Music is one of those things: it can pick you up, bring you down, remind you of people or places or events, or it can get stuck in your head and drive you insane. I happen to think that the bulk of music aimed at kids falls in the “will drive you mad, can’t get it out of your head” category.
I’m not a music snob. I’m not married to one genre and will sing along to just about anything. I like to play “radio random” when I’m in the car, hitting different stations until I find something I like. I station surf just about anything, but I just can’t sing along to “Bro Country” and will be glad to see that trend disappear. A recent behind the wheel car jam ranged from “Uptown Funk” to a bit of ZZ Top, then Justin Timberlake (who can resist “SexyBack”?!?), some Taylor Swift, and a bit of Beastie Boys before I belted out “Copacabana” because her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, she had feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there…
Since jumping into motherhood, my choice of music has taken a back seat to the musical dictator actually IN the back seat. I don’t get to play radio random unless I’m driving solo. I gave birth to a kid who loves music, but only HIS music, which seems to consist of songs he can identify from a movie or show. Since his viewing habits are limited to animation, his musical preferences could easily be considered torture by the Geneva Convention. From the age of two to four, we listened exclusively to the Cars soundtrack or a CD that featured music from various Pixar soundtracks. Yes, I appreciate your sympathy.
So imagine my surprise when he started to recognize songs from other movies. He’d hear a snippet, identify the movie and ask to listen to the song. Cue the choir singing “Hallelujah”! I’m finally free—which means I’m not stuck listening to “Life is a Highway” on endless replay. He’s still fairly selective, but new music is kicking our dance parties up a notch, saving Mommy’s sanity and giving me something new to laugh at when he breaks into song during bath time. (I dare you to keep a straight face while a naked five-year-old tries to sing AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” or even better, “Love Machine.”)
To help anyone else trapped in the never-ending loop of mindless kids’ music, I’ve compiled a list of non-earworm tunes you can find on children’s movie soundtracks. These aren’t Disney’s “Bippity Boppity Boo”: I’m purposely skipping the classics, so you won’t see old school tunes like “Whistle While You Work,” “Circle of Life,” “Under the Sea,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” or the ones you’ve heard until your ears bleed. (That’s right, “Let It Go” is not on this list. You’re welcome!) While many of those songs are certainly entertaining, they’re not what I want to drive around listening to.
I admit, as great as some of these soundtracks are, there are still limitations. If country music is your jam, you won’t find many options, and if you’re a mom who is “Straight Outta Compton,” you’re out of luck. Hope this list helps entertain your kids while keeping the earworms at bay. And please, if there’s a good movie jam I haven’t included, please help a mama out and let me know.
The current obsession for my in-house musical director, this soundtrack has Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna, both of whom voice characters in the movie. The full soundtrack is good, but our favorites include:
Charlie XCX, “Red Balloon”
Rihanna, “Dancing in the Dark”
Jennifer Lopez, “Feel the Light”
Planes & Planes Fire and Rescue
I have “Planes Fire and Rescue” to thank for getting my child into AC/DC.
Brad Paisley, “All In”
The Miracles, “Love Machine”
Cars & Cars 2
Since you may not be as sick of these songs as I am, I thought I’d share a few. And as a friend said, how can you not like a soundtrack that includes James Taylor? Weezer is on Cars 2, but there’s not much else on that soundtrack.
Sheryl Crow, “Real Gone”
Rascal Flatts, “Life is a Highway”
The Chords, “Sh-Boom”
James Taylor, “Our Town”
Chuck Berry, “Route 66”
Weezer, “You Might Think”
There are four Ice Age movies, and number five is on its way. A few songs you’ll find across the collection:
Lou Rawls, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”
Queen Latifah, “Walk the Dinosaur”—which actually isn’t on the soundtrack, but it plays on the movie’s credits and my son can sing the whole song. Over. And. Over. Again. It’s another bathtub solo favorite.
