"Say your prayers little one/Don't forget my son/To include everyone/I tuck you in/Warm within," begins the song "Enter Sandman." If you've been living under a rock for the past two decades, you might be fooled into believing this is an actual lullaby, not one of VH1's "greatest metal songs of all time."
Ironically, "Enter Sandman," that head-banging, mosh-pit jumping, multiplatinum classic from Metallica's 1991 Grammy-winning self-titled album, now exists in lullaby form, a calming melodic mix of glockenspiel, triangle and Mellotron.
Laughably, the CD is called "Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Metallica" and is the creative tour de force of composer/musician/hipster extraordinaire Michael Armstrong.
But Metallica is not the only rock band Armstrong has transformed from scary and screaming to serene and soothing. So far, he has recorded 18 albums under the Rockabye Baby! name, translating Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, AC/DC, the Cure, ColdPlay, Nirvana, the Pixies, U2, the Ramones and other envelope-pushing left-of-center chart-toppers into gentle instrumental compositions.
Armstrong, who created the Rockabye Baby! series for Baby Rock Records, is laughing as well, all the way to the bank. In the past year, hits aimed at the knee-high set, like the triple-platinum "High School Musical" and the "Hannah Montana" soundtrack, which had six songs atop the Hot 100 chart and went gold in just three weeks, raked in millions in CD and concert-ticket purchases. Escalating sales and a never-ending audience make kid rock music and, come to think of it, Kid Rock music hard to ignore.
Can You Dance to It, Though?
Let's face it. What parents wouldn't do, or spend, just about anything to banish the Barney song from blaring out of their car's speaker system and from their child's repertoire altogether?
"The people having babies are music fans," said Baby Rock Records Vice President Lisa Roth in an interview with ABC News. "I think there is a dire need for some fun, ironic, edgy music for the parents."
Therein lies the appeal of Rockabye Baby! and other alternative-rock based lullabies. Record labels want you to believe that kids will prefer these new-age lullabies to the humdrum, repetition of oldie-but-goodies, such as "Frere Jacques" and "Baa, Baa Black Sheep." The truth is that this new genre of tot-rock really isn't for the kids. Its "dirty little secret," said Baby Loves Disco's Andy Hurwitz, is that "it's really all about the parents."
Even Roth admits to choosing artists for the Rockabye Baby! series that the hipster set would pick first for themselves and then for their pint-size counterparts. "What we wanted to accomplish was using artists who we all were fans of, or we thought were very important in music history, as opposed to the top sellers, as opposed to the people on the Billboard Top 10 list right now," she said. "They are all very meaningful people or bands that we think have had a huge influence."
So does this surge of new tunes for tots spell disaster for childhood classics like "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "The Wheels on the Bus"? "Puff has its place," said Roth. "I love Puff."
Fluff, Not Puff
But in the same breath she said that today's parents want to share in their child's enjoyment of music. "It gets hard -- I can imagine -- like 'Puff the Magic Dragon,' to hear it over and over again. How great to be able to give [parents] something they can enjoy that they can share with their babies."
New York Magazine journalist Adam Sternbergh wrote an article last April called "Up With Grups," exploring the generation gap, or lack thereof, between today's 30-, 40-, or 50-somethings and the 20-somethings. Sternbergh argued that 21st century adults are "radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up" and, by all accounts, choosing not to.
Therefore, in some way, the rise in tot-rock is just a manifestation of these hipster parents' desire to remain eternally 25 while still having all the material comforts of adult life: $800 baby carriages, designer jeans, cashmere hoodies, personalized vans and über-trendy tykes to boot. Then, aren't Rockabye Baby! and its competitors just another flash in the pan in a long line of products designed to keep adults connected with the today's youth culture?
Music executives, such as Roth, hope that's not the case. "I hope [these kids] become as big fans as their parents are," she said. As in any businesses, the music industry is looking forward to reaping huge rewards a decade or two down the line when these kids start purchasing music for themselves, their friends, and maybe even their own kids.