tunes. Don't get me wrong – I think Putumayo does a phenomenal job of hammering in the indigenous music of native cultures and regions. And when it's appropriate, I have no problem sharing those genres with the kids. As far as message songs go, the less said, the better. Perhaps your child needs five different songs about wiping his noses after he sneezes. Mine didn't.

That brings me to lullabies, "slowdown" albums, and bedtime music. There was a period when we played a slumber CD for our older son when he was about a year old. One night, we forgot to turn on the monitor in his room. I crept in and learned that the CD had been skipping – playing the same four songs, then repeating, over and over, until we came in and turned it off. And he was up, 20 minutes after bedtime, because it wasn't relaxing him. He was waiting for the skip and repeat. The next night we stopped playing the music and he was out cold in five minutes.

If you've gotten this far, it's because you're curious what I thought about Chris's collection, NIGHT NIGHT. Well, it's a fine bunch of songs and played at the right time of day, they should dial down your youngster's behavior from a rowdy 8 to a tranquil 3.

The Babypants charm is in taking a familiar concept and tweaking it. For instance, shutting down for the night. "Wonder Why You Hide" considers animals and where they disappear in the evening. It doesn't answer the question, but did you ever wonder where ants and clams go? No, seriously.

Whether he's serious or joking, Chris even notes that he had a relaxing time composing NIGHT NIGHT, to the point he would fall asleep before getting to the end. "I began to think that I may never make it all the way to the last song and stay awake and maybe no one else would either," he writes. He needn't have worried. Artwork as always is by Mrs. Babypants, the talented Kate Endle.

"The Land of Shush" started as the mantra of a couple of librarians and turned into a full-fledged song. "Sad Baby" developed from a concept Chris's son Augie stumbled onto as a tot. The CD ends with "Made of Light," which brings me full circle, to the concept of playing a song over-and-over to lull a small child to sleep. With the distinction of being the longest-ever Caspar Babypants song, "Made of Light" ruminates on our subconscious plane and the comfort of being safe and warm, surrounded by our family at home.

You know, that's not a bad way to wrap up a CD, whether it's bedtime tunes or party music. Could it be that Caspar Babypants is growing up, and turning in his shorts for big boy clothing? Or is this another digression and we're going to be treated to a return to impish delights like "Girl With the Squirrel In Her Hat"? With Chris Ballew, you never know. Musical evolution does not equate maturity, nor does experimentation cause atrophy. The fellow is stretching his composing legs while putting small children to sleep. That's quite a juxtaposition.

NIGHT NIGHT is available Tuesday, March 17 from Caspar's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the CB song, "The Creatures Under My Bed":

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