Heads up for those who want to hear a little rap, or just some Justin Timberlake—this soundtrack is for you! The movie itself isn’t that great, but my fan of ocean creatures likes it. Definitely check out the soundtrack—you may want to download the whole thing, but here are a few we like:
Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland, “Good Foot”
Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott, “Car Wash”
Will Smith & Mary J. Blige “To Be Real”
Happy Feet & Happy Feet 2
Once the holy grail of kids’ movie soundtracks that actually work for parents, Happy Feet has a little something for everyone. The songs are performed by penguins, but are all hits, and some include the original artist, like Prince, or a great mash-up featuring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Happy Feet 2 isn’t quite the same (why are so many sequels disappointing???). It doesn’t feature as many known songs, and the versions of the songs differ quite a bit from the original versions. For instance, “Under Pressure,” the Queen/David Bowie classic, is performed by elephant seals and penguins and the arrangement isn’t close enough to the original to make me happy.
Pink, “Tell Me Something Good”
Beach Boys, “Do It Again”
Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure” (the original, which is not in the movie, but it makes the cut with my “musical director”)
How can you not like a soundtrack that includes Barenaked Ladies, Queen, and Elton John and Kiki Dee? The movie’s actually pretty cute, too.
Barenaked Ladies, “One Little Slip”
Elton John and Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (sung by the movie characters)
Queen, “We Are the Champions”
Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive” (Note on these last two: these aren’t the versions in the movie, which are sung by the characters, but both have passed “the test.”)
Another movie that includes original music that’s pretty decent, Rio gives you the chance to enjoy will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, and samba. I can listen along to the music while the movie’s playing and forget that I’ve heard it again, and again, and again. Rio 2 doesn’t have as many songs/names to it, but it does include a brief Bruno Mars track.
will.i.am, Jamie Foxx “Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)”
will.i.am, “Drop It Low”
Bruno Mars, “Welcome Back”
Madagascar & Madgascar 2: Escape to Africa
We say “I like to move it, move it” WAY too much in my house. The sequel here isn’t bad, and its soundtrack is actually better than the first because it has “Copacabana”! No, seriously, it has the Black Eyed Peas and will.i.am, so check it out.
Erick Morillo, “I Like to Move It”
Earth, Wind & Fire, “Boogie Wonderland”
Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive”
will.i.am, “Traveling Song”
Boston, “More Than a Feeling”
Baha Men, “Who Let the Dogs Out” (I’m not sure anyone needs to listen to this again, but my kid likes it. HELP ME.)
Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get It Started”
Barry Manilow, “Copacabana (at the Copa)” (WOOHOO! Everybody now: “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl…”)
Lilo & Stitch
If you like Elvis Presley, this one’s for you. It has “Stuck on You,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Devil in Disguise,” and “Hound Dog,” as well as a great cover from Winona Judd, “Burning Love.” This is another movie I can handle again and again because it’s cute and I don’t mind the music.
Norm of the North
Honestly, skip the movie, but it has a song that is a MUST: Walk the Moon, “Shut Up And Dance.” This hit from last year is one I can’t help but crank and dance to and, luckily, the music snob gives it two thumbs up. So should you!
Wreck It Ralph
Another movie that’s good for adults (the voice cast is terrific), this one has a couple of songs that really stick with you and work for impromptu dance jams, something that seem to happen a lot in my house.
Owl City, “When Can I See You Again”
Kool & the Gang, “Celebration”
Rihanna, “Shut Up & Drive”
An oldie but goodie. The soundtrack includes a terrific version of “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright, but it’s not an upbeat song for dance jams, so it doesn’t make the cut.
Smashmouth, “I’m a Believer”
Halfcocked, “Bad Reputation” (Not quite the Joan Jett original, but not bad)
I discovered this one on YouTube and my music snob started dancing, so it was a must for the list.
Billy Idol, “Dancing with Myself”
Despicable Me & Despicable Me 2
I’m afraid that “Happy” no longer makes me happy, but all of these songs get the thumbs up from the five-year-old.
The Sylvers, “Boogie Fever”
Bee Gees, “You Should Be Dancing”
Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
This is a sweet song to sing with your kids.
Phil Collins, “You’ll Be in My Heart”