Here Come... They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants: Here Come The…
If, somehow, you have never heard of the eclectic band They Might Be Giants, let me give you a very brief introduction. They Might Be Giants, AKA TMBG, is a Grammy Award-winning American alternative rock band which began in 1982 as a duo of John Flansburgh on guitar and John Linnell playing saxophone and accordian. The line-up expanded and after a few changes through the 90’s, currently includes Marty Beller, Dan Miller, and Danny Weinkauf. They are best known for an unconventional and experimental style of alternative music.
My first exposure to TMBG came in 1991 as a friend of mine and I were traveling to her father’s funeral in El Paso. I was entertained, but to be honest, they never really stuck with me. Until now. In 2005, TMBG teamed up with The Disney Sound label to produce a learning CD and DVD the combines the alphabet with the catchy pop sound of the band. The result: Here Comes The ABCs.
Originally published as a CD and separate DVD, the album features 25 tracks written by the band. The lyrics are simple enough for kids, which also means that they tend to get stuck in adult heads as well. But there is no question they are an effective way for kids to learn the alphabet. This is still a They Might Be Giants album, though, and the band's catchy melodies and smart wordplay haven't been dumbed down for their new, younger audience. "Flying V," with its charming, Vince Guaraldi-like pianos and images of migrating geese and electric guitars, is another of John Linnell's seemingly effortless but brilliant songs, and "C Is for Conifers" offers an extra-credit lesson in botany as well as the alphabet. Some songs, like "E Eats Everything," are your basic recitation of the alphabet, though there are a few twists: "The Alphabet of Nations" is a mini-atlas, spanning Algeria to Zimbabwe and "Z Y X" brings the album to a close with a dramatic backwards reading of the alphabet.
Here Come the ABCs was a huge success for They Might Be Giants, being certified Gold in 2005, and is the second-highest selling They Might Be Giants album of all time, behind Flood. The album reached #1 on Billboard’s Children’s Music charts, won Parenting Magazine’s Children’s DVD of the Year Award and two National Parenting Publications Awards
The follow up to the ABCs, naturally is the 123s. This is the first of the series I had heard, and I have to admit, the songs are far more addicted than I’d like to admit. It drove me nuts that the lyrics to Seven Days of the Week (I Never Go To Work) were stuck in my head leading up to my accounting final this semester! But in truth, the kids love it. And the things they pick up go far beyond just the numbers. The 4-year-old picked up colors and animal names while watching. Of course, the DVD really adds a lot to the songs. The videos, with their simple if crazy animation, help keep the kids attention as well as providing a variety of ways to demonstrate the concepts behind the songs. Story songs like "Triops Has Three Eyes" and "One Dozen Monkeys," and movement songs such as "Ooh La! Ooh La!" are never less than adorable. However, as Here Come the 123's' numbers get higher, the album builds momentum. After getting basics like "Ten Mississippi" out of the way, songs like "Nonagon" let the Johns get down to the kind of smart kookiness and purposeful silliness that fans of all ages have come to expect. Seven gets two songs: "Seven Days a Week" is an anti-reveille full of laziness and trumpets, and is a sing-along favorite in the making. "Seven," meanwhile, imagines a world where number sevens can ring the doorbell and hang out for awhile eating cake.
In 2009, the album won the Grammy Award for "Best Musical Album For Children" during the 51st Annual Grammy Awards and the album helped They Might Be Giants to come in at #9 on "Billboard's Year-End Top Kids Artists of 2008."
And finally we have Science. Published in 2009, this CD/DVD combo features a variety of science related songs that may not be comprehensive teaching in themselves but are great for adding to your child’s education. Then again, all three kids in my home love the music and have picked up a lot from watching.
They Might Be Giants have been at it for over 20 years now, so they have their pop chops down. Songs like “Electric Car,” “I Am a Paleontologist,” “Cells,” “Roy G. Biv,” and “Put It to the Test” are first-rate, radio-ready songs, worthy of inclusion on any of their grownup albums. Indeed one song, “Why Does the Sun Shine?" will be familiar to any fan of the band as they have been playing it live since 1985. It was one of the few that stuck with me over the years. Of course, they wouldn’t want to be accused of being inaccurate in their music, so they follow this with an updated version, “Why Does The Sun Really Shine?” which introduces plasma as the fourth state of matter and refutes the previous song's science cleverly: "Not gas, not liquid, not solid/That thesis has been rendered invalid!"
In all it’s yet another demonstration of how this great band has evolved to forge a niche for themselves in the kids' music field with another great album in a growing collection of humorous, catchy CDs for children. And credit is due to the band for making a CD for older kids and for not shying away from scientific fact.
If you have kids that are getting ready for school, or are in their first couple of years, I strongly recommend all three albums. They are fun, addicting and educational. I think that one of the things that makes them so effective is that kids can dance and sing and the learning just gets mixed in with it, which is the best way for kids to learn. Hope the kids enjoy them .
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