Here’s a fun thing no one tells you about parenthood: Your kids now own 75 percent of the storage on your phone. They need that space for Disney movies and educational apps and the 8,000 songs you end up downloading after they figure out how to sign you up for Apple Music (true story).
A couple of years ago Seth tried to buy me the iPhone with less storage because it was cheaper and I completely flipped out on him.
“WHEN YOU START STORING SEVENTEEN EPISODES OF DOC MCSTUFFINS ON YOUR PHONE FOR AIRPLANE TRIPS, THEN YOU CAN MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT HOW MUCH STORAGE PEOPLE NEED,” or something close to that, I shouted in a very calm and collected and not at all frazzled kind of way.
Anyway, these days besides CinderElmo and Mary Poppins and the aforementioned McStuffins library, I currently have a mix of songs on my phone that’s about 25 percent purely mine (Kesha, Mary Black, Lil Wayne, various members of the Traveling Wilburys), 25 percent things we can all agree on (Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, mostly), and 175 percent songs that are sung by animated ponies or underpaid singer-dancers wearing candy-colored nursery rhyme costumes or a YouTube personality named Blippi.
Truly childhood is a magical time.
As the keeper of the phone, the manager of the playlists and (most importantly) the only person who has the audio controls literally under her thumb, I do get to exercise a certain amount of control, but I also get tired of hearing complaints from the backseat that “this is a grownup song,” so I’ve tried to populate our commuter soundtrack with songs that my kids enjoy and I don’t hate. These are some of those songs.
Theme from Handy Manny
Or honestly, any song from Handy Manny. Manny, in case you’re not acquainted, is a handy guy (a handyman, literally) who manages his neighbors’ repair jobs with the help of a toolbox full of bilingual hand tools. His theme song is a sassy little number that is catchy AF and, it turns out, was written and recorded by Los Lobos, which explains why I like it so much.
“ABC Gospel” by Choo Choo Soul
Another Disney Junior gem. There are a bunch of good Choo Choo Soul songs, but (besides the theme) this is the absolute best one. Listen to it a couple of times and then try not to sing along. I dare you.
“Time to Be Awesome” from My Little Pony The Movie
This one is a bit of a tie with “We Got This Together,” the first big number from the same movie, but the involvement of Zoe Saldana puts it over the top for me. Eh, whatever, they’re both good. Unless you hate show tunes, in which case I’m sorry about whoever hurt you.
“Homework” by Arthur and Friends
Let’s be honest: Now that we’re on this side of the relationship, we all want Mr. Ratburn to be our kids’ teacher. And he has such a lovely singing voice.
“Do De Rubber Duck” by Sesame Street Cast
You love Ernie. You love reggae. So obviously you can live with Ernie (and all his friends) singing a slow-groove reggae track about dancing in the bath tub.
Actually, an honorable mention goes to just about every Sesame Street song recorded between about 1970 and 1985. You can find most of those old albums on Amazon Music, including the magical Sesame Street Fever.
“Down in the Bubbly Blue” from Jake and the Neverland Pirates
Another Disney Junior banger. I don’t even really know what this song is supposed to be about (pirates don’t actually live underwater, do they? Then again, I suppose the Beatles never visited an actual octopus’s garden, either), but good luck getting it out of your head.
“Dear Prudence” by Caspar Babypants
All the Caspar Babypants Beatles covers are great (although my four-year-old prefers songs with female singers because she’s got good taste), but this one is my personal favorite. It takes an ethereal song and brings it down to earth, which can be a bad thing but isn’t in this case.
Honorable Mention: Sesame Street: Songs From the Street, Vol. 2
This album contains multitudes. Including Sesame Street performances by Billy Joel, James Taylor, Paul Simon and Pete Seeger, and the incredible Grover solo cut “Over, Under, Around, and Through,” perhaps one of the most underappreciated songs of the 20th century. Enjoy.